Is "Rampant" Black Homophobia Really a Thing? And What About Ted Cruz's Anti-Gay Marriage Stance?


Last night at the GLAAD Media Awards, Scandal star Kerry Washington spoke out against homophobia among African Americans. Receiving a "vanguard" award from GLAAD, which supports gay and lesbian rights, she said:

When black people today tell me that they don't believe in gay marriage… So, the first thing that I say is, 'Please don't let anybody try to get you to vote against your own best interest by feeding you messages of hate.' And then I say, 'You know people used to stay that stuff about you and your love and if we let the government start to legislate love in our lifetime, who do you think is next?'"

In a Daily Beast writeup of last night's speechifying, Stereo Williams recounts what Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels had to say about black homophobia on a different occasion:

"Homophobia is rampant in the African American community, and men are on the DL," he said. "They don't come out, because your priest says, your pastor says, mama says, your next-door neighbor says, your homie says, your brother says, your boss says [that homosexuality is wrong]. And they are killing African American women. They are killing our women. So I wanted to blow the lid off more on homophobia in my community."

It's widely believed that blacks, who tend to be more religious, less educated, and less wealthy than the average American, are also more anti-gay. Religiosity, lower educational attainment, and lower income all correlate with being less tolerant of gay marriage, a proxy for anti-gay animus. But is it true?

Some indications that it is:

  • Last year, Pew Research found that just 42 percent of blacks favored gay marriage, compared with 53 percent of whites. In 2001, about one-third of each group favored gay marriage.
  • In 2008, exit polls initially found that black Californians voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. Overall, the initiative passed 52 percent to 48 percent (and was subsequently invalidated by a court ruling). Latinos voted 53 percent in favor of it, while only 49 percent of Asians and whites voted to ban gay marriage. A later study of specific precincts found that 58 percent of blacks voted to ban gay marriage.

At least one indication that it isn't:

  • A 2012 Gallup report found that African Americans are much more likely to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) than the average Americans. Some 4.6 percent of blacks call themselves LGBT, compared with 3.4 percent of U.S. adults overall.

As a 2012 article in The Blaze pointed out, reports that black voters in North Carolina had opposed gay marriage in a ballot initiative by a two-to-one margin were completely undocumented

Does any of this matter? In the long run, almost certainly not. Pew and everyone else finds that the younger you are, the less likely you are to oppose gay marriage. Broadly speaking, anti-gay animus is fading and there's no reason to believe that it will grow again any time in the future.

At various points in recent memory, social conservatives have sought to use gay marriage to create new political coalitions. For instance, in a 2008 memo, the anti-marriage-equality group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) talked of using gay marriage as a way of "driving a wedge" between liberals and black and Latino groups. That's almost certainly a failing strategy, especially when you consider that even among black protestants and white evangelicals support for gay marriage has doubled in the past decade.

Which brings us around to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the first Republican to jump officially into the race to be his party's nominee for president in 2016. If gay marriage is becoming more and more accepted by Americans of all colors and creeds, Cruz is trying to stand athwart history, yelling stop! Last fall, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to weigh in on various lower court rulings that expanded the number of states in which same-sex unions were legal, Cruz lashed out at a development that was "tragic and indefensible" and "judicial activism at its worst." From his official statement at the time:

The Constitution entrusts state legislatures, elected by the People, to define marriage consistent with the values and mores of their citizens. Unelected judges should not be imposing their policy preferences to subvert the considered judgments of democratically elected legislatures….

I will be introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.

Traditional marriage is an institution whose integrity and vitality are critical to the health of any society. We should remain faithful to our moral heritage and never hesitate to defend it.

Here's an exit question: Based on simple analysis of the voting public (not to mention common decency), there's no reason to believe that any politician will gain votes from attacking marriage equality. But can a candidate overcome his anti-gay-marriage position to win higher office?