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Campaign 2012 Series Pt. 1 – Examining The LGBT Vote

As the 2012 campaign enters its final stretch, candidates are trying to win the hearts and minds of several demographic groups that could swing the elusive “undecided” vote in their favor. And those potentially game-changing voting blocs are working to make sure the candidates speak to their agendas.

In a series of articles counting down to Election Day, we’ll examine three groups of constituents that candidates are trying to woo and look at how they relate to Black Americans.

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By// Julius Rea

It’s been asserted — and disputed — that “gay is the new Black,” however there’s no disputing that in this election cycle the LGBT community has become one of the most-discussed groups.

As the nation watches this group grow stronger, one question emerges: Is the LGBT community becoming a political force like the Black community has been?

NAACP board member and longtime Civil Rights activist Julian Bond. /AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, file

According to a 2011 report released by the Williams Institute, a national think tank at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, there are approximately 9 million Americans — 3.5 percent of the adult population — that identify as LGBT. (In 2010, the same group released a demographic break down of sexual orientations — 23.2 percent of all bisexuals were African-American; 18.8 percent of all people who identity as gay or lesbian were African-American.)

The LGBT political involvement, mixed with the increasing support for LGBT rights, makes the group a potentially strong political force in the 2012 Presidential election.

Earlier this year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board of directors announced its support of marriage equality. Shortly after the announcement, board member Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr. resigned.

In a National Public Radio report, Ratliff said that the NAACP has been an organization closely tied to faith; he was quoted saying, “Gay community: Stop hijacking the Civil Rights movement.”

We spoke with Civil Rights movement pioneer Julian Bond, who also is on NAACP board, about this sentiment. “You never hear this about the Hispanic rights movement — that they’re stealing from the Black Civil Rights movement. You don’t hear people say this about women. You only hear people say this about gays and lesbians,” he notes.

According to Bond, Ratliff — who led anti-gay rallies in Iowa — was not present when the vote was taken. Bond said that the NAACP didn’t tell religious organizations, churches or people of faith how to behave and that the decision was based on public policy and equality.

This announcement appears to mirror the attitudes of a growing number of Americans, including President Obama, who made history when he came out publicly in support of same-sex marriage a couple weeks prior to the NAACP statement. A July 2012 Pew Research Center report said that — 48 percent of the public support same-sex marriage, while 44 percent oppose it. That compares to 39 percent in support and 51 percent in opposition in 2008.

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