The scene in North Carolina was a familiar one: traditional marriage supporters were outspent 2 to 1 and were subjected to smear campaigns that painted them as bigots for merely upholding their moral convictions. Yet despite irresponsible and deceptive media coverage, North Carolina voted overwhelmingly to affirm the traditional definition of marriage, 61% to 39%.
Once again, black voters—many of whom are Democrats and voted for President Obama in 2008—proved pivotal in passing the amendment to the state constitution, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. NBC News noted that areas like Hertford County, which is 60% black, supported Amendment One with 70% of its vote. All this was despite a concerted effort by Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered and Bisexual (LGBT) activists to sway black opinion and the compromise of a handful of high profile black pastors on the issue.
The victory for traditional marriage enraged LGBT activists, whose money and insults were unable to buy public approval of their lifestyle choices in North Carolina. Then on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama sat down with ABC News’ Robin Roberts and stated, “I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” And so Obama revealed to the nation what many of us worried was in his heart for quite a while: that he does not believe that marriage is the fundamental unit of society, existing primarily to raise and nurture children. Instead he sees it as a legal arrangement that exists for the emotional gratification of adults.
Within hours of the interview, fundraising letters went out on behalf of President Obama’s reelection campaign, highlighting the courage of his statement. None of this should surprise us too much. Remember that last July, Obama declared his belief that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be repealed. DOMA, signed into law by Bill Clinton, affirmed the rights of states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. Shortly after Obama’s statement on same-sex marriage, Senator Harry Reid expressed enthusiasm for the idea of repealing DOMA. According to Politico, he also voiced his expectation that the Democratic Party’s national platform will be revised to include a stance in support of gay marriage.
So LGBT activists have learned that money and bullying tactics can buy you a few black leaders—some pastors even—but they cannot buy you the conscience of black America. I can already hear leftists wringing their hands, declaring that the real needs of the black community are economic, not the protection of traditional values. What they fail to recognize is that strong marriages are the most effective protection against poverty; according to the Heritage Foundation, being raised by married parents reduces a child’s chances of living below the poverty line by 80%.
During the 1990s, redefining marriage to include same-sex couples sparked a well-documented explosion in out-of-wedlock births in Scandinavian countries. Many wise people have noted that words that mean everything mean nothing; the more broadly marriage is defined, the less powerful it is to bind families together. And the weaker family bonds become, the more children suffer.
I personally suspect the President revealed his heart on the issue of homosexual marriage now to placate activists disappointed by the outcome in North Carolina and to raise money for his reelection campaign, with the hopes of sweeping the decision under the rug before the November election. He may well be able to do this, but I think there are some other factors to which his advisors may not have given enough attention. First, his open affirmation of the redefinition of marriage confirms the very real threat to traditional marriage; I truly hope this will add fuel to the fire in states like Maryland, where we are fighting to get the issue on the ballot in November.
Second, while it is true that many blacks will support the President regardless of his position on marriage, the entire black community does not need to become disillusioned with President Obama for him to be in trouble in the general election. Those of us who were paying attention will remember that President Bush won Florida and Ohio in 2004 because of a 7 to 11 percent shift in the black vote. Blacks and Latinos have suffered more under President Obama’s economic policies than almost anyone else, and they are among the most vocal opponents of his evolving views on the sacred institution of marriage. If Republicans are smart, they will make both economic growth and protecting marriage a central part of their agenda this November.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.