Barack Obama | Donnie McClurkin | Election 2008 | Gay Marriage | Iowa | News | South Carolina

Obama Talks Gay Marriage, Rights, McClurkin to MTV and Iowa

On Monday, Barack Obama appeared at an MTV event in Cedar Rapids Iowa, at which he was asked about his position on same-sex marriage, and also about Donnie McClurkin's recent appearance at the South Carolina "Embrace the Change" gospel tour. Watch the video above for his answers.

My problem with Obama's position on McClurkin is that though he says he wants to "teach" people about homophobia, there was clearly no "teaching" that went on at the "Embrace the Change" tour. An "ex-gay" who was allowed to emcee the entire event publicly celebrated his "deliverance from homosexuality" during the event's final hour. Did gays have any chance to rebut McClurkin's remarks to those at the event so they could "learn" about tolerance? To me, "reaching out" to people would be exposing them to an alternative perspective. Is having white gay Reverend Andy Sidden read a prayer at the beginning of the concert a real effort to do that? I don't think so.

I think it's interesting that Obama claims the gospel tour was "a while back" when it was Sunday. He's clearly anxious to put this episode behind him.

Obama was also asked about same-sex marriage at an event the same day at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

Said Obama: "You want the word marriage and I believe that the issue of marriage has become so entangled - the word marriage has become so entangled with religion - that it makes more sense for me as president, with that authority, to talk about the civil rights that are conferred [with civil unions]."

Iowans grill Obama over his position on gay marriage [des moines register]

Also, after the jump, a letter that the Obama campaign is sending out in response to letters of complaint about McClurkin and the gospel tour.

***Letter from Obama campaign regarding Donnie McClurkin***

Dear Friend,

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.

I have always clearly stated my belief that members of the LGBT community are our brothers and sisters and should be provided the respect, dignity, and rights of all other citizens. I have consistently supported gay rights throughout my career, and I will continue to work for an open, tolerant society where people of all sexual orientations are protected and their contributions are valued.

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.

More broadly, we need to create a productive dialogue between people of opposing views, and I had a good conversation about this with Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. After our conversation, Mr. Solmonese issued a statement that said, in part:

“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.”

A group of LGBT and religious leaders have also embraced this opportunity to open a dialogue, and you can find an open letter from them below. 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.

Thank you again for contacting me and sharing your concerns.


Barack Obama

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  1. Does anyone know who's leading LGBT outreach for the Obama campaign? I'd like to hear from him or her about this whole episode.

    Posted by: adam | Oct 30, 2007 12:33:12 PM

  2. I agree with Barack on this. He should benefit from his position on marriage vs same sex union.

    Posted by: Cramps | Oct 30, 2007 12:40:18 PM

  3. The candidate has no clothes, and rather than admit to a mistake or miscalculation, we get a "leader" who continues to speak out of both sides of his mouth at once. This is not the kind of leadership that brings people together. He's a sham.

    Posted by: busytimmy | Oct 30, 2007 12:40:37 PM

  4. When I see what the GLBT community has a choice for candidates , as a gay man, I truly have a sinking feeling about the 2008 election in my stomach that grows stronger every day. Maybe I'm just being overly negative and paranoid. After all, it still is quite a ways away.

    Posted by: matthew | Oct 30, 2007 12:42:28 PM

  5. I really wish I could support Obama, but his actions last week in South Carolina, and his "head-in'the-sand" explnations since then, make him an unacceptable choice for president. He's got a lot going for him, though, and I think that he will be a positive presence in government for a long time.
    In the meantime, I'm leaning toward Elizabeth Edward's husband.

    Posted by: kimmer | Oct 30, 2007 12:43:00 PM

  6. He was on "Ellen" yesterday making much the same statement on same-sex marriage. McClurkin was not mentioned at all.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 30, 2007 12:48:11 PM

  7. I'm surprised that people are surprised at all of this. For me my distrust goes deeper than just this one incident. I have just never felt that Obama had much sensitivity to our issues at all. He may even be right to make distinctions between marriage and civil unions lest he lose a big chunk of supporters for the sake of 'semantics'. (Yes, I know, I know...) And take a look at what we are doing to Barney Frank for being pragmatic. At least he may actually take us forward. I have doubts that once in office Obama will lift a finger for us.

    Posted by: Trasker | Oct 30, 2007 1:01:08 PM

  8. I don't know why all the gays are clutching their pearls over this. Hillary has come out straightforward against her support for same-sex marriage (in favor of unions), yet no one talks about that. Obama has one unsavory person on his staff and everyone packs up their votes and goes home. Let's keep it in perspective people. In order to move a civil rights movement forward he needs to speak with both parties. He cannot align with just one while turning his back on the other and expect to bridge gaps. A negotiator HAS to work both sides. So stop the "He's talking to someone I don't like therefore I don't like him." bullsh*t.

