By George E. Curry
After President Obama expressed his personal support for same-sex marriage, there has been a robust discussion among African-Americans about whether his stance will make Black voters less likely to support him in November. A poll conducted by The Pew Research Center For the People & The Press found that 68 percent of African-Americans said Obama’s announcement did not change their view of him. Of those who did alter their perception of the president, 16 percent said his decision caused them to view him more favorably and 13 percent less favorably.
As the debate over gay marriage seemed to be receding from the public stage, the NAACP gave the issue new life Saturday when its board passed a resolution in support of what it artfully calls marriage equality. After adopting the resolution over the weekend, Board Chair Roslyn M. Brock, President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, and board member Donald L. Cash held a press conference Monday in Baltimore to announce what they had already announced. Even some supporters of same-sex marriage question why the NAACP is spending so much capital on this issue, considering all of the problems plaguing the Black community. The NAACP’s latest announcement comes less than two weeks after the organization announced that it has initiated a national voter registration drive to help overcome recently-erected barriers designed to dilute the Black vote.
Of course, that’s not the only problem facing African-Americans. As the National Urban League observed in its 2012 State of Black America report: “Our analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will clearly establish that whether one looks at education, income or any other meaningful measure, almost all the economic gains that blacks have made in the last 30 years have been lost in the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and in the anemic recovery that has followed since June, 2009.” And there is also the issue of HIV/AIDS. According to Centers for Disease Control data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, African-American women accounted for 64 percent of all new AIDS diagnoses among women in 2010 and 85 percent of the Black women were infected through heterosexual activity.
There is a similar disparity among teens. Although Black teens represent only 17 percent of those aged 13-19 in the United States, they accounted for 70 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among teens in 2012. Undoubtedly, the debate will continue over how the NAACP should spend its limited resources and whether President Obama should have weighed in on what is essentially a state matter. However, some supporters of same-sex marriage are making the mistake of minimizing the views of many who believe that a marriage should be a union between a man and a woman. This may be more of a religious issue than a racial one. A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found: “More than half of African Americans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African- Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation.” Regardless of where one comes down on the issue, it is the height of political naiveté to expect that we will ever find any politician with whom we can agree on every issue. And the nation’s first Black president is no exception.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are quick to quote Leviticus 18:22, which states: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination (KJV).” If we are going to apply a single-issue test to President Obama, Mitt Romney should not be given a pass. The Bible also says in Deuteronomy 15:7, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy bretheren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shall not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother (KJV).” And what does Romney say about the poor?
“I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it,” he said in an interview with CNN. “ I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” Romney’s support of Republican proposals in Congress designed to gut the safety net is further proof that he is not concerned about the very poor.
If some African-Americans, albeit a small number, are seriously considering voting against President Obama solely because they do not agree with his views on same-sex marriage, they should apply a litmus test to Mitt Romney and vote against him because he’s not concerned about the very poor.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge
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