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Blacks outvoted whites in 2012, the first time on record
Residents of the historically African-American neighborhood of Harlem wait in line to vote on Election Day.
May 9th, 2013
08:30 AM ET

Blacks outvoted whites in 2012, the first time on record

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A new Census Bureau report shows a higher percentage of African-Americans than whites voted in a presidential election for the first time in history last year during the matchup between President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The report, released Wednesday, found that more than 66% of eligible blacks voted in the presidential contest. Only 64.1% of whites turned out to vote.

This marks the first time since 1968 that blacks turned out at a higher rate the whites.

In addition to blacks turning out at a higher rate, the number of Asian and Hispanic voters grew from 2008 to 2012. Hispanics added 1.4 million people and Asians added over 500,000. Between 1996 and 2012, blacks, Asians and Hispanics all saw their percentage of the voting population increase.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Black in America • How we live • Politics
Christian’s year of living 'gay' leads to dramatic change, sparks controversy
December 3rd, 2012
12:39 PM ET

Christian’s year of living 'gay' leads to dramatic change, sparks controversy

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Timothy Kurek’s motivation to spend a year pretending to be gay can be boiled down to a simple conviction: it takes drastic change to alter deeply held religious beliefs.

The experiment began after a lesbian friend opened up to Kurek about being excommunicated by her family. All Kurek, an avowed evangelical Christian, could think about, he says, “was trying to convert her.”

He was quickly disgusted by his own feelings, more pious than humane.

In fact, Kurek was so disgusted by his response to his friend that he decided to do something drastic. Living in Nashville, Tennessee, he would pretend to be gay for a year. The experiment began on the first day of 2009; Kurek came out to his family, got a job as a barista at a gay café and enlisted the help of a friend to act as his boyfriend in public.

The experience – which stopped short of Kurek getting physically intimate with other men – is documented in Kurek’s recent book “The Cross in the Closet,” which has received international attention, landed him on ABC’s "The View" and elicited some biting criticism.

The book is the latest entry on a growing list of experiential tomes revolving around religion. They include Rachel Held Evans’ recent “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” in which the author follows the Bible’s instructions on women’s behavior and Ed Dobson’s “The Year of Living Like Jesus,” which had the author “eat as Jesus ate. Pray as Jesus prayed. Observe the Sabbath as Jesus observed.”

For Kurek, his year as a gay man radically changed his view of faith and religion, while also teaching him “what it meant to be a second class citizen in this country.”

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog
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Filed under: How we live • Religion • Sexual orientation
After gay marriage successes, activists look to build on new faith outreach techniques
Faith-based activists in Minnesota helped defeat a proposed gay marriage ban there this month.
November 30th, 2012
08:53 AM ET

After gay marriage successes, activists look to build on new faith outreach techniques

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – It may not sound very powerful, but gay rights activist Debra Peevey said that a two-inch green button played a major role in convincing voters to legalize gay marriage this month in her home state of Washington.

“Another Person of Faith Approves R. 74,” said the button, which refers to the ballot initiative that wound up legalizing gay marriage in Washington.

As faith director for the statewide pro-gay marriage campaign, Washington United for Marriage, Peevey and her team distributed 5,000 of the buttons. They were conversation starters, she said, ways of letting people know they could relate to one another on the intimate level of religion. And that being religious didn’t meant you had to oppose gay marriage.

“We had people clamoring for the buttons,” Peevey said. “People of faith all over the state wore them. It amplified that perspective that people of faith do, in fact, support marriage equality.”

This year, voters in Washington State were joined by those in Maryland, Maine and Minnesota in handing big victories to the gay rights movement. In the first three states, voters legalized gay marriage. In Minnesota, they rejected a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage.

After watching dozens of states adopt gay marriage bans in recent years, gay rights activists hope this month’s victories mark a national turning point. And to help push other states to follow suit, they are holding up efforts like Peevey’s as a blueprint for how to successfully incorporate faith into future gay rights campaigns.

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog
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Filed under: History • How we live • Religion • Sexual orientation
Survey: On importance of religion in presidential politics, racial divides evident
October 4th, 2012
03:35 PM ET

Survey: On importance of religion in presidential politics, racial divides evident

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A survey released Thursday shows striking racial and religious divides over the role of religion in presidential politics.

More black and Hispanic millennials – ages 18 to 25 – said that it was important that a presidential candidate hold religious beliefs than white millennials, according to survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Nearly 70% of black and 57% of Hispanic millennials indicated that religious beliefs were important, while white young millennials with this belief were in the minority. Only 44% said it was important, while 53% said it wasn’t important.