    Posted by: Blue | Oct 30, 2007 1:06:50 PM

  9. The only way Obama could regain my support would be to explicitly denounce the "Jesus cure" for being gay. To clearly state that religious calls to "pray away the gay" are dangerous, hurtful and misleading. They breed people like Larry Craig and Mark Foley. McClurkin is no better: a hypocrite who encourages gay shame and can't walk his own talk.

    Since there's no way Obama will ever explicitly denounce the Christian "miracle cure" for being gay, there's no way I will ever support him. He has sided with the oppressors on this one.

    Posted by: adamblast | Oct 30, 2007 1:10:29 PM

  10. Don't be too quick to assume that this McClurkin situation was not intentional. Obama desparately needs to win South Carolina, and he likely can't do it without a large portion of the black vote. It appears that he's willing to throw the gays under the bus to get it.

    I have tried to like him, but this past week he has shown either (i) a complete lack of leadership or (ii) a willingness to perform the dirty tricks we usually associate with the GOP.

    We have plenty of good Democratic candidates, so there is no reason that Obama should ever see a dime of our money. If you have alread contributed to him, contact his campaign and have tell them not to contact you again. That will send them a message that this type of activity will not go without penalty.

    Posted by: Kyle Childress | Oct 30, 2007 1:13:27 PM

  11. He's lost my vote. Bye bye Barack.

    Posted by: chris | Oct 30, 2007 1:34:12 PM

  12. I saw him on "Ellen" too yesterday. And I thought he was still playing with words, trying to "nuance" marriage and civil unions. This man is nothing but another politician hungry for votes and ready to grab'em anywhere he can get'em.

    Posted by: Shabaka | Oct 30, 2007 1:36:51 PM

  13. Gotta love a black man who promotes "separate but equal." Unacceptable for his people, but OK for mine, I guess.

    Posted by: Mad John | Oct 30, 2007 1:59:36 PM

  14. He made one good speech years ago. That's it. What else has he done? Let's move on and forget this loser.

    Posted by: Gregg | Oct 30, 2007 2:02:14 PM

  15. "throw the gays under the bus"

    If that's the way to get black votes then why does every black Democratic politician in this country (except some of the ones way down south) support gay people's civil rights. The media has presented black people as being more anti-gay than they are. Actually (in a worthless sort of way), evangelical blacks are probably more liberal toward gays (on a personal level) than evangelical whites. (Worhless, in that you are a part of the "church family" as long as you don't mention that you are gay.) Hell, you have some gay black males in the church choirs who are practically in drag. How often do you see white gays like that in white evangelical congregations.

    Black church folk get riled up on the issue of gay marriage rights, but so do the white ones. The last election proved that.

    The Obama staff's strategy for winning South Carolina may have been calculated, but very short sighted...unless, of course, they'd already conceded the gay vote (in the other primaries) to Hillary and John. Four years ago, did John Kerry make much of an effort to win the gay vote in the primaries? Refresh me, Leland, please.

    Blue, how'd you find your way here? Do you really have the patience for this joint? These can be some rough so 'n so's.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 30, 2007 2:07:24 PM

  16. Blue, I am the last person on earth to ever defend hillary. BUT, it is a far cry from "curing" us to not supporting gay marriage. A huge difference.

    I am with kimmer, Elizabeth Edward's husband is the one I am leaning towards. Though he is uncomfortable with gay marriage, his team at least had enough sense to send his wife to SF Pride to kick it off, give a speach about 100% support for gay marriage, and she marched. That tops both obama and hillary.

    Posted by: anyone but hillary | Oct 30, 2007 2:23:13 PM

  17. Apparently Obama is guilty of the same sort of pandering and opportunism that he accuses Hillary of. He speaks of reaching out to the McClurkins in society when what he's doing is playing both sides of the fence to see how many people he can confuse as to where he stands. Just like Hillary.

    Would he reach out to a well-known anti-Semite in the black community with any expectation of getting away with the same lame excuse in the Jewish community. I think not.

    Obama has been a huge disappointment. Not only isn't he ready for the Presidency, he's not even ready to be a candidate for the Presidency.

    I've just written him off as an alternative to Hillary Clinton.

    Posted by: VINCENT COTUGNO | Oct 30, 2007 2:35:28 PM

  18. I'm more concerned that this man was allowed to make these statements at all at the event. You mean to tell me that, knowing he was controversial going in, no one on Barack's staff talked to him about what he could and could not talk about? If they had, and he hadn't talked about the whole "God delivered me from being gay" thing, this would have already been behind Obama.

