efore President Obama endorsed gay marriage, Maryland voters narrowly supported upholding their state's law legalizing same-sex marriage. Now they overwhelmingly plan to vote for it in the fall, and the shift is almost entirely due to a sharp increase in support for gay marriage among black Marylanders. Previously, 56 percent of them planned to vote against the new law; now 57 percent plan to vote for it. Polls elsewhere suggest this reflects a national trend — there has been a 19-point shift in black support for same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, a swing state, since Obama announced his "evolution" on the matter. Black voters, especially regular churchgoers, have traditionally been overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage. Has Obama turned the tables?
Obama really has changed public opinion: The shifting polls in Maryland demonstrate that "the magnitude of what Obama has done is getting more and more tangible," says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. By going "from JFK to LBJ on civil rights in three years," he has bridged "the divide between gays and African-Americans" in a way that will help both communities. "This kind of defusing of polarization is what many of us hoped for in Obama," and he really delivered this time.
"What Obama has wrought"
This isn't all Obama's doing: Even before Obama's decision, "the shift was well underway," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Pew polling showed same-sex marriage support among African Americans rising from 22 percent in 2003 to 37 percent early this year. The rising numbers won't be a huge factor in November — only 1 in 8 voters is black. Still, the main risk he took by making his big announcement was turning off African Americans, but "they seem to be sticking with him."
"How Obama moves the needle on gay marriage"
Actually, blacks remain divided on the issue: "Blacks aren't a monolith," says Stephon Johnson at the New York Amsterdam News, "and one statement from Obama about 'evolving' won't turn the tide of an entire community." In fact, some African Americans, including many pastors, are more determined than ever to defend their views on traditional marriage. Others are ticking different boxes in polls because they never really were the "fierce anti-homosexual" force the media made them out to be.
"Obama opens floodgates for gay marriage support, but not all are happy with focus on gay rights"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is American internet so slow?
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Colorado’s new ‘drive high, get a DUI’ commercials are actually pretty clever
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Here are the people who want to take a one way trip to Mars
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
Subscribe to the Week