New York Times: Gay Marriage and a Moral Minority

Saturday, November 29, 2008
By Charles M. Blow

We now know that blacks probably didn’t tip the balance for Proposition 8. Myth busted. However, the fact remains that a strikingly high percentage of blacks said they voted to ban same-sex marriage in California. Why?

There was one very telling (and virtually ignored) statistic in CNN’s exit poll data that may shed some light: There were far more black women than black men, and a higher percentage of them said that they voted for the measure than the men. How wide was the gap? According to the exit poll, 70 percent of all blacks said that they voted for the proposition. But 75 percent of black women did. There weren’t enough black men in the survey to provide a reliable percentage for them. However, one can mathematically deduce that of the raw number of survey respondents, nearly twice as many black women said that they voted for it than black men.

Why? Here are my theories:

(1) Blacks are much more likely than whites to attend church, according to a Gallup report, and black women are much more likely to attend church than black men. Anyone who has ever been to a black church can attest to the disparity in the pews. And black women’s church attendance may be increasing.

According to a report issued this spring by Child Trends, a nonprofit research center, weekly church attendance among black 12th graders rose 26 percent from 1993 to 2006, while weekly church attendance for white 12th graders remained virtually flat. In 2006, those black teenagers were nearly 50 percent more likely to attend church once a week than their white counterparts. And it is probably safe to assume that many of them were going to church with their mothers since Child Trends reported that around the time that they were born, nearly 70 percent of all black children were born to single mothers.

(2) This high rate of church attendance by blacks informs a very conservative moral view. While blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic, an analysis of three years of national data from Gallup polls reveals that their views on moral issues are virtually indistinguishable from those of Republicans. Let’s just call them Afropublicrats.

(3) Marriage can be a sore subject for black women in general. According to 2007 Census Bureau data, black women are the least likely of all women to be married and the most likely to be divorced. Women who can’t find a man to marry might not be thrilled about the idea of men marrying each other.

Proponents of gay marriage would do well to focus on these women if they want to win black votes. A major reason is that black women vote at a higher rate than black men. In the CNN national exit poll, there were 40 percent more black women than black men, and in California there were 50 percent more. But gay marriage advocates need to hone their strategy to reach them.

First, comparing the struggles of legalizing interracial marriage with those to legalize gay marriage is a bad idea. Many black women do not seem to be big fans of interracial marriage either. They’re the least likely of all groups to intermarry, and many don’t look kindly on the black men who intermarry at nearly three times the rate that they do, according to a 2005 study of black intermarriage rates in the Wisconsin Law Review. Wrong reference. Don’t even go there.

Second, don’t debate the Bible. You can’t win. Religious faith is not defined by logic, it defies it. Instead, decouple the legal right from the religious rite, and emphasize the idea of acceptance without endorsement.

Then, make it part of a broader discussion about the perils of rigidly applying yesterday’s sexual morality to today’s sexual mores. Show black women that it backfires. The stigma doesn’t erase the behavior, it pushes it into the shadows where, devoid of information and acceptance, it become more risky.

For instance, most blacks find premarital sex unacceptable, according to the Gallup data. But, according to data from a study by the Guttmacher Institute, blacks are 26 percent more likely than any other race to have had premarital sex by age 18, and the pregnancy rate for black teens is twice that of white teens. They still have premarital sex, but they do so uninformed and unprotected.

That leads to a bigger problem. According to a 2004 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women have an abortion rate that is three times that of white women.

More specifically, blacks overwhelmingly say that homosexuality isn’t morally acceptable. So many black men hide their sexual orientations and engage in risky behavior. This has resulted in large part in black women’s becoming the fastest-growing group of people with H.I.V. In a 2003 study of H.I.V.-infected people, 34 percent of infected black men said they had sex with both men and women, while only 6 percent of infected black women thought their partners were bisexual. Tragic. (In contrast, only 13 percent of the white men in the study said they had sex with both men and women, while 14 percent of the white women said that they knew their partners were bisexual.)

So pitch it as a health issue. The more open blacks are to the idea of homosexuality, the more likely black men would be to discuss their sexual orientations and sexual histories. The more open they are, the less likely black women would be to put themselves at risk unwittingly. And, the more open blacks are to homosexuality over all, the more open they are likely to be to gay marriage. This way, everyone wins.

