Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Obama asks gay minister to open gospel show. Balancing act with black evangelicals, gays. Obama: "I want to make sure that we are communicating the inclusive nature of this campaign."


DOVER, N.H. -- Hoping to defuse a crisis among gay supporters -- but not alienate black evangelical voters in South Carolina -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told gay activists Wednesday a gay minister will open weekend gospel concerts, while a singer with an anti-gay reputation will remain on the bill.

"I want to make sure that we are communicating the inclusive nature of this campaign, that I am continuing to reach out in the faith community," Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"But I did want to do so in a way that is consistent with my strong belief in equal rights for gays and lesbians. And I don't want there to be any confusion about that."

The balancing act is the result of booking Grammy-winning gospel star Donnie McClurkin as one of the acts on a three-night Obama "Embrace the Change" gospel tour in South Carolina aimed at African Americans.

Criticism over McClurkin -- who performed at the 2004 GOP convention and says he used to be gay -- has been building over the last several days, fueled by Web-based commentators. At the same time, the Obama camp is on the defensive on another front because a Nevada African Americans for Obama event launched Wednesday included boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, who has domestic-violence convictions on his record.

The Obama campaign was not aware of McClurkin's views, and it seems Mayweather's legal problems escaped campaign notice.

On Wednesday, concerns about McClurkin reached a tipping point in the Obama campaign. The solution settled upon was to have a South Carolina gay minister -- identified as the Rev. Arthur Sidden -- deliver an invocation.

At midday, the Obama team held two phone conferences with gay backers -- one hosted by Obama and another with deputy campaign chief Steve Hildebrand and University of Pennsylvania law Professor Tobias Wolff, who chairs the campaign's lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender policy committee.

Later in the afternoon, Obama talked with Joe Solomonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. Solomonese said after the call he was disappointed Obama did not drop McClurkin.

"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," Solomonese said.

During one of the conference calls, according to a participant, the decision to have a gay minister deliver an invocation at the three gospel concerts was explained as Obama "not wanting to choose among elements of his Democratic base. ... So considering Obama is a big-tent guy, the idea was to form a dialogue among contrarian interests."

Gay outreach has been important to Democratic contenders because they are a powerful donor and voting bloc.


Most mornings confirm that I too am a 'big-tent guy'.

Like Obama, maybe I should run FROM office.

Truly bizarre and disappointing behavior from Obama. This shows poor judgment in vetting associates and handling crises. Vote of No-Confidence!

Is Obama weakening his message in headlining each attempt to point out a special interest group's place under his big tent?

Wouldn't a better approach be to include who he will include to do what ever job that person will do without all of the fanfare?

Then if an opposition group or individual raise their voice in protest -based upon the staffer's orientation or what-ever - that individual could be defended on his/her merits - and the umbrage taken at the offending characteristic will be shown to be what it is....salacious, corrosive, running dog, anti-Christian, anti-American, bigotry :-)

I am totally in favor of gay rights, and Barack Obama, and I do not think his choice to have McClurkin perform is wrong or hypocritical. McClurkin is a popular and well recognized musician. Obama hasn't hired him for his opinions on sexual preference. He hired him for a high energy musical performance.

Obama has more than clearly stated his beliefs and policy position when it comes to the GBLT community. If politicians were criticized for every musical performer they hired to play for their events, then . . . there probably wouldn't be many musicians playing for political rallies. Musicians hold controversial opinions.

Forgive the juvenile joke, but is the term "gay backers" the best term to give to equal-rights activists?

underbear1= an EX Obama supporter who is gay, I'm embarrassed by the gay minister who allows himself to being the opening TAP DANCER for this queer bashing tour.

SO OVER obama

This issue IS a big deal for me as a gay person because that individual touts himself a “success” story of what can happen when you let religion dictate every aspect of your life. McClurkin sang at Bush's Convention and for us, he represents the onslaught of Iranian-style hardcore theocracy. Well, other than the fact that he is a self-hating gay person - and i am not sure if i approve of either.

Now lets reconsider everything... yes, the democrats have two fiercely loyal constituents who HATE each other. But African-americans are more homophobic than the average population... except for a few....“mary mary”, the other artist(s) performing with Obama are equally bigoted although umm.. somehow they have a gay following as well (go figure??)

But guess what… tough shit…. politics is a balancing act.. always ...and especially for the democrats and as a LGBT person of color I feel especially offended when he decided to not rescind that invitation. Having an openly gay white pastor sing or tap dance or whatever at his event does not inclusiveness. Maybe he is not to blame but whoever it is on his staff who did not double check this, ought to straighten things up with him and FIX IT.

