Nonetheless, African Americans do skew conservative when voting for explicitly anti-LGBT initiatives such as Proposition 8, Egan notes. “But once you take church attendance into account, the numbers are not all that different” for blacks and equally religious White voters. In fact, trade the word “marriage” for “civil unions/domestic partnerships,” and blacks are actually slightly more favorable than the general population toward legal recognition of same-sex relationships, according to a 2009 poll by the Third Way, a centrist-progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.
As we shift into the 2012 election cycle, marriage equality is certain to play prominently on both party platforms. On a national level, President Obama’s DOMA stance is already under attack by potential Republican candidates such as Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. On a state level, the almost certain passage of marriage equality in Maryland this month paves the way for an almost equally certain Proposition 8-styled battle to nullify it on the 2012 ballot.
White LGBT Leaders Must Make Room for Black Voices
The Maryland situation is particularly important for African Americans — who make up 31 percent of the state’s population, compared with barely 7 percent in California. Four years after the “blame the blacks” debacle on the West Coast, can LGBT leaders learn from their mistakes and apply the lessons to the East Coast? Will they avoid the race-baiting that has so poisoned their progressive movement since 2008 and led to charges of racism, elitism and indifference to minority matters?
The answer remains murky. Already, white LGBT activists such as David Mixner are sending not-so-subtle signals that race will matter in Maryland. “Our national organizations must immediately line up the unshakable and unmistakable support of President Obama. Voters love him in this state especially in vote-rich Prince George’s County and Baltimore,” he writes in a Feb. 28 blog posting. With PGC nearly 63 percent African American, Mixner’s message could not be clearer — even if he wimps out on the clarifying.
With his history of race-baiting, patronizing tone and zero respect for African-American voter sophistication, Mixner is a dubious messenger. Yet his message cannot be discounted. Race will inevitably play a central role in any Maryland ballot drive — with blacks the main protagonists.
As in Maine’s successful 2009 marriage-equality repeal, national white LGBT leaders will undoubtedly “parachute” into Maryland to help direct the ballot battle. But this time, black voters — and leaders — must take central roles in defining the battle’s narrative.