Source: New York Times

The Court of Public Opinion

  • Eric

    “There weren’t enough black men in the survey to provide a reliable percentage for them.”

    Apparently the survey didn’t have enough black anything other than black women(of whatever age we’ll never know),to provide a reliable percentage for any category involving the black participants. No information on black males, the age groups of the black participants, income brackets, educational backgrounds. Nothing. However, most of this information is available for the participants of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. Yet it’s accepted as “fact.”

    Though both pre-election and various other post-election polls tell a different tale( apparently they’ve all gotten it wrong). None of which have black support for Prop 8 above 57 percent. The two counties( LA and Alameda) with the highest percentages of black residents show no evidence of this “70 percent” support for Prop 8. Before, we can have this sort of discussion, we need to make sure that the facts are indeed factual, otherwise we are just ensuring that it will truly be 70 percent( if not more) the next time.

    “And, the more open blacks are to homosexuality over all, the more open they are likely to be to gay marriage. This way, everyone wins.”

    This is just ridiculous. Until our nation as a whole becomes “more open” to the idea of “gay marriage” nobody wins. Blacks can be the least homophobic group in America and gay marriage would still be invalid. This idea is so simplistic. There are individuals who view themselves as open to the idea of homosexuality, but continue to feel that “marriage” should only be defined as a union between a man and a woman. They believe that gays should have all the rights and benefits in the world, under civil unions. So being open to the idea of homosexuality, does not ensure that one will be open to the idea of gay marriage.

    “The more open blacks are to the idea of homosexuality, the more likely black men would be to discuss their sexual orientations and sexual histories.”

    Chicken or the egg. How can you expect anyone to be more open to the idea of who and what you are when you refuse to be open about who and what you are? “Pitching it as a health issue” doesn’t make one more accepting of homosexuality( more likely the opposite). First, they need to know that you exist, once that has been established, they must come to the realization that you are no different from them. The only way this will occur is if black gays become more visible within their own communities. Are there any black “gay ghettos?” I heard some things about West Adams but I’ve yet to see it for myself.

  • As others have said better than I, this article is nothing more than rationalized bigotry. It explains some of the context to the bigotry yet it is bigotry nonetheless.

    No matter what the percentage, those straight black people who voted Yes on Prop 8 are just as responsible for the taking away of civil rights for a small minority group as are the straight white people who voted Yes. The source of the bigotry: religious fundamentalist churches which vilify, denigrate, dehumanize, scapegoat gay people. Sound familiar?

    By the way, the comments on the article at the NYTimes website are well worth reading.

    While the No on 8 organization surely made mistakes, in the end, the blame lies fundamentally at the feet of each individual who voted to support yet another incarnation of yet another form of supremacist ideology.

    The Gay Civil Rights Movement IS a legitimate powerful righteous civil rights movement which is following in the tradition of MLKjr and Gandhi before him. No doubt.

  • Black Sunshine

    As I’ve said before Obama’s victory flushed out a whole lot of Anti Negroes. Nowthanfully in part due to the internet these people have a venue ‘for the ‘Big Reveal’ and we come to find out that white gays are nothing but a splinter group of nigger haters and marginalizers in nice shoes. As a straight black male I am really glad to know that when I see a gay white dude I should probably kick his ass, although I won’t. But I am so thanful to be woken up from ny ignorance. Gay Marriage will never pass in California, and who gives a fuck what some faggots in NYC think anyway.

  • Steve

    LOL @ Black Sunshine…I think that wake up call needs to be a bit louder, your ignorance is overwhelming.

  • I really hate this Op-Ed for blaming Black women, throwing in some ridiculousness about interracial marriages and using an exit poll of 180 people as a substitute for millions of actual voters. Just for the record, the Gay Rights Industrial Complex is still excluding all Black people including Black LGBTQI – just look at the latest Advocate. By the way an ally is someone you court and have a reciprocal relationship with. Focusing on straight Black people as owing the Gay Rights Industrial Complex everything without giving anything in return will net you ZERO every time. So all the white people and Blacks that carry their water can keep raging but it’s not going to get you anywhere until you admit how you benefit from white privilege. Even focusing on Black people is practicing racism instead of talking to all the white people – you know the majority of the state (for the time being) – who overwhelmingly voted Yes on 8. Or of course the Asians and Latinos as well. But that makes too much sense doesn’t it?