Battle for the Black Vote

Organizers both for and against California's Proposition 8 are working to win over the state's population of black voters. Numbers show that the pulpit may have a heavy hand in helping voters decide, but marriage equality advocates are still going after this influential group.



With America's
first major-party presidential ticket led by an
African-American, pundits, strategists, and politicians have
become fixated on this racial group as a bloc of
voters. Meanwhile, blacks have also become the focus
of the fight over whether California will
continue to recognize same-sex marriage.

percent of African-American voters in California say they
oppose same-sex marriage, according to a Survey USA poll
released October 17. Thirty-eight percent support gay
marriage, and 4% are undecided. Black voters -- who
make up 6% of the California electorate -- have the
largest divide of any racial group between supporters and
opponents of Proposition 8, the ballot
measure that would amend the state constitution
to rescind marriage equality.

Polls indicate
that the spread has actually increased in recent weeks. An
earlier Survey USA poll, released October 6, found that
52% of African-Americans supported the measure, with
34% opposing it and 14% undecided.

Asian voters,
according to the more recent survey, are the only
racial group in in which supporters of gay
marriage outnumber opponents (48% versus 42%).

Organizers of the
fight against Proposition 8 gathered across the state
on Tuesday in an attempt to garner more votes from
African-Americans. Five black leaders, including three
clergy members, converged in the Leimert Park
neighborhood of Los Angeles as part of a No on 8 press
conference. They talked about dispelling the notion that all
black people vote the same and have the same beliefs.

"People tend to
look at the black community the way they look at any
community -- they make a sort of sweeping brushstroke
of who we are and what we are," actor Doug Spearman
told The Advocate at the event. Spearman said he is
not convinced that high voter turnout among
African-Americans will have a large impact on
Proposition 8.

In statewide
referendums on same-sex marriage in 2004, a majority of
African-Americans voted to ban such unions. In Mississippi,
where blacks make up 32% of the electorate, 77% voted
for a ban, according to CNN exit polls. In Georgia,
80% supported a ban.