Last week, as voters elected Barack Obama the first African-American President, they were also voting for bans on gay marriage in several parts of the country. For many people the voting results are paradoxical. How can voters on one hand get past years of racial animosity and discrimination and send an African-American to the White House and on the other hand deny same-sex couples the right to enjoy the benefits of married life?
On Nov. 4, three states-California, Florida and Arizona-passed bans on same-sex marriages. The ban’s success in California, often seen as progressive on social issues, has drawn the loudest protests, with gay-rights activists and supporters backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressing hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn the ban, known as Proposition 8.
African-American voters who supported the ban have been particularly blamed for its passage. An exit poll of California voters showed that black voters sided in favor of the measure by margins of more than 2 to 1, the Los Angeles Times reported. "Many church and religious groups also supported the ban," the Times wrote. "The Knights of Columbus, which is tied to the Catholic Church, gave $1 million, and several evangelical groups gave millions more. But they have not come under the same kind of attack."
Maggie Cassella, a white Canadian from Toronto, said on iReport.com she couldn’t help but wonder why voters were able to choose a black man as president and then vote against gay marriage at the same time.
"I would just like someone to talk to an African-American gay person from California or any person from California and ask them what it feels like to have your rights to be an equal citizen taken away concurrent with this great day in history," she said. "My guess is it actually doesn’t feel so great. After all, civil rights are civil rights. I don’t care what anybody says."
Solomon Brown, an African-American who voted for Obama and the marriage ban, told CNN: "I don’t want a man and a man to be married. When I have kids, I don’t want them to see that."
African-Americans were not the only Californians to support the ban. An exit poll showed that regular churchgoers of all races sided in favor of the ban by a ratio of more than 4 to 1. And after it became public knowledge that he contributed funds to the campaign supporting Proposition 8, Scott Eckern a self-identified white Mormon, resigned as artistic director of California’s Musical Theatre. Gay-rights activists and members of the California musical theater community were livid with Eckner’s contribution. The New York Times reports:
"Jeffrey Seller, a producer of the show Avenue Q, which is scheduled to be part of the 2008-9 season at the California Musical Theatre said ‘That a man who makes his living exclusively through the musical theater could do something so hurtful to the community that forms his livelihood is a punch in the stomach.’ "
Was there a double standard among those who voted for Barack Obama but against same-sex marriages? Why are African-Americans being disproportionately blamed for the passage of Proposition 8? Can one fairly compare discrimination based on race to discrimination based on sexual orientation? What reasons do you see for so many people supporting bans on same-sex marriage? What would it take for a majority of Americans to support same-sex marriage? Are Americans more progressive in their thinking on race relations than they are on gay rights issues?
- Voters pass all 11 bans on gay marriage
- Same-sex marriage bans paradoxical in historic election
- Mormons targeted for role supporting Prop 8
- Gays, blacks divided on Proposition 8
- Ballot initiatives provide a wake up call to the LGBT community about race
- Our Choice on Prop 8 and African Americans: Reckless Carping or Productive Change?
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