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Coalition Watch: Eye on Maryland

February 16, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

» NY Times: Gay Marriage a Tough Sell with Blacks in Maryland

Just a reminder: not everyone under the Democratic Party tent is as white, urban, and liberal as you may have been led to believe …

The Human Rights Campaign and the Service Employees International Union have sent dozens of workers and volunteers, many of them African-American, across the state to talk about the issue. Particular attention is being paid to Baltimore and Prince George’s County, organizers said, two majority-black areas where skepticism has been strong.

It is uncertain whether the effort will lead to the bill’s passage; a similar bill failed in the House last year without coming to a vote. But it has had one clear effect, that of opening a difficult conversation about homosexuality among one group that has traditionally shied away from talking about it.

“It’s a very sensitive subject in the black community,” said Ezekiel Jackson, a political organizer for the 1199 Service Employees International Union in Maryland, who has been meeting with members, mostly health care workers, to persuade them to support the bill. “The culture is different. Gay people got pushed off into their own circle. Instead of dealing with it, they just lived their lives among like minds, apart.”

Much of the hesitation, black advocates of the bill say, has its roots in the churches, whose influence is strong among many African-Americans. And while the overwhelming majority of black clergy in the state still strongly oppose same-sex marriage — they held a rally here in the state capital last month to make that point — a few young pastors have come out in support.

Regardless of how it plays out in Maryland, I think there’s a better-than-50/50 chance that the 2016 Democratic nominee will be an advocate for same-sex marriage. Cuomo and O’Malley are among the likely candidates and they’re already there on the issue. A number of other leading contenders aren’t there now. But I think the pull of gravity is likely to be strong to pressure one or two of them during the campaign. And that’s well before we even get to a platform debate at the national convention.

I’m sure it’ll be loads of fun as long as people don’t go storming off in a huff over it. But it’s still an open question over whether it will have a total of zero impact over where any votes or turnout enthusiasm goes in November 2016.

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