Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Did Barack Hurt His Standing in the LGBT Community?

I have to admit, when I read about Pastor McClurkin going on tour with Barack, and the scandal that has followed, I was not very happy. My first instinct was that they're Americans, too. And Bush excludes anyone who doesn't agree with him, so maybe this isn't so bad. It's obvious that McClurkin's views are the polar opposite of Barack's. But, I was not looking forward to being asked about this, because it just wasn't a good thing, no matter how you look at it.

I am very sick, and have been for a couple of days. So, I am not totally up on all the details on this one, but I did run across one thing that really changed how I'm looking at this. Young Montana Voter wrote a diary on Daily Kos entitled "The Obama campaign's response to my nasty email".

To get the full picture, you probably need to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights. This guy (or girl, but I don't know) apparently got pretty pissed about the issue, and sent off a nasty-gram to the Obama campaign about the McClurkin incident. He received a reply that started off this way:
Thank you for sharing your strong objections to past statements of one of the performers on the recent South Carolina gospel tour. I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns directly because I strongly disagree with Pastor McClurkin’s deeply hurtful and offensive statements about sexual orientation.

So far, so good. I like that he says up front that he disagrees with McClurkin. He goes on in the letter to talk about his history of supporting LGBT rights, and then brought up Reverend Andy Sidden's presence.
To honor my commitment to promoting tolerance on the gospel tour, I asked Rev. Andy Sidden, an openly gay South Carolina pastor, to open the tour and offer a prayer. I’m glad he joined us, because we have to speak to people we disagree with in order to confront issues that are important to gay and black communities, like the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I have spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts of the Black community, and I will continue to be outspoken on this issue.

I have to admit, this was the part that totally changed my view of the situation. Here's a bit of my inner dialogue:
Me: Ok, Self, this whole issue is just not good. He's basically endorsing McClurkin's horrible viewpoint.
Self: Well, Me - even if they're wrong, aren't they still part of America?
Me: Well, yes - but Bush is technically part of America, and it doesn't look like he's going to be exiled anytime soon.
Self: Right, but Bush isn't willing to be part of Obama's campaign now, is he?
Me: Well, no...
Self: So, Barack says that we have to talk to the other side to resolve anything. Isn't that why you're supporting him in the first place? Because he doesn't discount those who disagree, and because of his ability to bring everyone to the same table?
Me: Ok, I'm sold.

Then Barack's letter goes on to mention a conversation with Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, and quotes a statement from him:
I did thank [Senator Obama].... 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.

Wow, so Solmonese is essentially endorsing Obama's actions? That's got to mean something. I know that Solmonese said he'd prefer that Obama drop McClurkin, but he's also praising him for engaging other viewpoints on this topic.

Barack also attaches an open letter from LGBT and religious leaders and ends his own letter with this:
I’ve said before that America’s diversity is its greatest strength. In order to confront the challenges of our day, we must be able to get past the divisions which have upheld our progress in the past. I am committed to building those bridges to a better future.

Read this letter, and let every word sink in:
October 24, 2007

To Whom It May Concern:

As representatives of Barack Obama supporters from the African American religious community and the gay community, we are issuing a statement together for the first time. Our letter addresses the recent issue of Pastor Donnie McClurkin singing at Senator Obama’s "Embrace the Change" concert series. In the midst of division, we hope and believe that this is a moment to bring together communities that have been divided for far too long.

A few things are clear.

First, Pastor McClurkin believes and has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful and offensive to many Americans, most especially to gay Americans. This cannot and should not be denied.

At the same time, a great many African Americans share Pastor McClurkin’s beliefs. This also cannot be ignored.

Finally, we believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together.

Not at arms length. Not in a war of words with press and pundits. Only together.

It is clear that Barack Obama is the only candidate who has made bringing these two often disparate groups together a goal. In gatherings of LGBT Americans and African Americans of faith, Obama has stated that all individuals should be afforded full civil rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that homophobia must be eradicated in every corner of our nation. If we are to end homophobia and secure full civil rights for gay Americans, then we need an advocate within the Black community like Barack Obama.

At the same time, while Obama has said that he "strongly disagrees" with Pastor McClurkin's comments, he will not exclude from his campaign the many Americans including many in the African American community who believe the same as Pastor McClurkin.

We believe that Barack Obama is constructing a tent big enough for LGBT Americans who know that their sexual orientation is an innate and treasured part of their being, and for African American ministers and citizens who believe that their religion prevents them from fully embracing their gay brothers and sisters. And if we are to confront our shared challenges we have to join together, build on common ground, and engage in a civil dialogue even when we disagree.

We also ask Senator Obama’s critics to consider the alternatives. Would we prefer a candidate who ignores the realities in the African American community and cuts off millions of Blacks who believe things offensive to many Americans? Or a panderer who tells African Americans what they want to hear, at the expense of our gay brothers and sisters? Or would we rather stand with Barack Obama, who speaks truth in love to both sides, pulling no punches but foreclosing no opportunities to engage?

We stand with Senator Obama. We stand with him because of the solutions he is proposing for our nation. We stand with him because of his character and his judgment. But the most important reason we stand with him is because today, as he has done all along, Barack Obama is causing us to stand together.

That's the kind of President we need, and we are proud to support him.


Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.
Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Chair, Obama National African American Religious Leaders Working Group
Cleveland, Ohio

Stampp Corbin
Chair, Obama National LGBT Leadership Council
Former Member of Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors
Columbus, Ohio

Tobias Barrington Wolff
Chair, Obama LGBT Policy Committee
Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Philadelphia, PA

The Reverend Stephen John Thurston
National Baptist Convention of America
Chicago, IL

The Reverend Alvin Love
Baptist General State Convention of Illinois, Inc.

Bishop E. Earl McCloud, Jr.
Office of Ecumenical & Urban Affairs
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Atlanta, GA

Steven Latasa-Nicks
President, The Phelon Group, Inc.
Former Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors
New York, NY

Maxim Thorne
Former COO, Human Rights Campaign
Paterson, NJ

Phil Burgess
Former Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors
Chicago, IL

Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
Skinner Leadership Institute
Tracy’s Landing, MD

Rev. Michael Pfleger
St. Sabina, Chicago

Rev. Edward Taylor
San Jose, CA

The Reverend Robert H. Thompson
Exeter, NH

Sharon Malheiro
LGBT Activist
Des Moines, IA

Hon. Jon Cooper
Majority Leader, Suffolk County (NY) Legislature

Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler, Sr., Pastor
Mt. Zion Congregational UCC

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