Obama Tours With Anti-Gay McClurkin

The Obama campaign has organized a gospel tour of South Carolina featuring controversial anti-gay activist Donnie McClurkin.

A Gospel concert tour organized by the Barack Obama campaign on behalf of the candidate is stirring controversy among some gay activists. The three-day tour through early-voting South Carolina starts this Friday and finishes Sunday with a concert that includes Grammy Award-winning Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin, who has provoked controversy among gay activists for his views that homosexuality can be “overcome.”


McClurkin, who is also a Pentecostal minister, has been a prominent advocate of the view that homosexuality is a lifestyle and that gays can will themselves to heterosexual behavior. McClurkin has said he struggled with homosexual “demons” for 20 years–which he attributes to molestation as a child by male relatives–but is now straight.

The Gospel music tour through South Carolina culminates a “Forty Days of Faith and Family” initiative in which the Obama campaign has highlighted the role of faith in the candidate’s politics. African-American church-goers are an important voting segment in the state’s Democratic primary.

One gay activist involved with the Obama campaign said the situation puts the candidate in a bind, since he risks offending evangelicals in South Carolina if he cancels McClurkin’s appearance but could alienate gay supporters if the performance proceeds as planned. “This story is quickly turning into a disaster for Barack,” said the supporter who is active on gay and lesbian issues. “He’s screwed if he goes through with the trip with Donnie McClurkin….But he’s also screwed in South Carolina if he dumps McClurkin. I hope that the staffer who set this up has already been fired.”

Update: About 6:40 pm [Monday], the Obama campaign issued a written statement from the candidate saying that he “strongly disagree(s)” with McClurkin’s views. Still, a spokesman said McClurkin would remain part of the concert line-up.

John Aravosis is hopping mad.

You strongly disagree with the bigot who thinks I need to be cured, and who has declared “war” on me and my people, but you’re going to put the guy on stage with you anyway in order to make a few bucks. Nice. I wonder what Obama would say if Hillary invited David Duke to speak at an event but then said, not to worry, she really loves black people – kisses!

If you’re afraid to lead, Senator, then maybe you’re not the leader we thought you were.

Big Tent Democrat:

This was a baby that could not be divided. Obama’s reaction simply does not work.

All year I have stated that Obama’s political team is awful. This is confirmation of my judgment.

Pam Spaulding says this goes well beyond Obama.

A few of us are out here talking about the complexities of tackling homophobia in the black community, but no, we’re not discussed or known in the black MSM — you’re not going to read about the National Black Justice Coalition in the above-mentioned magazines. It’s a blackout of sorts, no pun intended.


For Obama to have to take on the entire mantle of addressing the anti-gay rhetoric promoted by the likes of Donnie McClurkin and his supporters is a lot to ask, but there are going to be precious few voices in the black community who are going to be willing to call out McClurkin on his bigotry and ex-gay misinformation and do something about it. We now know what the “something” is.

PZ Myers thinks this a natural consequence of using religion in political campaigns.

Here’s the only stance I’d like to see from any of the candidates: they can say they’re devout, that they believe in god and all that stuff, but that it’s a personal issue that they keep in the home and in their church, and off the campaign trail, and in particular, out of their political office. Can we please get at least one candidate stating that they are running for a secular political office and all that matters is their natural, material qualifications and plans? I can’t vote for a candidate who’s running on the platform that ghosts are on his side.

What’s bizarre to me is not that Obama is touring South Carolina with gospel singers but that he’s picked this particular fellow. He’s got a Grammy and I presume he’s fairly popular but, surely, there are big time gospel singers who’ve managed to avoid this sort of controversy?

MyDD‘s Todd Beeton, who wonders “Did Obama Just Lose The Gay Vote?” gets it right:

Obama’s outreach to the black evangelical community is admirable and could reap benefits for the Democratic Party in the long-run but this conflict in values that has emerged between Obama’s own base and those of this prominent figure whose base Obama is courting can’t have come as a shock to the campaign. The paradox of running a campaign based on inclusion is that you’re more than likely going to alienate somebody at some point based on who you’re including, unless of course you’re experienced and skilled enough to avoid those landmines. And I have to say, whether or not you feel the inclusion of McClurkin in this fundraiser for Obama is a deal breaker, Obama’s inability to avoid this foreseeable bump in the road at the very least contributes to the growing crisis in confidence people seem to be feeling about Obama lately (see the results of the latest DailyKos straw poll for the most recent evidence of this.)

This speaks to Obama’s decision-making skills and thus his fitness for the presidency.

As a side note, why is McClurkin campaigning for Obama, a man whose message seems antithetical to his views on the most salient issue to him?

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Gender Issues, LGBTQ Issues, Race and Politics, Religion, The Presidency, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Reminds me of something my dad said many years ago. “To be elected to higher office you must compromise so many principles that, once elected, you have no principles.”

  2. QueerKid says:

    As a gay guy, I think this is a bit of a joke. Who Obama tours with is such a minor issue that it’s irrelevant. If every musician a politician encounters has to be flawless, then he probably wouldn’t be able to tour with anybody.

    I’ve heard Obama speak more about American being made up of “gay friends in red states” and such than all the other candidates combined.

    He’s also left enough wiggle room to become for gay marriage in the future.

    I think it’s quite good for someone to be progressive and gay accepting and also speak to religious people and to black voters.

  3. floyd says:

    You really nailed it! You will have to get behind a candidate that you don’t like no matter who you are this time around, even if they do leave a bad taste in your mouth now and then!There is plenty of ambivalence this cycle to to prevent any voter from getting his IDEAL candidate! [unless that is read I-DEAL]

    Note to Aravosis… If you don’t lke Obama, vote Republican![lol]

  4. Autumn says:

    I hate when people compare being Gay to racism. The color of one’s skin and a lifestyle choice are two completely different things. I am anti-racism and disagree with the gay lifestyle. I love all people even gay people but I do not agree with the lifestyle they have chosen. I know being gay is not something that you can overcome…it is only something that you can be delivered from and totally changed by the power and grace of Jesus Christ. Donnie McClurkin is a wonderful man of God who the media and gay activists twist to make seem bad. He is not a bigot but a compassionate christian man with a moral conscience. If you read his book Eternal Victim Eternal Victor you will see that he does not hate gay people and only wishes to show not only homosexuals but all people the way to salvation. I don’t expect for everyone to accept what I have to say because christians have always been made to look like the whole lot of us are unintelligent bigots…why do you think they nailed Jesus to a cross.