    They're trying to have it both ways. To me, they made their choice. Granted, if he wins the nomination I'll vote for him for the good of the country right now, but he can't expect me to help in get to that point after this, that's for sure.

    Posted by: Maine Gay | Oct 30, 2007 2:38:45 PM

  19. This is NOT about "marriage" versus some other name for our relationships. As much as that MUST still be fought for in appropriate ways at appropriate times, that shipped sailed LONG ago in terms of the 2008 election, so those who are still gnashing their teeth over it need to grow up and move on. In the meantime, debating who is more or less "comfortable" with an idea that is electorally moot for the time being is also a waste of time.

    Move on to what? To the FACT that, despite Matthew's strange observation, we have never had in the history of American politics so many candidates so enthusiastically embracing so many gay rights issues.

    Do they support:

    Federal benefits for same gender couples? CHECK!
    Domestic Partnerships? CHECK!
    Oppose Constitutional ban? CHECK!
    Gay adoption? CHECK!
    Gays in military? CHECK!
    Immigration [partner] rights? CHECK!
    Better funding for HIV/AIDS? CHECK!
    Oppose Bush antigay choice for Surgeon General? CHECK!
    Gay hate crime laws? CHECK!
    Gay & T job protection [ENDA]? CHECK!
    Funding comprehensive sex education? CHECK!
    Personally hugging every gay man and woman in America? Uh, no.

    The Repugs? They oppose virtually everything the Dem candidates support vis-a-vis gays AND are getting WORSE. Their phony "pro-gay" candidate, Giuliani, continues to slither further and further back. He is now saying that he WOULD support an amendment to the US Constitution banning marriage equality if "too many" judges rule marriage equality okay.

    As for Obama, I continue to be astonished that he just keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper. A close gay friend of mine who has been campaigning for him in another state told Obama's staff in response to their continued excuses and spin, "Don't call me for a while. I'll call you."

    But despite his fuckup and continued attempt to justify sharing his "big tent" with professional, showboating bigots, contrast that with the reverse: the Repugs who ARE THE BIGOTS smile fucking us about sharing their big tent with gays and expecting us to be grateful to them for their "tolerance."

    Y'all know where we should be telling them to shove that!

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Oct 30, 2007 2:42:29 PM

  20. Bye, Obama! Thanks for playing! Maybe we'll see you in 2011.

    Posted by: the other jeff | Oct 30, 2007 3:27:27 PM

  21. Obama put his foot in his mouth and then shot himself in the foot. He exposed himself as a politican who panders to homobigots and the outrage against him is heartfelt and authentic, but to say the least it's not applied evenly to all Democratic Party candidates.

    In fact the apologists for HRH HRC refuse to mention her superstitious dark side and it's dangerous intersection with her politics.

    According to investigative journalists at Mother Jones, an antiwar prolabor magazine, Clinton's relationship to the totalitarian christian right is downright scary.

    She came to the Congress with huge 'negatives' in the polls because of her association with bigot laws like DOMA, DADT and the union busting NAFTA. The hilarious fiasco of her health care bill, written by insurance exectutives, which died of mortification because it was so poorly crafted didn't help. And we now know that all this was in preperation for her presidential bid. So she did what whe had to, she began to lurch to the right; she never had any intention of supporting samesex marriage, unions, or later, or ending the war.

    She associated hereself with religious bigots, joining the "Fellowship' and having weekly prayers meetings with people like Sen. Brownback, Sen. Santorum, Susan Baker, wife of Bush 'consigliere" James Baker, and Eileen Bakke, the wife of Dennis Bakke, a notorious union buster.

    It paid off as the right wing not only stopped jumping on her, they began to praise her. Chuck Colson, he of Watergate fame, said that Hillary Clinton, "has a lot of history" to overcome but he sees her making the right moves. One of those 'moves' was to sponsor the Workplace Religious Freedom Act" with Santorum, a noted homobigot, which even Arlen Specter declined to support becasue it protects pharmacists who refuse to sell birth control devices and prescriptions or cops who refuse to protect abortion clinics. She also supported the bankrupt Federal welfare program for religious bigots called 'faith-based charities' which like DOMA, the Republicans used to beat us over the head with.

    She continues to support the bigot backed DOMA and its refusal of same sex marriage voted in by Democrats and signed by Bill Clinton. Like all loyal Dixiecrats she says samesex marriage is a 'states rights' issue. In addition she supports the war, the division of Iraq into three colonial provinces, the theft of Iraqi oil by American companies and the extension of the war into Iraq.

