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Deb Price on the Obama/McClurkin debacle

Deb Price, columnist for The Detroit News, has a piece up today, Obama's mistake raises questions on gay commitment, that does a post-mortem of the unsettling events from the perspective of openly LGBT blacks who watched the mess unfold.

Sad, disappointed and more than a little hurt. That's how many Americans who are both black and gay sound when they talk about Barack Obama.

What's upsetting them is that the Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois, despite stellar gay-rights positions, sat back and allowed a gospel concert for his presidential campaign to essentially spiral into an anti-gay revival.

How? As part of wooing black evangelicals in high-stakes South Carolina, his campaign gave star-billing at an event to Grammy-winning gospel singer and preacher Donnie McClurkin, a self-identified “ex-gay” claiming to have been saved from “perversion.”

Afterward, Obama continued trying to distance himself from McClurkin's views. But the reality is that he gave McClurkin a stage, a microphone, an audience and national media attention. And Obama inadvertently ended up reinforcing two myths unfortunately believed by many religious African-Americans — that gays are white and being gay is sinful.

Rod McCullom, a popular black gay writer and longtime Obama fan, said the fiasco makes him wonder how hard Obama would push for gay equality as president. “He folded like a deck of cards. If he is going to fold on the campaign trail, why would we not think he'd fold in the Oval Office?”

What I told Deb when she interviewed me for this piece is that the events highlighted the schism between the socially conservative religious black community and black LGBTs. It was a raw, craven political choice for Obama, who is otherwise good LGBT issues generally. It's all about the numbers game.

The Obama team feels “it's no biggie for them to toss us under the bus,” Spaulding says. “That is what is painful,” she adds, noting the incident will drive black gays “deeper into the closet.”

And, as a result, allow the spread of HIV in the black community to continue unabated as denial is affirmed. Read the rest.


See video of Obama at the MTV forum, which held just a couple of days  after the concert, after the jump.

This was what he felt was an adequate answer on the recloseted/now-decloseted gospel singer's appearance at that concert in South Carolina. Obama does reiterate his position that gays and lesbians should have all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in the form of civil unions, but it falls flat given the events of that weekend.

“We have to reach out to those who have a different attitude on these issues to try to teach…One of the things we've been doing is trying to reach out into the African American church community and I've spoken out forcefully and clearly to African American ministers and African American denominations saying we've got to get beyond some of the homophobia that still exists in some of these communities. That's part of the job of president is not to tell people want they want to hear, but also telling them what they need to hear.”

What teaching might that be? It certainly didn't happen at an event where it would have done a lot of good — last Sunday's concert.

Hat tip to Andy Towle, who felt the same way:

My problem with Obama's position on McClurkin is that though he says he wants to “teach” people about homophobia, there was clearly no “teaching” that went on at the “Embrace the Change” tour. An “ex-gay” who was allowed to emcee the entire event publicly celebrated his “deliverance from homosexuality” during the event's final hour. Did gays have any chance to rebut McClurkin's remarks to those at the event so they could “learn” about tolerance? To me, “reaching out” to people would be exposing them to an alternative perspective. Is having white gay Reverend Andy Sidden read a prayer at the beginning of the concert a real effort to do that? I don't think so.

NOTE: Diarist Stuffed Animal has an excellent diary with background up now, The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin.

* How to blow your campaign, Obama-style
* McClurkin hangs tough at Obama concert
* The Advocate's exclusive interview with Barack Obama
* Mike Signorile interview with Rev. Andy Sidden; Team Obama rejected two gay black pastors
* Team Obama: recruiting a white pastor=bad idea
* 'Ex-gay' McClurkin's alleged lover: I was with him after he prayed away the gay
* HRC to Obama: no place for a homophobe on the stage in SC
* 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
* Audio from my appearance on the Michelangelo Signorile show on Sirius Out Q discussing the dustup.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding