Obama Spurns Black LGBT Community for an "Ex-Gay" Musician

Human Rights

Sad, disappointed and more than a little hurt.

That's how many Americans who are both black and gay sound these days when they talk about Barack Obama.

What's upsetting them is that the Democrat, 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."

When announcement of McClurkin's inclusion sparked an understandable uproar in the gay and progressive faith communities, Obama issued a big-tent statement that condemned "homophobia" and stressed he "strongly" disagrees with McClurkin's views.

But sadly, Obama stood by the choice.

Making matters worse, the Obama campaign then tossed in a white gay minister at the opening of the event rather than add one of the black gay or gay-friendly pastors who offered their voices.

Not surprisingly, at the Oct. 28 gospel show, a fired-up McClurkin told a cheering audience: "I don't speak against the homosexual. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality."

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?"

The "Rod 2.0" blogger laments that Obama could have used the controversy as a "teaching moment" to encourage acceptance of black gays in the black community.

Such a teaching moment could have especially helped the many black gays who share their musical gifts in conservative black churches while staying closeted for fear of being rejected.

"Mostly what I have heard from black gays and lesbians is disappointment. We had high hopes. White gays and lesbians on the Obama bandwagon jumped off. This was a deal-killer," McCullom said.

Black lesbian Pam Spaulding reports that the controversy generated lots of chat at her popular "Pam's House Blend" blog.

Spaulding thinks the Obama camp simply did the math and went for socially conservative black voters in South Carolina, where half of the Democratic voters are black.

The Obama team felt "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."

Alexander Robinson, the head of the gay National Black Justice Coalition, expresses "continued frustration that there is this double standard to individuals wrapping their bigotry against gay people in religiosity."

Politics is full of second chances. Many black gays express hope that Obama wants another chance and will make a bold move to help heal the divide between black gays and the conservative black church community.

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