Much of the interview focuses on the campaign's controversial decision to book a gospel revival tour in South Carolina and failing to background the performers, especially "ex-gay" (or is it "re-closeted"?) gospel singer and pastor Donnie McClurkin. The often-ignored black gay community is addressed in an excellent set-up on McClurkin, and, in the interview: "McClurkin, an award-winning gospel singer who has also struggled with his sexuality for years, is a one-man personification of the craggy crossroads between black gays and Christians. The fact that he has called homosexuality a “curse” that runs against 'the intention of God' rips open the wounds of so many gay African-Americans who have been 'prayed over' for years by family and friends who endeavor to save them from their 'shameful' fate."
The Advocate: How did this happen? Was Mr. McClurkin vetted?
Senator Obama: Obviously, not vetted to the extent that people were aware of his attitudes with respect to gay and lesbians, LGBT issues -- at least not vetted as well as I would have liked to see.
Having said that, we viewed this simply as an opportunity to have a gospel concert as part of our overall outreach, and since he was singing at a concert along with a number of other artists, as opposed to being a spokesperson for us, probably it didn’t undergo the same kind of vet that someone who was serving as a surrogate for me might have.
Some black gay activists I’ve spoken to say this doesn’t make them question Obama the senator, but it does make them question the campaign -- do they really understand the nuances of these issues, are they really sitting down and talking with gay folks, because it seems like this decision came purely through the lens of faith?
Look, these kinds of issues are going to crop up inevitably through the course of campaigns. It’s important to recognize that these are issues that every Democratic candidate who has African-American ministers as supporters may have to confront. It just so happened that it popped up on the screen in this particular instance. But I assure you, I am not the only candidate who’s got a black minister or a white minister who’s supporting them prominently who subscribes to similar views.
Part of the reason that we have had a faith outreach in our campaigns is precisely because I don’t think the LGBT community or the Democratic Party is served by being hermetically sealed from the faith community and not in dialogue with a substantial portion of the electorate, even though we may disagree with them.
Part of what I have done in my campaign and in my career is be willing to go to churches and talk to ministers and tell them exactly what I think. And go straight at some of these issues of homophobia that exist in the church in a way that no other candidate has done. I believe that’s important. We can try to pretend these issues don’t exist and then be surprised when a gay marriage amendment pops up and is surprisingly successful in a state. I think the better strategy is to take it head on and we’ve got to show up. These people of faith may be operating in part out of unfamiliarity, or they may be insular in terms of how they’re viewing LGBT issues, they may not understand how what they say may be hurtful, and the only way for us to be able to communicate that is to show up.
Obama's position is nuanced, but, that is essentially the nature of coalition politics. The bottom line: Obama is still a viable, albeit slightly wounded, candidate. Obama's advisors did not serve him well—Chris Crain makes a strong argument for this case—and hopefully some staffing changes will be made. The Illinois senator also reaffirms his commitment to LGBT issues and reminds gay voters of the opposition he faced—from the left and the right—when he spoke at the mega-church of conservative pastor Rick Warren.
Pam Spaulding has done a yeoman's job sitting in for Glenn Greenwald at Salon and agrees this is not a deal-killer, but, the inevitable result of courting the evangelical vote: "Once he opened the Pandora's box of personal religious convictions, Obama—or any candidate—cannot then step back and pretend he holds no responsibility for crossing that line when the going gets tough."
More BARACK OBAMA.
More DONNIE MCCLURKIN.
You May Have Missed ...
Report: Barack Obama Campaign REJECTS Michael Eric Dyson and TWO Black Gay Pastor [R20]
Obama Tries Distance from "Ex-Gay" McClurkin [R20]
Obama Campaigns with Ex-Gay Donnie McClurkin [R20]
Bishop: "No Faggots or Sissies" [R20]
Behind the Gay-Friendly Faces [Advocate]
Obama Warns of Black "Quiet Riot" [R20]
MSNBC's Tucker: "Is Obama Black Enough?" [R20]
Hillary Clinton Attracts More Black Voters [R20]
HRC/Logo Forum: Obama Conference Call [R20]
HRC/Logo Forum: Morning After [R20]
"Would You Let a White Supremacist..." [R20]
Obama Campaign Names Gay Supporters [R20]
Democratic Debate Addresses Homopohobia, Race [R20]
Obama Campaign Names Gay Supporters [R20]
Obama and Edwards on DOMA [R20]
Hillary vs Obama [R20]
Christians" Opposed to Obama [R20]