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Obama’s Ex-Gay Gospel Act Draws Ire

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Oct 24, 2007
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Donnie McClurkin, the Grammy-winning ex-gay preacher and gospel singer who is scheduled to appear at Barack Obama’s three-date music event around South Carolina, says he’s been misrepresented in the media.

GLBT equality organizations say that McClurkin promotes the idea that homosexuality can be "cured," a notion that even prominent ex-gay leaders have come to question.

Bloggers have seized on Obama’s inclusion of McClurkin in the gospel concert series as inconsistent with the theme of Obama’s campaign, which is built on the idea that Obama, unlike his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, signifies change.

The South Carolina concerts are reportedly an effort by Obama to win votes from Clinton supporters in that state.

But bloggers have largely avoided mention of the fact that other Democratic hopefuls, including Senator Clinton, also have ties to anti-gay preachers.

The exception is Paul Jenkins, who wrote today in the Huffington Post that, "Hillary Clinton recently trumpeted her friendship with Harold Mayberry, of the First African Methodist Church in Oakland; her press release on the meeting/endorsement left out the fact that Mayberry believes homosexuality to be comparable to thievery."

GLBT equality organizations have been swift to urge Obama to dump McClurkin. Said Wayne Besen, head of the ex-ex-gay organization Trust Wins Out, "We strongly urge Obama to part ways with this divisive preacher who is clearly singing a different tune than the stated message of the campaign."

Continued Besen, "We can only hope that Obama is unaware of McClurkin’s anti-gay history and will swiftly condemn such intolerance. Real leadership includes standing up to those who drive wedges between the American people."

Besen added, "McClurkin’s explanations for homosexuality are patently absurd, unscientific and have no basis in fact."

Besen went on to say of McClurkin, "He is a sad figure who is using his celebrity to demean and diminish the lives of healthy gay people who have chosen to live openly and honestly."

Said Besen, "I can’t imagine why the Obama campaign would choose to associate with a man who is so closely identified with hatred and discrimination."

McClurkin himself reportedly told the Associated Press that, "sexuality, everything is a matter of choice" this past Monday, Oct. 22, though the following day, in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Tribune, McClurkin revised clarifies that stance somewhat.

McClurkin told the Tribune, "I don’t believe that even from a religious point of view that Jesus ever discriminated toward anyone, nor do I."

The 47-year-old Grammy winner went on to say, "Most of the things that were said were totally out of context, and then other things weren’t true."

Added McClurkin, "My only concern is to be in place with Sen. Obama in unity and bring all the factors together for the sake of change."

Said the ex-gay preacher of his planned appearance with the Illinois Senator and Democratic hopeful for next year’s presidential race, "Of course, some agents have twisted it as though he were embracing a racist or a Nazi, and that is anything but true."

McClurkin added, "I believe in [Obama’s] stance. I believe in his platform and his agenda. So when they asked me if I would be a part of [the gospel music concerts], there was no problem."

McClurkin says that he is s Democrat, though he has played at conventions for both Democrats and Republicans. He met Obama at fund raising event for the Senator organized by Oprah Winfrey.

Said McClurkin of Obama, "We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do have to agree on the main thing: that there needs to be change and I believe he is the candidate to bring it."

McClurkin’s ministry has long included personal testimony that an episode of sexual abuse committed against him when he was eight years old accounted for his having identified as a gay man. But now that sexual identification has changed; McClurkin says he is straight, and he says that God can help others wishing to become heterosexual to make that transition.

However, says McClurkin, he has never made claims about "curing" gays.

"There’s never been a statement made by me about curing homosexuality," said the preacher.

Continued McClurkin, "People are using that in order to incite anger and to twist my whole platform on it."

Added the gospel singer, "There’s no crusade for curing it or to convert everyone. This is just for those who come to me and ask for change."

Obama himself spoke out on the issue yesterday, saying, "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."

Added the Illinois Senator, "I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts of our community so that we can confront issues like HIV/AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country."

Obama went on to say, "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 to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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