Could Obama’s popularity hurt gay couples?

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Could Senator Barack Obama’s popularity among black voters hurt gay couples in California who want to marry?

That is the concern of opponents of Proposition 8, a measure on the November ballot that would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which was legalized in May by the State Supreme Court.

Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is against the measure. But opponents of the proposed ban worry that many black voters, enthused by Mr. Obama’s candidacy but traditionally conservative on issues involving homosexuality, could pour into voting stations in record numbers to punch the Obama ticket — and then cast a vote for Proposition 8.

“It’s a Catch-22,” said Andrea Shorter, the campaign director of And Marriage for All, a coalition of gay and civil rights groups that recently started what it calls an education campaign around the state, focusing on blacks and framing the issue of same-sex marriage as one of civil rights.

The Obama/Proposition 8 situation appeals to those opposed to same-sex marriage, who are banking on a high turnout by blacks and conservative Latinos. “There’s no question African-American and Latino voters are among our strongest supporters,” said Frank Schubert, the co-campaign manager for Yes on 8, the leading group behind the measure. “And to the extent that they are motivated to get to the polls, whether by this issue or by Barack Obama, it helps us.”

To blunt that possibility, gay leaders and Proposition 8 opponents have been sponsoring casual events at restaurants in traditionally black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, meeting with black clergy members and recruiting gay black couples to serve as spokespeople on panels and at house parties and church events.

“This is black people talking to black people,” said Ron Buckmire, the board president of the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition, a gay rights group in Los Angeles. “We’re saying, ‘Gay people are black and black people are gay. And if you are voting conservative on an antigay ballot measure, you are hurting the black community.’ ”

Black voters account for 6 percent of likely voters in most statewide elections, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, while Hispanic voters make up about 15 percent. But taken together, those two groups could easily decide the election, people on both sides of the issue said.

“If the white Christian evangelic movement believes they can do it alone, I’ve got news for you,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in Sacramento, which supports the measure. “They don’t have the sheer numbers to do it without the minority effort.”

The Obama factor is just one potential element in the battle over Proposition 8.

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