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***
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.