Politics

Ten years ago, black churchgoers helped ban same-sex marriage in CA. What's changed?

Supporters of same-sex marriage protest near the Los Angeles Mormon Temple before marching in protest against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Nov. 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Supporters of same-sex marriage protest near the Los Angeles Mormon Temple before marching in protest against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Nov. 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Christian Walker remembers 2008 as a big year. It was one of the most consequential elections in a generation, and he had just turned 18. 

Like much of his family, Walker was energized that Barack Obama, a fellow person of color, would finally top the ballot. When votes were tallied, they were thrilled.

But Walker's elation would be short-lived. Walker was coming out as gay and Californians had also decided to once again ban same-sex marriage in the state. 

The news was soon followed by exit polls that suggested seven out of 10 black voters in California helped pass the ban. Election analysts linked this to black churches.

"As a black individual, a black person, I felt, why are we doing this to another group of people when it was done to us for so many years?" Walker said.

Walker grew up in a predominantly black church and its relationship with the LGBTQ community was complicated.

“I don't wanna call it a love-hate relationship. I don't think it’s love-hate. I think it’s love and be quiet," said Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard, who pastored a church like Walker's in South Los Angeles. 

"Like, we know you’re here but we not gonna talk about it."

Today, 10 years later, marriage equality is an important issue for some in the black church leadership. 

"I don't preach messages that condemn same-sex marriage. We teach family," said Smith-Pollard.