There are new and not-very-surprising developments after the Barack Obama campaign announced a three-day "gospel tour" in South Carolina drum up much-needed support among black voters. The headliners are three popular acts well known for their anti-gay messages—Mary Mary, Rev. Hezekiah Walker, and, at the center of the controversy, the "ex-gay" (or is it merely "re-closeted"?) Donnie McClurkin, who believes you can "pray the gay away."
“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," Obama said in the written statement.
"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."
Jasmyne Cannick keenly observes the virtual push back is buried on the campaign's LGBT micro-site "and not under his general newsroom where all of his statements and press releases are" placed. It's not surprising the Obama Camp is downplaying the drama. The gospel tour is the campaign's primary vehicle to attract voters in the Palmetto State and is prominently advertised on the Barack Obama home page and the South Carolina micro-site. Screen capture HERE.
It should also be no surprise to discover a news blackout (pun intended) across major black news media and strong Obama supporters such as the Chicago Defender, WVON and EUR. Leading black gospel and Christian sites also ignore the story. EURweb's gospel site reported and promoted the concert series but reports nothing on the current controversy. Gospel City, one of the most popular black gospel music portals, reported the concert series and also advertises upcoming concerts by McClurkin and Walker, but, is silent on the current controversy.
The black non-response is to be expected, given the historic black church's uneasy relationship with the many black gays who pack the church choirs on Sunday mornings. "I long for the day when blacks gays and lesbians stop supporting their music," Darian Aaron writes in his post on the McClurkin backlash. Aaron is a young black gay activist, blogger, and contributor to Clik, and also grew up in the Pentecosal Church. "And find the courage to walk out of the churches that turn a house of prayer into a house of pain." Thankfully, chuches such as Kendal Brown's City of Refuge: DC and Kevin E. Taylor's Unity Fellowship Church welcome black gays and lesbians.
None of this should be a deal-killer for Barack Obama supporters because the senator from Illinois is very strong on our issues. If anything, the inclusion of Hezekiah Walker, Mary Mary, and, above all, Donnie McClurkin demonstrates poor planning on behalf on the presidential candidate's staffers. The blunder also demonstrates a fundamental flaw in Obama's meta-messaging previously discussed on these pages and in our Obama cover story (PDF) for The Advocate: There are no prominent nationally, recognized black gay men or lesbians advising the Obama campaign. If there were, this never would have happened. Everyone in our community is well aware of Walker's gay-bashing and McClurkin's dubious claims of a faith-based sexual conversion. Really. This should have been a no-brainer.
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