I dont speak for my people but I hope we can get our point across -- my community does not own the democratic party… we’re not the politburo or some thing like that… but we will NOT BE taken for granted or treated like christian conservatives were in the Bush white house…we have put too much time and effort into voting out that horrible Santorum in PA, in bringing ourselves to chuck liebermann in CT and throw Linc Chafee, a true believer under the bus despite the fact that they were both loyal too us).


I live in Chicago and myself and about 14 or so of my 20-22 year old friends campaigned for Obama night and day to make sure someday, a fellow Illini with candor, genuine inclusiveness less the clintons' triangulation could represent us in the White House, but it all goes to waste in the end doesnt it.

Obama's thinking about the McClurkin uproar is EXACTLY right.

He should respect and engage EVERYONE, and not operate with a 'zero sum' equation -- "I am for this person, therefore I am against this other person".

Bush's "with us or against us" b.s. has got to stop.

He wants and needs the support of BOTH the black evangelical, and the Gay and Lesbian communities. He has made his personal position clear, but isn't going to (nor should he) throw people overboard.

He was the great hope. I really believed. It was as if a new dawn was breaking.

I am so over Obama and so sick of the pandering of all of the candidates.

I believe this is an election about common ground. My friend Phill Wilson wrote that "if McClurkin was unhappy because he was attracted to men, and he prayed about it and now he is no longer attracted to men and he is happy with his life, I can't challenge that. That is his personal experience of his personal journey."

Our journey is to come to terms with the fact that the Black clergy play a really important role in the lives of African Americans across the country. The church is a hub for our religious and for our cultural, social and community life. Our challenge is, at the very least, to persuade folks not to use issues of homosexuality to divide and distract us from the urgent issues that our communities face.

My hope is that all of us can reach common ground, respect each other and work together. I also believe that finding common ground is not embracing bigotry and provides an opportunity to change people's hearts and minds.

As my friend Kenrick Ross wrote "We need to move this debate towards the bigger issue: homophobia in communities of color, especially when its being influenced by anti-gay clergy or music and popular culture. Unfortunately Earl Ofari's need to slander and demonize Barack in the hope of helping Hillary diminished the importance of the point that the Black conservative vote was crucial to Bush's victories in Ohio and Florida in 2004. Whether or not McClurkin performs this weekend, for a long time to come the question will remain: how does the Democratic Party and its hopefuls discuss and deal with homophobia in the Black community. Is it allowed to slide (like trans inclusion in ENDA), for the greater good? And let's not just include the preachers, there are also lots of performers who are homophobic but may play a part in Democratic campaigns. Whoever becomes the nominee faces the likelihood of being endorsed or campaigning with a personal of influence who is not gay-friendly. Do they boot them, as we are asking Barack to do, or do the means justify the ends, as we've been told on the issue of ENDA and full marriage rights? Considering that Barack was the only candidate to utter the word homophobia at the Howard University, I don't think we're going to get the answers we want."

Attack of the Sock Puppets!

One quick check of all the commenter's IP addresses , and the moderators can easily see that someone is sitting up here posting Anti-Obama comments under different names to appear as though they have a following.

I'm not falling for it.

About McClurkin (sp) - I cannot believe that Barak Obama would allow to represent him anyone whatsoever who had any discriminatory positions on anything. There is no acceptable context within which a homophobe who also espouses one can become UN-gay by sheer will and help from God. And I'm not even gay. Zero tolerance of all forms of anti-discrimination was supposed to be one of Obama's trademarks. It isn't good enough to just get another black man on board to balance out McClurkin. If Obama can't resist acquiescing to a minority or special-interest stance about this - he won't be any different as president. If he doesn't unilaterally dump McClurkin 100%, I will not contribute another penny to nor vote for Obama. I had so much hope for him.

For the past twelve months we have been beaten over the head with the name Obama. Here is a guy whose only claim to fame is campaigning for various offices which he doesn't occupy long enough to accomplish anything. Hopefully come February when the rock star's concert is finally over we will not have to face the daily onslaught of his name on a daily basis. He and his legion of groupies can disappear.

Wallace, Obama will be very lucky if he wins a 2nd term as U.S, Senator.

About Obama's balancing act: Somebody needs to remind him of the old saying, "when you try to please everybody, you usually please nobody."

Wow, listen to yourselves. What happened to "personal choice" and "live, & let Live"? Barack Obama is bringing people together and bringing real issues out into the open. He will bring our Country back together - He is our only Hope. Just be brave and vote for change - vote for Barack!!

Some bloggers keep making the statement that Obama is "bringing us all together". The national polls all show him to be hovering around %20 of the Democratic electorate. Other than that small and decreasing group, who is Obama bringing together? You are reading too many of his books!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 25, 2007 7:30 AM.

Sweet's Oct. 25 Obamaville: Back in Chicago was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet blog column: Obama says he would "take up arms" to prevent another 9-11. And no trouble "going down low" to fight rivals. is the next entry in this blog.

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