Black Voters Agree To Disagree With Obama On Same-Sex Marriage
A solid majority of the state's African Americans supported the marriage amendment that passed last Tuesday. The very next day, President Obama publicly endorsed same sex marriage. WFAEs Tanner Latham reports that a disagreement over gay marriage isn't likely to diminish African American support for the president in November. The Reverend Dwayne Walker is awfully proud of a framed 8x10 photo topping his credenza. It shows him shaking hands with President Obama four years ago during a campaign stop in Charlotte. He's so proud, he made it his Facebook profile picture. And his screensaver. "Yeah, I love President Obama and what he's done and who he is," he says. Walker is the pastor at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church located Uptown. And he opposes gay marriage. "I believe that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman," says Walker. "I stand very strongly and unapologetically on that particular position." In the end, though, Reverend Walker voted against the amendment, worried that it would harm heterosexual couples and single mothers. Still, among African American voters in the state, he was in the minority. Polls taken before the vote showed a majority of black voters supporting the amendment. So when President Obama endorsed gay marriage this past week, many wondered if it would shake the loyalty of his African American supporters here. For Reverend Walker, the president's new position wasn't an issue. "While there may be a plank or two on the platform that I can't support, I can still support the platform," he says. And that sentiment rang true through several predominantly black churches visited last week. Standing outside a church called No Walls Ministry, Robert Leach said he's against same sex marriage. But his support for President Obama remains unchanged. "I voted for him to run a country," says Leach. "Not to make the moral decisions for someone. But to run a country. To run a government. So, no, it doesn't change at all." Charles Easley was disappointed in President Obama's announcement. Not because of what the president said, though, but because of when he said it. "My first reaction was like, 'Really, could you not have said this like two days before?' he says. Easley is a professor at the Art Institute of Charlotte, and he's been in an openly gay relationship for 18 years. He thinks the president could have influenced the debate before the vote. "That really could have swayed some people," says Easley. "Because he has been very forthcoming in terms that he is a Christian, he is a man of faith. But he is also this pinnacle of pride and success for the community." Glenn Burkins is a longtime observer of North Carolina politics. He says he wasn't surprised by President Obama's announcement. "We knew that at the right moment, given the right opportunity, that he would come out and support gay marriage," he says. Burkins is the editor of Q City Metro, an online news site that serves the African American community in the city. He says the black support here for President Obama remains strong because most had already factored in the president's stance on gay rights when they voted for him. "At the end of the day, the president is a politician," says Burkins. "I'm sure he came down on the side he felt would best benefit him in November." Burkins says African Americans are keenly aware that national polls show more and more people supporting gay marriage. And regardless of their opinions on the issue, black voters are starting to adjust to that reality.