Senator Barack Obama isn't backing down from his decision to include ex-gay minister Donnie McClurkin as part of a campaign swing through the south. Obama's campaign has now said that the Illinois Democrat "strongly disagree(s)" with McClurkin's views on sexual orientation . . . but not enough to remove him from the line-up of his "Embrace the Change" tour.
Obama's decision to have McClurkin as part of a group of gospel singers campaigning for his presidential candidacy has received widespread coverage, and prompted one gay activist involved with the campaign to acknowledge that the situation has become difficult. "This story is quickly turning into a disaster for Barack," said the supporter who is active on gay and lesbian issues. "He's screwed if he goes through with the trip with Donnie McClurkin….But he's also screwed in South Carolina if he dumps McClurkin. I hope that the staffer who set this up has already been fired."
Punting the blame to the staffer, though, only gives the impression that Senator Obama himself hasn't been as involved in the process as he should have been. And while it is a step in the right direction to state that the Senator disagrees with McClurkin, it doesn't mean that the minister who "counsels" young people about coming out of homosexuality won't be put up on stage and presented as a credible voice. He will be, and that will only reinforce the serious concerns many people have had about the concert and the campaign.
McClurkin, who has performed for President Bush in the past, has given sermons about "overcoming" his sexuality and has been a friend of the GOP. That a Democratic candidate who is aggressively courting the LGBT vote would so visibly add McClurkin to his campaign trail stage is troubling, to say the least.
"Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't," Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote today on HuffingtonPost. "He can [prove] it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can cancel and repudiate the South Carolina 'gospel' tour, and do it now. "
"[H]ealing and consensus building," Hutchinson correctly points out, "does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in a 'war' against gays, and that the aim of his war is to 'cure' them."
And while I don't necessarily agree that the entire tour should be cancelled, I do believe Obama should distance himself from McClurkin by telling him 'thanks, but no thanks' on the public appearance bit.
Instead, Senator Obama has issued a two-paragraph statement touting his work on gay and HIV/AIDS issues. It reads:
"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 of 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."
Those are all good things, but McClurkin hasn't given any indication that he's going to "stand together" with Obama "in the fight for equal rights."
The statement, as my friend Pam Spaulding succintly put it, "is a sorry response, a feeble attempt to have it both ways."
And while I admire the Senator for his passion and past work on issues important to our community, this statement just doesn't seem like the change LGBT Americans should embrace.
Why won't Senator Obama just put the disinvitation in the mail?