When a strategy of the National Organization for Marriage was leaked online in March and the public learned for the first time about a plan to “drive a wedge” between blacks and gays, it also exposed a false assumption that the black population is predominantly homophobic.
This sweeping generalization was perhaps first hatched after California passed the anti–marriage equality Proposition 8. Exit polls from 2008, later debunked, showed black voters overwhelmingly lining up against same-sex marriage. LGBT activists who had tried to woo African-Americans were all too ready to feel betrayed.
And before President Obama came out for marriage equality in May, pundits repeatedly speculated it would cost him black votes. But a landmark announcement from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People could challenge that notion. The NAACP’s board voted to support marriage equality, calling it a “civil right” that deserves protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, which was used to dismantle segregation laws.
The NAACP vote came just days after Obama’s announcement, and together they appeared to act as game-changers. A survey conducted in May by Public Policy Polling found that 55% of black Maryland voters supported the state’s recently passed marriage equality law, with 36% opposed. The numbers had essentially flipped since the same question was asked in a March poll.
PPP found the same trend in North Carolina. Before the president’s announcement, 44% of blacks supported either marriage rights or civil unions. That number shot up to 55% afterward, with opposition falling dramatically.