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HRC to Obama: no place for a homophobe on the stage in SC

[UPDATE: Obama’s team has released the name of the gay pastor who will speak at the concerts. It’s after the jump, with a bio.]

Talk about an understatement and laugh of the day, via The Politico:

Obama aide Steve Hildebrand, and a prominent gay adviser, Tobias Wolff, conceded that the campaign had failed to “vet” gospel singer Donnie McClurkin for his view that homosexuality is a “curse”, one person on the call said. [Hmmm…no one on staff knows how to Google “Donnie McClurkin”?] But they said he would still perform at Obama's concerts, which are aimed at tightening his bond to that state's African-American community.

They recognized that there was a mistake here,” the source said.

The Obama camp had offered up the salve of adding an openly gay minister to be part of the concert series opening, but after presenting that to HRC's Joe Solmonese on a phone call, the Illinois senator came up short — the press release went out.

“I spoke with Sen. Barack Obama today and expressed to him our community’s disappointment for his decision to continue to remain associated with Rev. McClurkin, an anti-gay preacher who states the need to ‘break the curse of homosexuality.’ There is no gospel in Donnie McClurkin’s message for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.  That’s a message that certainly doesn’t belong on any Presidential candidate’s stage.”

“I did thank him for announcing he would be adding an openly gay minister as part of the tour and for his willingness to call on religious leaders to open a dialogue about homophobia. We hope that Sen. Obama will move forward and facilitate face to face meetings with religious leaders, like Rev. McClurkin, and the GLBT community to confront the issue of homophobia.”

“We also call on all of the Presidential campaigns to look within their ranks of supporters and make the same commitment to engage in a dialogue among differing views around issues of equality and fairness for our community.”

Rev. McClurkin, an “ex-gay” gospel singer and minister who has called homosexuality a “curse”, has repeatedly stated his opposition to homosexuality as being against “the intention of God.”

On August 9, Sen. Obama joined the leading Democratic presidential candidates in addressing issues important to the GLBT community at the Logo/HRC Foundation presidential forum in Los Angeles.  During his interview with panelists Joe Solmonese, singer/activist Melissa Etheridge, and journalists Margaret Carlson and Jonathan Capehart, Sen. Obama addressed and the issue of homophobia in the black church.

I'd love to know what out black gay pastors they've approached to go in front of the folks attending the “Embrace the Change” concerts this weekend. The Obama camp has not provided any information on that little bit of info.

I have a suggestion after the flip… 🙂

Might I suggest Rev Dr. Michael Eric Dyson? This should make folks in the crowd uncomfortable. Rev. Dyson talks about the symbolic queerness of being black and marginalized in society, and the homoeroticism in the church and in the hip hop culture — and how it translates into homophobia. [From the National Black Justice Coalition‘s Second Annual Black Church Summit]

Seriously, though, as I said earlier, there's no good way out of this mess, and trying to solve the problem by having someone onstage to “cancel out” McClurkin's message is a pretty boneheaded idea.

Quite frankly, only Obama can extract himself from the mess at this point, IMHO. He's the candidate, and the audiences there need to hear from him at the venue before McClurkin takes the stage. It looks weak to try and pawn off the responsibility of delivering a message  denouncing religion-based bigotry — something he surely believes in — on someone else in the faith community. He's sold himself as a bridge builder — now it's time to show that he can do it.

I will close by saying that it's up to more than Barack Obama to address this issue. All of the Democratic candidates seek the religious black vote and the LGBT vote — it's time to be frank about the divide rather than pander to bigotry. This situation could have happened to any of the candidates if they had as incompetent an advance staff on gay issues as Obama's (sorry, there's no other way to put it). However, because Obama is black — and has spoken out against black homophobia in the past — he's placed himself, fairly or unfairly, depending on your POV, in a position where a “mistake” like this is a not-ready-for-prime-time moment.

For those of us who are black and gay, we're watching to see who has our back. Too often, it's no one.

UPDATE: Obama’s team has selected Rev. Andy Sidden of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, SC., who is openly gay, to open the concerts. I don’t know anything about him. Here’s his church page bio:

A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., the Rev. Andy Sidden was called in March 2003 to serve as pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ (formerly MCC Columbia). Ironically, his pastorate in South Carolina’s Midlands began on his birthday!

Pastor Andy worked as a reporter and copy editor for newspapers in the Carolinas and Florida before entering the professional ministry. He worked more than eight years in Rock Hill, SC, where his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren live.

As a child, he joined Mock’s United Methodist Church in Advance, NC. He attended Methodist Churches in the Carolinas and, shortly before returning to South Carolina, he served as an administrative assistant at Harvester United Methodist Church in Land O’ Lakes, FL.

Pastor Andy entered the professional ministry in 1991 after serving in lay ministries at Metropolitan Community Churches in Charlotte and Raleigh, NC, and in Tampa, FL. He served as assistant to the pastor and later as associate pastor of MCC Tampa.

From 1994 to 2002, he served as pastor of Spirit of Life MCC in New Port Richey, FL, which grew during his leadership by more than 500 percent to become the 25th largest MCC in the world. During his pastorate, Spirit of Life completed a $350,000 building program and started a satellite mission in Spring Hill, FL. In 2002, he was MCC’s first-ever nominee for regional elder.

He and his life partner of more than 20 years, Dr. Kevin Dove, share their home with three cats, a beagle, tropical fish, and a greenhouse filled with plants. Avid gardeners, they love to watch living things grow!

Under his leadership, Garden of Grace has nearly tripled in size and has build a $500,000 worship center.

* Black media ignores the Obama / anti-gay recloseted McClurkin controversy
* McClurkin bobs and weaves, Team Obama scrambles as HRC lowers the boom
* Why is Obama touring with 'ex-gay' homophobe Donnie McClurkin?
* Obama won't back down from SC concert with homobigot ex-gay Donnie McClurkin
* Donnie McClurkin isn't the only homophobe on the bill with Obama

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding