[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This guest post comes to us from Terje Anderson, former Executive Director of the National Association of People with AIDS, and a long time activist on queer and HIV/AIDS issues at the local, state, national, and international level.
As a proud out gay man and a long time activist, I find myself unable to become as worked up around the issue of gospel singer Donnie McClurkin's inclusion in an Obama concert as many of my colleagues have. McClurkin's bizarre views on the subject are anathema to anyone who cares about equality. Clearly he is a troubled man whose personal struggles with sexuality have caused him to adopt a hateful message. How sad for him, and how unfortunate for all of us that he chooses to spout his hateful speech in public. If McClurkin were running for President (or any other office), I would be working hard to defeat him.
If the Obama campaign had invited him to speak about human sexuality, appointed him to an advisory committee on human rights, or otherwise given him a platform for his views, I would be as angry as so many others seem to be.
But McClurkin isn't supporting the campaign as a spokesperson on these issues. He's singing gospel songs. As it happens, Donnie McClurkin is a talented gospel singer with a huge following, especially among a subset of religious African-Americans. His participation will attract a large number of Democratic voters who are attracted to his voice, not necessarily his viewpoints (which presumably he won't be given the opportunity to voice at the concert). I'm pleased that those attending the concert will also hear an openly gay minister speak not something that usually happens at a gospel concert. Talk about a teachable moment.
Like it or not, any candidate for President needs the support of millions of people who have dramatically different viewpoints on a large number of issues. Rejecting support from all who disagree (even on a fundamental issue) makes it impossible for any candidate to effectively reach the broad spectrum of the American voting public.
Is every candidate for President suddenly going to be held accountable for the views of all their supporters? Will entertainers, politicians, community leaders, bloggers, activists and others who are asked to lend support to a campaign be excluded for holding viewpoints that will be offensive to some voters?
If that is the test, I'm sure we can find plenty of other outrageous examples of homophobic, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, classist, ageist, xenophobic or similarly offensive statements by supporters of other candidates as well. Do we really think Hillary Clinton has never invited an outspokenly homophobic minister to share the stage, or that they weren't invited to the Clinton White House? Are we sure that none of John Edwards southern supporters haven't uttered homophobic statements before (or voted for hate inspired legislation)? For that matter, what are we too make of the fact that Hillary's number one supporter gave us DOMA, DADT, and cost lives by refusing to lift the ban on needle exchange? Should I refuse to vote for her because of the hateful things Bill did for political expediency?
For me, the issue isn't the viewpoints of those who sing at candidate events, but the positions and record of the candidate themselves. Barack Obama¹s record on gay and lesbian issues is clear and consistent. He speaks out loudly and unequivocally on these issues, and his legislative record is clear and without flaws. (And for those white liberals who are somehow convinced that all religious African-Americans are fundamentalist bible-thumpers, it is worth pointing out that Obama belongs to the United Church of Christ, an emphatically progressive church that fully supports gay rights - including marriage.)
With the sad exception of the marriage issue, we are fortunate that all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination are taking clear positions in support of LGBT Americans. Barack Obama¹s policy positions and record in this regard are second to none of the major candidates.
I continue to support Barack Obama because I believe that he is the best candidate for the office. He is uniquely suited to restore America's place in the world, and to change the political dialogue at home. In the end, I believe Barack Obama will be the best President not just for GLBT equality, but for all Americans and the world.
I realize that this may put me in a distinct minority among many who are blogging on this subject. I respect the viewpoints of those who have a different opinion than I do, but I wanted to share my perspectives on the topic.