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Why did blacks back Prop. 8? It's a minefield

November 8, 2008 | 10:25 am

With exit polls showing up to 70% of black voters backing Prop. 8, there has been much discussion about why. Some have noted an irony of Barack Obama voters backing a ballot measure some consider discriminatory. The Times' Cara Mia DiMassa delved in this minefield and came out with some answers:

"I was born black. I can't change that," said Culver City resident Bilson Davis, 57, who voted for Proposition 8. "They weren't born gay; they chose it," he added, reflecting a commonly held belief that many researchers dispute.

Although many of the state's black political leaders spoke out against Proposition 8, an exit poll of California voters showed that black voters favored the measure by a ratio of more than 2 to 1. Not only was the black vote weighted heavily in favor of Proposition 8, but black turnout -- spurred by Barack Obama's historic campaign for president -- was unusually large, with African Americans making up roughly 10% of the state electorate.

The exit poll didn't ask voters why they voted the way they did. But Madison Shockley, pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad and among the roughly one-third of blacks who opposed Proposition 8, said the vote was understandable. "Black folks go to church, probably more than the Caucasian population, and the churches they go to tend to be very traditional."

Los Angeles resident Christopher Hill, 50, said he was motivated by religion in supporting Proposition 8. Civil rights, he said, "are about getting a job, employment."

Gay marriage, he said, is not: "It's an abomination against God."

Did the No-on-Prop 8. side have a "white bias." Did the campaign ignore black concerns? This Times opinion piece explores those questions.

-- Shelby Grad

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