African-Americans largely supported Proposition 8

Just over half of California voters approved Proposition 8. A CNN exit poll shows that the amendment to ban same-sex marriage split white, Latino, and Asian-American voters roughly 50/50. But 70 percent of African American voters favored Prop 8. KPCC's Brian Watt has more on some of the reasons.

Brian Watt: Early on election night in Hollywood, Southland opponents of Prop 8 celebrated Barack Obama's victory. But John Duran, the former mayor of West Hollywood, told the crowd they'd have to wait to learn the fate of Prop 8.

John Duran: It is going to be close, but President-elect Barack Obama has some very lonnnnnnng coattails. (cheers)

Watt: It was close and the coattails were long. But among the African-American voters who turned out to elect Obama, those coattails frayed when it came to Proposition 8.

A CNN exit poll shows that 75 percent of black women voters supported the ballot measure. That dismayed Valerie Wagner, who attended the No on Prop 8 party.

Valerie Wagner: As a black lesbian, I mean, it's incredibly disheartening to have people who look like me look at me and tell me that it's okay to discriminate against me because I'm lesbian.

Watt: Wagner works for AIDS Project Los Angeles. She's also on the board of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition – an organization that tries to educate African-Americans about gender equality issues. She acknowledged that same-sex marriage can be a tough sell.

Wagner: It's a very deeply religious thing in the black community, and people want to take and use the Bible indiscriminately as a weapon. They want to hone in on Leviticus, and they want to hone in on Sodom and Gomorrah. Because as oppressed people, we learn the lessons of the oppressor.

Watt: Many church groups and black pastors did support Proposition 8, and that hit home with a lot of black voters. A trip to the Registrar/Recorder's Office in Norwalk to talk to early voters indicated what Valerie Wagner was up against.

Forty-five-year-old Lisa Hamilton and her mother, Helen Lee, drove there from Carson to wait for more than two hours. As the mother started talking about Prop 8, the daughter looked a little skeptical, so that suggested a generational split.

Helen Lee : The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman. He didn't say marriage was between a man and a man and a woman and woman. I don't have any grandchildren or anything, but I don't want children being taught about something like that. They're just flaunting this stuff in our faces, just throwing it in our faces. "You gonna take it whether you want it or not." Well, I don't want it and I'm voting against it. So I'm voting yes on Proposition 8.
Watt: OK. But not you?
Lisa Hamilton: Well, I'm voting yes on Proposition 8, but my reasons are a little bit different. Being the fact that I am a licensed minister, I just think that if this law passes, churches will be forced to have to marry... couples. And the church doesn't have a right to say "no, we refuse to do so."

Watt: Yes on Prop 8 ads and literature repeated these themes: that schools would teach gay marriage to children and the state would allow lawsuits against churches that refused to sanction same-sex weddings.

Opponents of the measure did their best to dispute those claims, and to present gay marriage as a civil rights issue. The final tallies demonstrate that most African-American voters just didn't buy it.

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