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Blacks Won't Check Out Over Gay Marriage

Despite hysteria over Obama's stance, it's unlikely that he will lose the African-American vote.

Black Voter in California (Mark Ralston/Getty Images); President's Interview (White House)

If speculation in media and political circles is any indication, the biggest political risk in President Obama's recently announced support for gay marriage lies in homophobic black voters abandoning the president in droves. But are African-American voters, who supported Obama by a 96 percent margin in 2008, really inclined to stay home in 2012 over this issue?

The Root posed this question to a black minister; a black LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activist, who was also a key strategist in Washington, D.C.'s successful 2010 campaign for marriage equality; and a scholar on the African-American electorate. They argued that most black voters will still vote for him on Election Day.

Black People (Including Black Churchgoers) Are Not a Monolith

It should go without saying that African Americans are not a single-issue voting bloc and, like other ethnic groups, hold different views on any given subject. But much of the political discourse would suggest that when it comes to same-sex marriage, blacks are not only wildly opposed but consider it a priority issue at the ballot. Not everyone buys the narrative.

"I'm of the belief that he will lose some black voters -- in the same way that he lost some when it came to his economic platform or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," the Rev. Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African-American religious affairs at People for the American Way, told The Root. "The majority of African Americans do not look at one single issue but at the candidate who speaks to the broader interests of what it means to be African American. We approach elections with the same thoughtfulness and complexities as everybody else. I've always found it insulting to say that we do not engage in a serious decision-making process around this."

But what about the black pastors and churchgoers so often credited as the source of sentiment against gay marriage in the community? On CNN on Thursday, Jamal Harrison Bryant, pastor of Baltimore's Empowerment Temple and the leader of a movement to register African-American congregations to vote, expressed severe apprehensions about the president's stance. "A lot of African-American leaders right now are really dazed by this because we didn't see it coming," he said. "How now do we juxtapose this issue up against a president that we have supported over the last four years?"

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 However, Malachi stressed that not all black Christians see same-sex marriage the same way. "The only place where we are in total agreement is when it comes to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior," said Malachi, who works with African-American clergy members across the country and says she sees a range of views on gay marriage, including those who have stood up for equality.

This Is Not a Leading Issue for Most Black Voters

For African-American voters who are opposed to same-sex marriage, however, there is no evidence that it is a galvanizing issue at the polls. "There's been a lot of unfounded conjecture that black support for the president will wane substantially, with absolutely no data to substantiate that," Aisha Moodie-Mills, adviser for LGBT policy and racial justice at the Center for American Progress, told The Root.