Why Marriage Matters to African Americans
OVERVIEW: According to the 2000 Census, there are almost 85,000 black same-sex couples in the United States, representing 14 percent of all the nation’s same-sex couples. A study of the 2010 Census indicates that 46.7% of black female same-sex couples and 32.9% percent of black male same-sex couples are raising children. These rates are more than twice those of white same-sex couples. Because they are more likely to be raising children, at comparatively lower wages, black same-sex couples have more to gain from legal recognition of their relationships and more to lose when states pass amendments banning marriage and other forms of partner recognition.
Black LGBT families also disproportionately encounter unequal access to health insurance and protections, and they often confront a dual burden of social stigma and discrimination because of race-based discrimination and sexual orientation-focused stigma. Black same-sex couples are also less prominently featured in the media, which potentially reinforces a negative sense of self-value or self-worth.
PROMINENT VOICES: To combat these complicated, wide-ranging issues, many leaders in the African-American community, from religious leaders to longtime gay rights allies to established organizations, have voiced strong support for the freedom to marry. In 2012 alone, we saw immense marriage support from prominent black voices.
In early May, following President Barack Obama's endorsement of the freedom to marry, four of the most popular black leaders in the country released an open letter applauding the President's announcement. Rev. Al Sharpton, President and Founder of the National Action Network; Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Melanie Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, President Emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; all signed onto the letter, which calls for a civil and respectful collaboration between the LGBT community and black Americans.
Shortly after the joint letter was published, the NAACP, the historic organization dedicated to equal protection under the law, passed a resolution supporting the freedom to marry. Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, has endorsed marriage for all couples as well.
Entertainers and pop culture stars have also expressed their support for the freedom to marry this year. Jay-Z and 50 Cent voiced their support in May, with Jay-Z saying, "What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love." Tony-winning Broadway actress Audra McDonald has also served as a fierce advocate, speaking on behalf of Freedom to Marry in a video about President Obama's marriage announcement (See Below).
- The Pew Research Center found in November 2012 Election Day exit polling that 51% of African-Americans nationwide supported the freedom to marry, with just 41% opposing it, slightly higher than support for marriage among all voters. A similar Pew study in 2009 found just 26% support. (Pew Research Center, November 2012)
- In a national poll from June 2012, 54% of Americans said they support the freedom to marry. Respondents who described themselves as "non-white" support marriage for same-sex couples by a stronger margin than the full sample, with 59% in support and only 39% opposed. (CNN/ORC International, June 2012)
- Two weeks after President Obama's embrace of the freedom to marry, a poll found 59% of black Americans now supporting the freedom to marry, with 65% saying they applauded Obama's stance. (The Washington Post/ABC, May 2012)
- Support among black Americans has shifted dramatically in several key states since President Obama's comments in support of the freedom to marry. 55% of black Maryland residents plan to uphold marriage, with only 36% opposed, a complete reversal of the 39-56 margin from before Obama's announcement. In Missouri, support is 50-31, in Florida, support is 49-31, and in Pennsylvania, support is 42-41. All of these new numbers represent enormous increases from as recently as April 2012.
- An April 2012 poll demonstrated that opposition to the freedom to marry among black Americans has sunk to an all-time low of 49%, down from 67% opposition in 2004, when multiple states passed amendments prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples. (Pew Research Center, April 2012)
- Support for the freedom to marry among black Americans has grown by 56% from 32% in October 2009 to 50% in February 2012. (The Wall Street Journal/NBC, March 2012)
Blog Posts Related to African-Americans
This weekend, Chicago hosted the annual Bud Billiken Parade, the oldest and largest parade for African-Americans in the United States. Along the way, Illinois Unites for Marriage asked parade attendees why they support the freedom to marry in Illinois.
This month, a new documentary exploring the American black community and their views on the freedom to marry, debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The documentary, The New Black, hones in on the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples in Maryland.
For support in dealing with the harms of DOMA, Genevieve and Stacey, who promised their commitment to each other last year in Emery, California have turned to the American Military Partner Association, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBT military families and speaking out against DOMA.
Resources Related to African-Americans
UCLA demographers analyzing 2010 Census Bureau data have found that same-sex couples raising children are more common in the South than in any other region in the United States.
An article adapted from Harvard Professor Nancy F. Cott’s expert report submitted in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
A comprehensive analysis of African Americans views on gay people and the freedom to marry.