Obama's Decree Alters African-Americans' Stance on Gay Marriage

Obama is making the case in the black community that gay marriage is a modern-day civil rights issue.

By + More

President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage could persuade many African-Americans to change their traditional opposition to gay unions, Obama's strategists say.

Until now, there has been much speculation about whether Obama's endorsement was jeopardizing his support or risking a lower turnout in the culturally conservative portion of the black community. But Obama strategists say the reverse might be true—that his standing in the black community as the first African-American president is so strong that he might persuade many black voters to side with him on the same-sex marriage issue.

"I can see this happening in my own life," says a prominent African-American who is working for Obama. "I'm a Baptist, but my own views are now evolving" toward an acceptance of same-sex marriage. This is partly because of Obama's argument that legalizing gay marriage is a modern-day civil rights issue. Obama had been ambivalent about gay marriage until last week, when he came out in favor of legalizing it.

The idea that Obama might persuade African-Americans to take his side on gay marriage got a boost when a new poll in North Carolina showed that black voters there were more willing to support gay marriage after the president's endorsement than they were beforehand. A Public Policy Polling survey found that 27 percent of black voters believe same-sex marriage should be legal, an increase from 20 percent three days before Obama's endorsement.

However, earlier this month, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot proposal to prohibit gay marriage.

 Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Super PAC Dishes Out $25 Million in Anti-Obama Ads
  • See the latest political cartoons.
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy