UPDATE: The Obama campaign issued a the following written statement saying that he "strongly disagree(s)" with McClurkin's views. Still, a spokesman said McClurkin would remain part of the concert line-up.
"I have clearly stated my belief that gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country," Obama said in the written statement.
"I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights. And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin's views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division," the statement added.
I will add though that it's interesting that this statement as of now is only posted under the LGBT section of Obama's site and not under his general newsroom where all of his statements and press releases are. What's up with that?
Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama recently announced his plans to go on an "Embrace the Change! Gospel Concert Series" tour through South Carolina this week with gospel singers Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary in order to drum up support for his campaign.
I am not surprised by his campaign’s decision to pair up with McClurkin and Mary Mary. Let’s face it, whether you like them or not, they are two of America’s most popular gospel singers.
However, I am surprised that given the number of high profile openly gay men and women working on Obama’s campaign, that neither one of those choices set off a red flag for any of them. Perhaps that’s because most, if not all of the gays working on the Obama campaign are predominantly white, followed by Asians and Latinos. Pair that up with a set of campaign advisors that probably never heard of Donnie McClurkin or Mary Mary until recently, and you can easily see how the stage could be set for something like this.
So what’s the deal with Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary?
Well, it’s no secret among Black same-gender loving people that Donnie McClurkin went from being a gay man, to being a heterosexual gay bashing gospel singer and preacher. And sister’s Mary Mary made it crystal clear earlier this yeat in an interview with Vibe Magazine how they felt about gays. When asked how they felt about homosexuality and having a gay following they likened gays to prostitutes and murderers.
“I feel how God feels about it, um… but I still love them. You know what I mean? I don't agree with the lifestyle, but I love them. They can come to the concert; I'm going to hug them just like I hug everybody else. They have issues and need somebody to encourage them like everybody else - just like the murderer, just like the one full of pride, just like the prostitute, everybody needs God. What your struggle is may not be what my struggle is, but we all need Him. So, that's what our music is about: giving and God. Not to condone the lifestyle or to say, Oh it's okay, but not to bash - but just to give them God. I mean, I'm appreciative of all of our supporters and fans. Hopefully what their hearing and saying in our music is my love for God.”---Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell, VIBE Magazine, March 2007.
So now there’s an uproar, mostly within the Black LGBT community over Obama’s willingness to campaign with gospel singers that are homophobic through the South. And because Obama has continuously dodged the issue of gay marriage and hasn’t sought the gay vote in the manner that his competition has, it’s leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of some.
But before I use this incident to bash on Obama and further help his opposition, I would ask that he take the time to meet with African-American gays and lesbians to hear our concerns about why although we may want to support him, staging events with Black homophobic gospel singers is a definite put off. Let’s call this a teachable moment.
It’s no secret that his competition Sen. Clinton has been successfully courting and wooing gays from day one. She can do that. She’s a white female with a lot less to lose. Obama on the other hand has probably been advised that he must tread lightly to avoid angering African-Americans, especially those religious ones that are evenly split between their affinity for him and Clinton. An issue such as gay marriage might send them packing right over Clinton’s camp.
But I say that Obama’s got to get with it and he better get with it fast. He watches the news just like I do, and I know he’s seen the polls and reports of him trailing far behind Clinton.
The bottom line is that Obama can’t afford to alienate the gay community, but can even lesser afford to alienate the Black gay community.
For many Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans race trumps sexual orientation everyday of the week. However, when it comes to homophobia, especially within our own communities, our sexual orientation wins out over any race related alliances we may have. The reason for that is that many Black gays have experienced racism from whites, similar to that of heterosexual Blacks, but when it comes to homophobia, well that is often a Black on Black crime if you know what I mean.
What Obama doesn’t need is for those same Black gays who want to support him because he’s a brother and believes he can do the job, to turn to one of one of his competitors because he’s perceived to be supporting and campaigning with homophobic people.
Obama has an ace in his had and he doesn’t even know it. Unlike Sen. Clinton and the other presidential candidates, Obama is in the unique position to use his race to speak directly to African-American gays and lesbians in a way that none of the other candidate’s can or will. When Hillary markets to gays, 9 times out of 10, it’s to predominantly white gay and lesbians. Obama has made it a point at times to reach out directly to African-Americans for support and should take an extra step to reach out to Black gays in particular. Now that would be an example embracing the change and showing audacity!
Obama and his camp might be surprised to find that the issues most relevant to Black gays aren’t marriage, but access to jobs with living wages and affordable healthcare. For those more affluent gays, which more often tend to be white, marriage might be the number one issue because many of them already enjoy large salaries that provide health benefits, live in safe clean neighborhoods, and have access to resources to provide for a comfortable life. But for many Black gays who live in traditional Black communities around the country and whose struggles more closely mirror the common issues facing African-Americans, marriage is often second to myriad of more basic needs like being able to keep food on the table, a roof over their family’s heads, and access to affordable healthcare. Which is not to say that Black lesbian and gay couples don’t benefit from marriage, but if you weigh marriage verses having food to eat and a roof over your head, what do you think is going win? Bottom line, the gay community is not monolithic.
At the end of the day, a vote is a vote, and Obama can’t afford to lose a single one nor can he afford to be labeled as homophobic at this stage of the game.
Besides if gays can forgive Patti LaBelle for participating in homophobic Black mega church pastor Bishop Eddie Long's Easter Service, we should be able to work through this issue together with Obama.
Obama, have your people call my people, and let’s make this happen.