A group of African-American pastors say that President Barack Obama’s backing of gay marriage may cost him the election due to weakening support among black voters -- although he still has overwhelming support from them.
Rev. William Owens, head of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a group of black Christians backing traditional family values, said Obama has taken the black vote for granted.
“He has not done a smart thing and it might cost him the election,” Owens said during a press conference Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington. “There are more people that want marriage to be right than there are homosexuals.”
Although Owens declared that “we are not Democrats, we are not Republicans, this is not a political party,” Owens criticized the president for not denouncing gay marriage. He said the press conference was held to promote the group’s Mandate for Marriage, a pledge to support marriage between one man and one woman – what Owens says will be a national campaign aimed at rallying black Americans to rethink their support of the president.
Obama won 95 percent of the black vote in 2008, and while enthusiasm among some Obama supporters has faded since then, support for America’s first black president remains high among African Americans. In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, 82 percent of black registered voters say they would vote for Obama. His approval rating among blacks was 87 percent.
The group’s press conference was held just one day after Rep. Barney Frank confirmed that the Democratic Party is set to include a pro-gay marriage plank in their party-convention platform. The platform, approved unanimously on Sunday, not only backs marriage equality, but also rejects DOMA and has positive language with regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The move wasn’t a complete surprise, considering Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage in May.
Owens, who said he supported Obama in 2008, said that the president “has ignored the black community because he thinks we are in his pocket because he’s black. We refuse to give him a pass.”
At the press conference, Owens was joined by five other black pastors and said there were 3,742 African-American pastors on board for the anti-Obama campaign. Owens has long been an opponent of gay marriage and consults with the National Organization for Marriage as a liaison to black churches.
Later in his speech, he denounced the administration's priorities.
“With all the challenges facing the African-American community – the prisons are full of African-American men – they have chosen to cater to the homosexual community,” Owens said. “They have chosen to cater to Hollywood, to cater to big money, and to ignore the people who put the president where he is.”
A Pew Research Center poll conducted in April found that 49 percent of African-Americans oppose legalized same-sex marriage, compared with 39 percent who support it. In 2008, only 26 percent of blacks were in favor of same-sex marriage, according to the same Pew poll.
In a Public Religion Research Institute poll released last week, 18 percent of black Americans surveyed said they see same-sex marriage as a “critical issue,” putting it behind the economy, education, deficit, a growing wealth gap and immigration.
Owens, however, said the president's stance on gay marriage will be a much more decisive issue for his organization come Election Day.
“The president is in the White House because of the Civil Rights movement,” said Owens. “I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman. We will not take it back, we will not back down, and we are going to take action across this country."
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