“There are striking differences along racial lines about the role of faith in the lives of presidential candidates,” Dr. Thomas Banchoff, director of the Berkley Center, said in a release about the poll. “Strong majorities of black and Hispanic younger millennials say it is important for presidential candidates to have strong religious beliefs, while a majority of white younger millennials disagree.”

Overall, there was a near equal divide among all millennials – with 49% saying religious beliefs among presidential candidates is important and 48% saying the opposite.

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog
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Filed under: 2012 Election • Age • How we live • Politics • Race • Religion
September 10th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

From Kurt Warner's wife to internet famous

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – In a stadium filled with 8,000 evangelical Christian women, one person near the stage stands out.

Sporting short salt-and-peppered hair, broad shoulders and a high-collared shirt, the man sits calmly as ballerinas flutter across the stage, women tell jokes about menopause and the event’s emcee announces that almost all the men’s rooms at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington have been converted to female restrooms for the night, provoking a round of applause.

For Kurt Warner, former quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals and two-time National Football League MVP, this is about as far away from the testosterone-driven world of the gridiron as you can get.

Onstage is the reason Warner’s here: Brenda Warner, her angular face and close-cropped blonde hair radiating in professional lighting, telling the audience about God’s plan for her life.

For years, Brenda was known as Kurt’s uber-supportive wife – a woman whose unflinchingly defense and championing of her superstar husband sometimes made news in it its own right.

Today, two years into Kurt’s retirement, those roles are changing.

Read the full story on CNN's Belief blog

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Filed under: Family • Gender • How we live • Who we are • Women
Gay rights activists see Mormon attitudes softening toward their community
Gay rights activists hold hands in protest in front of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July 2009.
April 18th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Gay rights activists see Mormon attitudes softening toward their community

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN)  Kevin Kloosterman, a former Mormon bishop, said he “came out” last year  just not in the way that many people associate with coming out.

“I came out and basically made a personal apology to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) folks for really not understanding their issues, not really taking the time to understand their lives and really not doing my homework,” Kloosterman said in an interview with CNN.

Though not speaking on behalf of the church, the then-bishop stood in front of a crowd of gay and straight Mormons at a November conference on gay and lesbian issues in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.

Donning a suit and tie, Kloosterman was visibly shaken, struggling to find the right words as tears welled up in his eyes.

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog 

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Filed under: Religion • Sexual orientation • Who we are
BYU student video on homosexuality is not in violation of honor code, says administrator
One unnamed male student in the BYU video says he had thoughts of suicide.
April 10th, 2012
10:14 AM ET

BYU student video on homosexuality is not in violation of honor code, says administrator

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) –  The students featured in a video about being gay at Brigham Young University are not in obvious violation of the honor code, according to Carri Jenkins, an assistant to the president of BYU.

Jenkins went on to say that for the video alone, the students would not be punished. The honor code, Jenkins said, is “based on conduct, not on feeling, and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.”

All BYU students sign on to the honor code upon enrollment. The code outlaws premarital sex and breaking the code “may result in actions up to and including separation from the university.”

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the honor code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings,” reads the honor code.

The 9 minute, 37 second video features a number of gay, lesbian and bisexual students around BYU and is part of the larger “It Gets Better” video campaign started by writer Dan Savage. The project was started in response to a rash of suicides of teenagers who were bullied for being gay. The goal of the videos is to let people know they are not alone and that life gets better.

Read the full post on CNN's Belief blog

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Filed under: Religion • Sexual orientation • Who we are
Engage: Oakland's first Asian-American mayor struggles to settle in
Jean Quan, Oakland's first Asian-American and first female mayor, has experienced several political failures.
January 5th, 2012
09:49 AM ET

Engage: Oakland's first Asian-American mayor struggles to settle in

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Mayor Jean Quan ends a year of dramatic ups and downs - San Francisco Chronicle

Judge's ruling: South Carolina KKK shop building now owned by black church - Los Angeles Times

Americans have harder time moving up socioeconomic ladder - The New York Times

George Lucas salutes Tuskegee Airmen in 'Red Tails' movie - USA Today

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Engage: In light of Iowa success, can Santorum connect with Latinos?
January 4th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Engage: In light of Iowa success, can Santorum connect with Latinos?

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Santorum's tough talk on important Latino issues puts support in question - Huffington Post

Robert L. Carter, an architect of school desegregation, dies at 94 - New York Times

Growth in Chinese applicants sidelines Asian American college hopefuls - Bloomberg

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Engage: 'Firsts' show how far African-Americans have come
January 3rd, 2012
11:23 AM ET

Engage: 'Firsts' show how far African-Americans have come

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

The passing of African-American pioneers reflects advancement in American life - NPR

Opinion: The De-Americanization of Asian Americans - Huffington Post

The case for starting to pay college athletes - New York Times

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