barbarahowardweb.gifOn Nov. 8, an overwhelming majority passed amendments in Arizona (Proposition 102), California (Proposition 8) and Florida (Proposition 2), outlawing same-sex marriage, as 26 states had done before.

In Florida, more than 62 percent of voters agreed that marriage was a “legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
The most publicly fought battle, however, occurred in California, where Proposition 8 “overrode a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriages in California as a fundamental right.”  The official ballot title language was “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.”

Church folk who made up one-fourth of the voters and Republicans who were one-third, voted for Prop 8 at a margin of more than 4 to 1.  But it was the vote of the African Americans that became the object of the most vocal anger.

African Americans, who had come out in record numbers for the first time because of Barack Obama for president, making up 10  percent of the voters in California, voted overwhelmingly (more than 2 to 1) against same-sex marriages.

The gay community was floored, even angry because they had voted overwhelmingly for  Obama, who had publicly voiced his opposition to the amendment.

Even Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, his lieutenant governor, half of California’s politicians, all of its newspapers and many of its religious and Jewish organizations opposed Prop 8.  In Florida, the NAACP had joined the ACLU and others in opposing Prop 2.

But polls showed that the black community voted almost 70 percent against gay marriage.  The beginnings of the backlash from the gay community can be felt across the country.  Some of the comments posted on the Los Angeles Times website were quite telling.

“Of all the communities in the U.S., one would think that African Americans would not want to discriminate against another community. How wrong is that assumption? It seems suffering over two hundred years of oppression does not teach one tolerance and compassion. It is a bitter and sad day for California's gay and lesbian community. It is also hard to grasp that we voted in our first African-American president while carving permanent, legislative discrimination and bigotry into our state constitution. “ (Posted by: LJS on 11/05/08)

One of the African-American callers to this news organization’s radio program, “Elevating the Dialogue with the South Florida Times,” who regularly slams me for being a Republican, asked me, “Why is the Republican Party trying to create a wedge between the gay and African-American communities with this Proposition 8?”

I could hardly contain myself.  How did the Republican Party get to be blamed for black folk exercising their voting rights?  It’s amazing who is getting blamed for this vote.

As much as the gay community is angry, confused and hurt by the African-American vote against gay marriage, they shouldn’t have been.  Had they realized that the black community is devoutly Christian and that their preachers are notorious for using the phrase, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” they would not have expected a different position.

While people like Whoopi Goldberg are visibly vocal in their commitment to gay “rights,” most blacks don’t see that marriage for gays is a “right” at all.  There is nothing in the Constitution or any other body of law or tradition that has made marriage a “right.”

But centuries of law in any religion – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  So where this “right” comes from escapes most African Americans.

I fought against the discrimination of gays in employment, housing, finance, etc.,  working as the first heterosexual lobbyist for SAVE DADE, a gay rights organization which fought to be included as one of the protected classes in the Miami-Dade Code.  The Equal Rights Ordinance was eventually approved after a hard fight.

I was vilified by black folk for that almost as much as I am vilified for becoming a Republican.  So anybody who has paid attention to the voting habits of black folk would have seen that most do not equate the struggles of gays as being equivalent to the struggles of black folk.

But I also learned that the gay community is not very forgiving.  Ask my friend, former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway, who made an unfortunate, off-the-cuff, comment about gays and lived to regret it.  He lost two businesses as a result.

The gay community feels slighted as they voted to put the first African American in the White House.  It will be interesting to see if they will retaliate in the next election or even before.

They have long memories.  I’ve seen their wrath and it ain’t pretty.