01 Jun 2012 Obama is Playing to His Base on Gay Marriage (But It Isn’t Blacks), by Derryck Green
While campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama was asked about his views on gay marriage. At that time, he stated: “What I believe, in my [Christian] faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.”
Four years later, running for president, during a forum at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, Obama repeated that he thought marriage is “between a man and a woman.” He also said, “Now, for me, as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix.” Senator Obama was quite clear that he wasn’t somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but that he believed in civil unions.
Now, citing the very same faith that influenced his decision against gay marriage in the past, President Obama now says his faith and the Golden Rule persuade him that gay marriage should be legalized.
Obama’s most his recent “evolution” on gay marriage has generated criticism from some of his most vocal supporters — black Americans. More specifically, black churches and their presiding ministers are taking issue with Obama’s new stance. This raises questions about how black congregants will react and if it will divide Obama’s political base.
According to a 2009 Pew Research Poll on Religion and Public Life, black Americans are more religious than Americans as a whole. This should, of course, be seen as a contributing factor as to why so many blacks oppose legalizing gay marriage.
Black ministers opposing the President’s new policy position should be applauded for not sacrificing their religious integrity while continuing to embrace biblical truths. On the other hand, those ministers supporting the President on gay marriage should be confronted about how they could support a position that contradicts what is found in the Bible.
Beyond questioning whether faith or politics now drives President Obama when it comes to gay marriage, another thing that must now be considered is who really constitutes the President’s base. Black Americans may be his most loyal supporters, but they are not the people Obama seeks to please most. Black Americans have never been his base in that sense. One only has to look at his life story to confirm this fact.
Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. He was raised by and around rich, liberal whites. After time spent in Indonesia, he returned to Hawaii and attended Punahou School — surrounded by wealthy white people.
Obama later attended Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University and, after a charade as a community organizer around the South Side of Chicago, attended Harvard Law School. Again, he was surrounded by liberal white people a good portion of the time. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself — it’s simply reality.
Even as he ran for the Illinois state senate, the U.S. Senate and the White House, Barack Obama’s main constituency has been rich, liberal white people. Black folk supported him along the way, but their loyalty of support does not necessarily constitute a political base.
Aside from that short stint as a “community organizer” and attending Trinity United Church of Christ — it would seem to build his “street cred” and “authenticity” among those who would be his most loyal supporters — Barack Obama never spent a significant amount of time around black people.
Barack Obama’s announcement of his evolution in favor of gay marriage won’t splinter his base once one understands who his base is. And it isn’t black people.
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Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.