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Owens (Deste Lee/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal/AP)

Coalition tested

Campaign 2012 | Will African-American opposition to same-sex marriage affect the election outcome?

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

President Obama's most reliable constituency has been the African-American community, with upwards of 90 percent of African-American voters backing him, according to various polls. But the African-American community also overwhelmingly supports traditional marriage-see the results of the traditional marriage amendment that recently passed in North Carolina with huge support from majority black counties. In recent fights to legalize same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia and Maryland, it has been the black community and specifically church leaders who have been most mobilized against such legislation.

Since Obama's announcement May 9 that he personally supports same-sex marriage, African-American pastors across the country have been coalescing in opposition-though that opposition may not translate to support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The Church of God in Christ, a majority black Pentacostal denomination with 5 million members, specifically condemned Obama's new position as opposed to the biblical view of marriage. African-American pastors in Memphis, Tenn., who started the Coalition of African-American Pastors in support of traditional marriage, held a press conference after Obama's announcement.

These black church leaders are particularly incensed that gay-rights activists have compared the quest to redefine marriage to the Civil Rights movement. Meanwhile, the NAACP, which has supported the legalization of same-sex marriage for years, passed a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage days after the president's announcement.

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Obama recognized the threat to his constituency, and a few hours after his announcement he held a conference call to explain his decision to several African-American pastors, according to The New York Times. Romney, meanwhile, has begun reaching out to African-American voters, to mixed reception. In 2004, against a candidate who was not African-American, George W. Bush won 11 percent of the African-American vote.

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