Black People and Gay Marriage

If this Washington Post piece is any indication, African Americans are basically “meh” about President Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act:

Two and a half years later, religious African Americans are having a more nuanced response to an announcement last week by the Obama administration that the government will no longer defend a federal law banning same-sex marriage.

Some say the decision is dismaying, though not damning. Others may be rethinking their views, given the influence Obama has in the African American community. And there are those who don't seem to care much at all.

The broader question is this: Why aren’t black people energized about gay marriage, despite having high rates of religious attendance? Easy answer: It’s class, stupid. To channel Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels for a moment, the culture wars are mostly fought between Republican and Democratic elites; after all, it’s easy to obsess over gay people when you’re not worried about paying your bills.

For African Americans, who are disproportionately lower-income, gay marriage is far less important than jobs, health care, and economic growth (this is also true of working-class whites, though to a lesser extent). When you couple this with extremely high support for President Obama -- and also, the fact that black people hold different opinions on different things -- it’s no real surprise that African Americans, as a class, are less than interested in whether gay people can marry or serve openly in the military.

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