UPDATE: The National Black Justice Coalition sent a letter to the Obama campaign seeking a face-to-face meeting to discuss the controversy. The letter is at the bottom of this post.
Senator Barack Obama released the following statement in the wake of the firestorm erupting in the gayosphere over his planned campaign tour in South Carolina featuring anti-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin:
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.
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.
McClurkin is one of three gospel acts that will be with Obama on the three stop tour. Obama is in a tough battle with Hillary Clinton for the South Carolina primary in which Black voters make up a strong percentage. The tour was organized with to strengthen Obama's position in South Carolina among Black voters. The story has now jumped from the gayosphere into the traditional media.
About homosexuality, McClurkin has said, "I don't believe that it is the intention of God." and that we can simply pray away the gay.
Other bloggers have pointed out that the other two acts on the tour also have problems with LGBT people:
Erica Campbell of Mary, Mary said this in an interview with Vibe Magazine (via Jasmyne Cannick):
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.
And blogger Rod McCullom wrote this about Hezekial Walker:
Hezekiah Walker is a minister of the Pentecostal faith, traditionally inhospitable to gays, and, heads a Brooklyn mega-church well-known for its anti-gay views. Walker was also the subject of an unfounded gay rumor that has become urban legend.
Taking all of this into context, I tend to agree with Chris Crain that this whole thing smacks of poor advance work by Obama's staff. I mean a quick search on Google and Wikipedia would have alerted the staff to the anti-gay comments made by the singers.
The suggestions that some bloggers have made that Obama is trying to do a George Bush by tapping into homophobic sentiment among some Black voters does not wash with the public statements that Obama has repeatedly made about his support for LGBT civil rights. He is on record as supporting virtually every issue important to LGBT people with the exception of marriage.
Obama now has a chance reaffirm his support for LGBT civil rights.
Read Obama's platform on LGBT issues here.
UPDATE: The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, sent the following letter to the Obama campaign.
October 22, 2007
Senator Barack Obama
United State Senate
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1305
Dear Senator Obama:
On behalf of the National Black Justice Coalition, I am writing to request a face-to-face meeting to discuss
an urgent matter regarding your recent decision to continue to promote the Embrace The Courage Tour
which headlines three of gospel music’s most openly homophobic artists; the most volatile of which is the
Rev. Donnie McClurkin.
While we appreciate your recent statement reassuring the public that “...Gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens,” we must also remind you that actions speak much louder than words.
Your willingness to share a stage with Rev Donnie McClurkin is alarming and frankly deeply disappointing.
Rev McClurkin has consistently disparaged gay men and lesbians, spread half truths and unproven theories about our lives and has shown a willingness to work with those who would use the rights of gay Americans as a wedge issue to divide black families for their own cynical political objectives. The fact that Rev. McClurkin uses his religious beliefs to justify bigotry and discrimination is so damaging that it cannot be addressed with a simple media statement no matter how heartfelt or sincere.
As representatives of thousands of black LGBT families, hundreds of open and affirming congregations and parents, friends and neighbors we feel it is imperative that we meet with you directly as soon as possible to address the way forward to realizing a truly inclusive America.
We look forward to hearing from you.
H. Alexander Robinson
Chief Executive Officer
c: Kylar Broadus, Chairman
NBJC Board of Directors