It has been nearly a month since President Obama announced his support for marriage equality but the ripples are still being felt. Opposition to civil equality for LGBT Americans has hit an all-time low, with 53% supporting marriage and only 39% opposing it. Even with the extraordinary exposure that this supposedly controversial topic has received, people are moving in the direction of fairness.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the African American community, as shown in recent polls. Nationally, their support of equality jumped from 41% to 59%. In Maryland, where voters will be asked to weigh in on a marriage referendum in November, numbers look good. This is largely because of a complete swing in African American support, going from 36% to 55% in the past month. Even in North Carolina, where marriage equality was just defeated, black opposition dropped eleven points since the President’s announcement.
The recent burst of support from African American leaders and celebrities on the heels of the President clearly has had an beneficial impact. The NAACP, Julian Bond, Colin Powell, Jay-Z, and Chris Rock all announced their support. This visible shift in the black community has made it easier for voters to be comfortable with expressing support. Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College in California, says blacks are more likely to confront the issue simply because of the esteem they hold for Obama.
It says, “If Obama can be for gay marriage, I can be for it too.” It’s now a safer position to vocalize. We would hypothesize that it would increase support because now the environment has changed.
That’s what leadership can do. As this article points out, Obama has in fact been more supportive of the LGBT community than any prior President. As frustrating as his occasional reticence can be, his actions speak loudly. When his words join those actions, the nation follows.