(MintPress) – Citing it as an evolved civil rights issue, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took an official political stance in support of same-sex marriage over the weekend, following in President Barack Obama’s similar recent endorsement. Obama has lost popularity with black voters since his 2008 election victory, and gay marriage has been a divisive issue for the black community. A policy backing from one of America’s prominent civil rights organizations could help Obama regain votes from a demographic that has become split on the championed social issue.
The NAACP board of directors said in a press release that its support of same-sex marriage is consistent with its commitments to equal protection of civil rights.
“The NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens,” the organization wrote. “We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
But the move was met with resistance, particularly from the National Black Church Initiative. Rev. Anthony Evans, a member of the initiative, said the church’s teachings do not coincide with the viewpoints of Obama and the NAACP.
“We love our gay brothers and sisters, but the black church will never support gay marriage,” Evans told CBN. “It is and always will be against the ethics and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In a submitted statement to MintPress, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors Roslyn Brock said the organization only considered the law, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, when making its decision for national support. She said the crux of marriage equality is to simply be treated equally in the eyes of the government.
“The NAACP did not issue its support of marriage equality from a personal, moral, or religious perspective,” Brock wrote. “Rather, we deeply respect differences of personal conscience on the religious definition of marriage, and we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all as protected by the First Amendment.”
Recently, ahead of the vote in North Carolina of a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the NAACP launched a media campaign in the state that opposed the ban, saying Amendment 1 would roll back progressive advancements already made across the country. Amendment 1 ultimately passed, but Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling suggested that the NAACP’s presence in the state may have helped close the margin of support than what was initially being reported.
Over the span of the North Carolina NAACP campaign, the polling agency reported a shift in attitude toward the amendment, particularly among the group targeted by the campaign.
“A big part of that is a shift among black voters,” Jensen said. “They still support it by a 51/39 margin, but that’s well down from 61/30 on our poll a month ago.”
Behind the campaign was North Carolina NAACP president Rev. William J. Barber, II, who looked to reduce the influence of religion on the vote, saying religious opinion had no place in a civil rights issue. The reverend noted a high density of conservative black churches in North Carolina that were in support of the amendment.
“Our message is consistent: A vote on the same-sex marriage amendment has nothing to do with your personal and religious opinion on same-sex marriage but everything to do with whether or not you believe discrimination should be codified and legalized constitutionally,” Barber said in a statement. “We should never seek to codify or vote discrimination into the very heart and framework of our Constitution.”
In another submitted statement to MintPress, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said the outspoken, national support for same-sex marriage simply reemphasizes what the organization has been doing at a state level for years.
“This is the first time that we have made a full statement on marriage equality that goes beyond the circumstances of any one proposed law or any one state,” Jealous wrote. “We feel it is important that everyone understand our commitment to equality under the Constitution and to marriage equality specifically.
The divide of one of Obama’s strongest demographics in 2008 could play a different tune for him this election cycle. In landslide numbers in 2008, 96 percent of black voters in Florida sided with Obama, a number seen nationwide, as well. Democrat Florida Senator Chris Smith told the SunSentinel that Obama did not do any favors for himself within the black community by coming out in support for same-sex marriage.
“The African-American community is socially conservative and church-oriented,” Smith said. “We got into a heated discussion at my barbershop. My barber and the guy next to me were opposed to it. They were opposed to gay marriage and they think it’s wrong.”
Recent polls by the Pew Research Center show 49 percent of blacks oppose legal same-sex marriage. Comparatively, 43 percent of whites oppose the measure. Attitudes have changed, however. In 2004, 67 percent of blacks were in opposition, while 61 percent of whites were. In 2008, Obama’s election year, 63 percent of blacks opposed compared to 51 percent of whites.
As a result of Obama’s same-sex marriage backing, speculation has mounted as to what it will do to for his overwhelming support from the black community. As of May 14, polls showed 13 percent of blacks thought less favorably of Obama, while more (16 percent) thought more favorably for his position. Sixty eight percent said it had no effect on their stance.
In February, the Obama campaign launched the “African Americans for Obama” initiative – a website dedicated to what the administration believes to be the largest issues facing black voters, such as jobs, the economy and education. And at the tail end of February, Obama championed and attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
While the administration does not expect to see a large fluctuation in voter support for Obama, George Mason University professor of political science Michael Fauntroy told National Public Radio (NPR) that the campaign should be worried about voter turnout because 2008 saw a spike and inordinate number of black voters participate in the elections.
“It’s not enough to get 95-96 percent of the black vote — he’ll get that. The question is will the pie be the same size or larger?” Fauntroy said.
Smith echoed similar sentiments, saying that while many black voters did not agree with the same-sex marriage stances taken by Obama and the NAACP, they would still vote for the president.
“Even folks that were against gay marriage and that were against the president’s stance admitted that when it comes down to it on Election Day in November, they’re going to vote for the president,” Smith said.
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