The real black marriage problem

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Marriage equality supporters Teri McClain, left, and Mary Beth Brotski stand with signs supporting President Barack Obama outside a fundraising event for the president, Thursday, May 10, 2012, in Seattle. Obama said Vice President Joe Biden got “a little bit over his skis” in publicly embracing gay marriage, forcing Obama to speed up his own plans to announce support for the right of same-sex couples to marry. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

When it comes to what African Americans think about President Obama’s change of heart on gay marriage, there is an obvious elephant in the room.

Black people belong to the group of Americans that is least likely to get married.

It is a well-documented fact that not only are black women the “most unmarried” group in America, but also they are least likely to marry outside their race.

By the age of 30, nearly 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanics will marry, but only 52 percent of black women will marry by that age, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in an article posted at thegrio.com.

So the fact that media are harping on whether black voters are going to enthusiastically support Obama’s re-election now that he’s come out in favor of same-sex marriage is annoying.

In fact, African Americans who voice strong opinions against gay marriage do so at the risk of looking like hypocrites.

Under the current state of affairs, how can black ministers argue that gay marriage is immoral or that the president has forsaken his religious teaching?

But that is the case.

For instance, in an opinion piece published by News One, the Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple AME Church, a megachurch in Baltimore, Md., Bryant expressed disappointment with the president’s new position on same sex marriage:

“[T]he church has no shades of gray when it comes to marriage. Our faith reserves marriage for a man and a woman. President Obama, as a product of the Black church, is fully aware of that. Knowing this, the President made this endorsement without calling or preparing any of us. For many of us, it felt like a betrayal,” Bryant wrote.

The influential minister went on to point out that “many Black pastors feel jilted.”

The fallout over Obama’s support of gay marriage prompted the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights activists to dispatch a press release, warning voters not to let the issue divide the black community and dilute the black vote:

“As leaders in today’s civil rights movement, we stand behind President Obama’s belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to join in civil marriages. We also affirm that individuals may hold different views on this issue but still work together towards our common goals.”

Besides Sharpton, the statement was signed by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Engagement, and Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of NAACP.

But the energy some black evangelicals are spending on denouncing gay marriage would be better spent on aggressively promoting marriage to members of their congregations.

After all, too many black children are being raised in single-parent households. I’m not saying a single mother or father can’t be a great parent, but the job is a lot tougher. Like women of other ethnicities, a lot of black women want to be in a committed and loving relationship. Unfortunately, many of these women are settling for far less, because they are unable to find a suitable and willing mate.

Obama’s self-professed evolution should also be viewed as a template for black voters. The gay community was successful in pushing its agenda to the top of the president’s to-do list because the group’s goal was clearly defined, and supporters weren’t dissuaded by Obama’s initial coolness.

African Americans have an agenda as well, and time is running out on leveraging their voting power.

Because of the nation’s failed drug policies, black youth in urban areas continue to be killed at rates more akin to what you would expect to see in a country that is under attack by foreign enemies.

There’s no question that many youth might have been diverted from this dead end had they had the guidance of a loving two-parent home.

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