The Black Pastors Are Coming!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 14 2012 1:39 PM

The Black Pastors Are Coming!

Ed Morrissey is a little too excited about this story out of Baltimore.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

When Obama announced that his position on same-sex marriage had evolved, it outraged some African-American pastors like Pastor and Del. Emmett Burns.
"He has said to his base, African-Americans, 'I am going against your beliefs and your thoughts,'" Burns said... "I think it might be a call to action for people to really express what they believe," Father Erik Arnold of Our Lady of Perpetual Help said.

"And so it begins," writes Morrissey. "This will be a disaster in places like Maryland. No one expects the congregants of Pastor Burns’ church to run out and vote for Romney, but they’re going to be a lot less enthused about Obama — and a lack of enthusiasm in his base will put an end to hopes of a second term."

It depends what you mean by "begins." Burns and Arnold are not recent converts to the one-man-one-woman cause. Quite the opposite! Burns has campaigned against gay marriage in Maryland for years, starting with an (unsuccessful) effort to pre-emptively ban reciprocity for people who get married elsewhere and move to the state. "I can't hide my blackness and get the rights that I'm due," he said in 2007, "so to say that this is a civil rights issue upsets me to no end." He's one of those guys. Arnold testified against the state's gay marriage bill, which passed thanks to a coalition of white liberals, moderate Republicans, and a rump of black Democrats. This isn't a trend. These are pastors who dive in front of cameras whenever they hear the words "gay" and "marriage."

Will these pastors convince their congregations to stay home and protest Barack Obama? It would be the first time that a black politician lost because he came out for gay marriage. It's assuming that some number of black Americans will say "meh" and let the first black president go down in flames in November. In Maryland, where voters might get to vote on the marriage law, why wouldn't some number of black voters split their tickets? That's what they did in 2008, when they voted for Prop 8 in California and for national gay marriage superhero Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor Barack Obama.

UPDATE: I stupidly misstated the year that Newsom won his race.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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