    Thats why Chuck Closon likes her. It's why Kansas antiabortionist Sen. Brownback describes her as 'a beautiful child of the Living God", high praise indeed if you think, as he does, that the Exorcist was a an educational film. Thats why Rupert Murdoch, the gazillionaire owner of Faux News praised her and hosted a fund raising dinner for her. Thats why Pat Robertson, speaking of her presidential bid and subsequent scramble to the right , said "Well she's -- tacking to the right as hard as she can tack. And -- you know Hillarys's got some good points. "

    Colson, Murdoch, Santorum, Brownback, Robertson - they know who their friends are, and HRH HRC is one of them, and so are McCain, Obama, Giuliani, Edwards, Huckabee, Richardson, and Romney,

    A Republican politician is a baboon in a people suit with a totalitarian christian attached at the hip. A Democratic politician is a Republican in drag.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue | Oct 30, 2007 4:57:12 PM

  22. The iPod generation is unfamiliar with the concept of a "stuck record" which occured when a "record player's" needle caught in a groove of an LP, 45, etc., and repeated the same sound until you physically moved it. A lovely moment listening to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow..." could turn into "over over over over over over over over."

    Comrade Perdue is the Net equivalent of a stuck record. "Hillary evil Hillary evil Hillary evil Hillary evil Hillary evil." And his tireless and tired slanders against her, nay, any Dem for his dream is a "socialist workers paradise," is so over!

    We're supposed to be frightened, persuaded, angered by his distorted and dishonest characterizations of what Hillary did in 1996 or 93 or what the Dems did then and over there. Even if everything he claimed were true, and his rants are permeated with more lies than 200-year old cheese has mold, what does it make the victims of his character assassination other than people who have learned and grown? It certainly makes him nothing more than the psychotic holder of a grudge who needs professional help. As the Divine Miss M used to say, "Honey, the 60s are over!"

    No rational person gives a flying fuck what Hillary or any other Dem said about, for instance, DOMA a decade ago. It's what she and others are saying now. The same is true, in a negative way, of the unimportance of what Giuliani, even Romney, said about gays years before. We're their targets now.

    Can anyone guarantee you that it will be a sunnier world for gays if any of the Dems are elected? No more than he or she can guarantee tomorrow will come at all. But when the Repugs are praying for rain, you'd better take your umbrella and your common sense to the polls. Though most know enough to pass by crazy men spouting crazy thoughts, if enough listened to Perdue, we'd have to build an ark.

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Oct 30, 2007 5:29:48 PM

  23. "so .. you people want 'the word'..well ya can't have it because it's for decent christian hetero-folk." THAT'S his response ?! ... all the blather about equality after that statement is just meaningless doubletalk.
    depressingly, as perdue points out, we're not much better off with the rest of the lot. just more blather until they have our vote and then it's back to under the bus.
    let's not forget that it was hillary's hubby who, after fucking us royally as president, advised gore to dump on the gays last time as a great way to get some votes.
    anti-marriage rights? anti-equality? anti-gay?? check .. check... check... check...
    aren't we tired of falling for the symbolic bones that get tossed our way by our so-called friends ?

    Posted by: el polacko | Oct 30, 2007 5:30:34 PM

  24. El Polacko, PLEASE share with us where one signs up to get paid a dollar every time they spout "under the bus." Y'all MUST be getting paid something. You COULDN'T be that rhetorically ignorant?

    But you also say that "we're not much better off with the rest of the lot" which concedes that we ARE better off with the Dems. Not as much as most of us would like but still.... Is the bus under which you think they'll throw us better than the bus under which Repugs will throw us?

    And please try to get your political gossip players' names right. I believe it's Kerry that you're thinking of, not Gore, whom BC allegedly advised to support state constitution marriage equality bans. After all, the "last time," that is the last Presidential election was in 2004 not 2000. But perhaps you were in a coma.

    2008 has new players and players who have grown since 2004. I'd prefer to concentrate on that than reliving, rehashing, regurgitating the past. Only dogs, and Comrade Perdue, get off on eating their own vomit.

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Oct 30, 2007 6:17:28 PM


    Like it was old news....yet his talking to black ministers seems like he's just does that every time he can....

    So Sen Obama is sexual orientation a CHOICE?

    Cause religious belief IS a choice and hell it's a protected class.

    And I too got that paste and cut form letter after I called the Campaign and it's OLD NEWS.

    How m,uch longer can this man continue to dig this hole he is in.

    And yes I too believe this was a calculated political stunt to gain traction in SC and if he gets away with for ROUND 2 of Sister Told Ya.

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Oct 30, 2007 7:39:36 PM

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