Maryland: A 36-Point Black Surge of Support for Gay Marriage

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 24 2012 12:08 PM

Maryland: A 36-Point Black Surge of Support for Gay Marriage

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 09: Patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a historic gay bar in Greenwich Village, watch a news report that shows President Barack Obama who said today that same sex couples should be able to get married on May 9, 2012 in New York City. The president made the comments in an interview with ABC television following comments by Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday where he stated that he was 'absolutely comfortable' with couples of the same gender marrying. President Obama is the first American president to come out in favor of gay marriage. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Public Policy Polling surveys the people of Maryland and finds a 57-37 lead for approval of the new gay marriage law. Guess why?

The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56 percent said they would vote against the new law with only 39 percent planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55 percent of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36 percent now opposed.
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Last week I motored up to Baltimore and its suburbs to meet that 36 percent -- formerly known as the 56 percent. Socially conservative black Democrats are well represented, and well organized. The ballot drive training session I attended was briefly joined by Rep. and Rev. Emmett C. Burns, one of the black holy men who's been sweating it for the repeal campaign. He's going to hold on to a lot of his turf. But in other states -- New York, largely -- black politicians with the same resumes have tried and failed to punish their colleagues for gay marriage votes.

And he's already triaging. Burns enjoyed the first spasms of repeal campaign coverage. He went on CNN and promised not to vote for Obama -- he was just so angry about the gay marriage "evolution." Less than a week later, he told National Review that he'd evolved. He'd back Obama anyway. It's not that easy to stake a position against the president and try to hold on to the black vote.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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