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May 10th, 2012
09:34 AM ET

Rev. Bryant doesn't think President Obama's same sex marriage stance will be a deal breaker for African American voters

This morning, a brand new era in American history as President Obama becomes the first president ever to support same-sex marriage. He made the statement in an interview with ABC.

"I've just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," President Obama says.

While the nation is nearly evenly split on this issue with 50% supporting same-sex marriage and 48% opposing it, some analysts say that his support might lose him vote in a key demographic that has supported him for years: African-American voters.

While fewer African-Americans oppose the issue than before, just 39% of African-Americans support same-sex marriage, 49% oppose it. Reverend Jamal Harrison Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, talks with Ashleigh Banfield to explain how black voters will view President Obama's gay marriage backing.

"A lot of African-American leaders right now are really dazed by this because we didn't see it coming," Rev. Bryant says. "For the last four years, the African-American clergy have really supported, covered, and prayed for President Obama, and it really came without any warning."

Regardless of the shock, Rev. Bryant says it may not sway African American voters to pick another candidate.

"I would say by and large, African-Americans are going to support President Obama. I don't think that this is going to be a deal breaker because there's so many issues at stake when you deal with Pell Grants, when you deal with predatory lending, when you deal with job preparedness and you see the economy on the surge of rebound. I think African-Americans are going to stand with the president, with his presidency, but not on this policy," Rev. Bryant says.

Read more from the interview below.




BANFIELD: Reverend, so many people when they look at this and they look at how Black and African-Americans weigh in on this issue, equate this with the civil rights movement. And, many can't understand why Black Americans can't see this as the new civil rights movement for yet another segment of society.

Yet, we still see this social conservatism when it comes to sexuality that you just mentioned off the top of this interview. Do you see a balancing act that may actually tip one way or even the other as we move forward with this? The president has said that society is just changing.

BRYANT: I think that the African-American community sees it as a human rights issue. The yoke that is on the church is that we cannot, in any way, practice gay bashing or embrace homophobia. I think one of the benefits that this is going to be is bring it to the kitchen table for discussion. African-Americans and the Black church, by and large, have shied away from the issue.

The president has put it right on the plate and said we've got to deal with it. And I think that it's appropriate. Many African- American denominations have already assumed a position on same-sex marriages and unions. I'm a part of the African Methodist Episcopal church. And in 2008, we passed a legislation whereby we were against same-sex marriages and same-sex unions, but at the same place, we believe in the human rights of all because we believe that God created everybody.

BANFIELD: So within this segment, there are a lot of people saying that Democrats are evolving, and they're evolving at break-neck pace and making this leap of faith. In fact, Ron Brownstein, one of our CNN analysts, was just on about 25 minutes ago suggesting this is a dramatic leap of faith.

Do you think that this will alienate Black voters in America to the point where they will think, you know what, I just don't want to vote for him, so I'm just not going to go to the poll?

BRYANT: I think that's the overarching concern, and there's so much at stake. We began a campaign, the Empowerment movement did, to register one million voters, new voters for the November election. Easter sunday, we registered 110,000. We're moving to fill in that gap to register another 900,000 before Labor Day. And I believe we're going to do it.

What is very critical is after voter registration is voter education. And what are the issues that are germane to us in this election is economy, economy, economy. I think that this is going to be an issue that's going to be discussed going into the general election. It cannot be ignored. That is now an Americana issue that is going to have to be faced not just by the larger American populous but the African-American community will not be able to sit on the fence.

We're really going to have to deal with it and discuss it because the reality is, is that we have a large gay community within our churches. And we can't talk over them or ignore them. We're going to have to deal with the issue head-on.

Filed under: Gay rights • Same sex marriage
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