Florida is of course an important swing state in the November election. In 2008, it voted 62% in favor of marriage, back when President Obama said he believed in one-man, one-woman marriage. In the same year, he only carried the state by 3 points.
The Sun Sentinel reports:
At the Neighborhood Unisex Barbershop on Sistrunk Boulevard in northwest Fort Lauderdale, the room fell silent as the president's interview came on TV. At Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, the pastor turned the midweek Bible study into an open forum on the controversy. At St. John Primitive Baptist Church in Delray Beach, the pastor expressed his concerns.
"That's crazy," said Demetrius Simmons, 27. "In Scripture, a man should stick with a woman." His view was common, across generations, among people attending midweek services last week at Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale. For Louise Branch, 53, it's simple: "God says man-woman."
And Rosalee Colen, 89, said she'd "tell Obama right to his face I don't believe in that." If the president prayed about same-sex marriage, Colen said he'd realize he's wrong.
Obama can't afford to alienate too many people like Simmons, Branch and Colen.
An explosion of pride and political enthusiasm among African-Americans generated a wave of votes in 2008 that helped make Obama America's first president of color. And black voters are an essential part of the coalition Obama needs if he's to win re-election, especially in Florida, which awards 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
How critical are votes from black Floridians? In 2008, Obama won 51 percent of the vote in the state. Exit polls showed he won 42 percent of white voters. Hispanics, who made up 14 percent of the electorate, voted 57 percent for Obama. And African-Americans, who were 13 percent of the state's voters in 2008, voted 96 percent for Obama.
"The African-American community is socially conservative and church-oriented," said state Sen. Chris Smith, a Democrat who represents Broward and Palm Beach counties. Two days after the president's May 9 statement, "we got into a heated discussion at my barbershop. My barber and the guy next to me were opposed to it. They were opposed to gay marriage and they think it's wrong."