I have to agree with Ed Rendell on this one: Obama's not going to lose any votes he already has if he comes out in support of marriage equality:
During an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday morning, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) — who supported marriage equality while in office — called on President Obama to back the cause and lead on the issue. “I think he should do exactly what [former RNC chairman] Michael Steele said he should do. He should man up and say, this is what I believe. And I think he doesn’t lose any African-American votes,” he said.
“The people who vote solely on this issue, single issue voter, gay marriage, none of them are voting for Barack Obama now and they’re not going to vote for him whether he says he’s against it.”
Absolutely true. I'd be surprised if anyone decided not to vote for Obama on this issue — and we live in Pennsyltucky!
As to Obama's perceived risk in offending black church members, there's a glimmer of truth — but only a glimmer:
Since the passage of Proposition 8, much has been said about the supposed dramatic opposition to marriage equality among African Americans, fueled by National Election Pool (NEP) figures based on sampling in only a few precincts that erroneously indicated 70 percent of California’s African Americans supported Proposition 8. The study found that when religious service attendance was factored out, however, there was no significant difference between African Americans and other groups.
In other words, people of all races and ethnicities who worship at least once a week overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8, with support among white, Asian and Latino frequent churchgoers actually being greater than among African Americans.
“We clearly need to redouble our work with people of faith to overcome the notion that civil marriage for same-sex couples somehow threatens religious liberties and to convince them that protecting all families equally is the just and moral thing to do,” said the Rev. Mark Wilson, coordinator of African-American minister outreach for And Marriage for All.
Moreover, the study found that the level of support for Proposition 8 among African Americans was nowhere close to the NEP exit poll 70 percent figure. The study looked at pre- and post-election polls and conducted a sophisticated analysis of precinct-level voting data from five California counties with the highest African-American populations (Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco).* Based on this, it concludes that the level of African-American support for Proposition 8 was in the range of 57-59 percent. Its precinct-level analysis also found that many precincts with few black voters supported Proposition 8 at levels just as high or higher than those with many black voters.
As discussed earlier, the 57-59 percent figure — while higher than white and Asian-American voters — is largely explained by the higher rates of African-American religious service attendance: 57 percent of African Americans attend religious services at least once a week, compared to 42 percent of whites and 40 percent of Asian Americans.
“This study debunks the myth that African Americans overwhelmingly and disproportionately supported Proposition 8. But we clearly have work to do with, within and for African-American communities, particularly the black church,” said Andrea Shorter, director of And Marriage for All.
Besides, pulling the lever to support Prop 8 is still very, very different from pulling the lever for Republican Mitt Romney. I think Rendell's right: Obama doesn't have much to lose on this one, and he may gain some votes among those who are disaffected by his waffling on the issue.