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November 07, 2008

Minority groups critical to California same-sex marriage ban

California voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, a referendum that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.  The measure passed by a five-point margin, 52.5 to 47.5 percent.

But it was Barack Obama's base of African-American supporters that were most supportive of the same-sex marriage ban, according to exit polling from California.  Indeed, in urban Los Angeles County where Obama won 61 percent of the vote, the ban passed with 50.4 percent of the vote.

More from the Washington Post:

Any notion that Tuesday's election represented a liberal juggernaut must overcome a detail from the voting booths of California: The same voters who turned out strongest for Barack Obama also drove a stake through the heart of same-sex marriage.

Seven in 10 African Americans who went to the polls voted yes on Proposition 8, the ballot measure overruling a state Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage and brought 18,000 gay and lesbian couples to Golden State courthouses in the past six months.

Similar measures passed easily in Florida and Arizona. It was closer in California, but no ethnic group anywhere rejected the sanctioning of same-sex unions as emphatically as the state's black voters, according to exit polls. Fifty-three percent of Latinos also backed Proposition 8, overcoming the bare majority of white Californians who voted to let the court ruling stand.

The outcome that placed two pillars of the Democratic coalition -- minorities and gays -- at opposite ends of an emotional issue sparked street protests in Los Angeles and a candlelight vigil in San Francisco. To gay rights advocates, the issue was one of civil rights. Attorney General Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. reworded the ballot language to state that a yes vote was a vote to "eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry."

That appeal ran head-on into a well-funded and well-framed advertising campaign in favor of the ban -- and the deeply ingrained religious beliefs of an African American community that largely declined to see the issue through a prism of equality.