When President Obama endorsed marriage equality two weeks ago, there was some talk about his position possibly alienating some African-American voters. After all, as the chart on the right shows, support for same-sex marriage in the African-American community has grown in recent years, but opponents clearly still outnumber supporters.
But since Obama’s announcement, the larger shift has been towards the president’s position, not away from it. Over the weekend, the board of the NAACP, in a near-unanimous vote, followed Obama’s lead and endorsed same-sex marriage. Jonathan Capehart’s take on this rings true.
When leaders lead, especially on difficult social issues that demand the end of an injustice or the expansion of liberty, people will follow. The announcement Saturday that the NAACP passed a resolution supporting marriage equality is the most important sign yet that President Obama’s public support of it had the power to change hearts and minds. […]
According to the New York Times, [former NAACP chairman Julian Bond] said that Obama’s May 9 announcement “was ‘a tipping point’ for many of the board members.” Turns out it was a tipping point for many African Americans, as well.
Rev. Jesse Jackson touted his newfound support for same-sex marriage to culture writer Toure’. House Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) did the same with NBC’s Chuck Todd. A Post-ABC News poll released last week showed that 54 percent of blacks supported the president’s position on same-sex marriage.
After Obama’s comments on May 9, there was a fair amount of analysis that said the president’s position had symbolic value, but little more. After all, LGBT Americans were no better off on May 10 than they were on May 8.
But with the NAACP speaking with one voice in support of marriage equality, it’s a reminder than the president’s words – any president’s words – can have a larger impact on society.
Leadership, in other words, counts.