Way back in January, before the 2008 primaries, The Advocate interviewed the president of Charleston, S.C.’s Stonewall Democrats chapter, Keith Riddle.

Riddle told the national news glossy that the infamous, fall 2007 Donnie McClurkin incident in Columbia kept coming up in “every conversation” he had with LGBT folks.

“Obama never really apologized for that. I do believe that sometimes, it’s time to move on,” he told the magazine. “But people just don’t move on that quickly.”

Donnie McClurkin, the anti-gay, ex-gay preacher brought in for Obama’s South Carolina gospel tour, wasn’t the only preacher-related conundrum Obama had to face as he barreled his way to becoming the first African-American president in U.S. history. The other preacher, Obama’s own Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was a man many Americans found distasteful, offensive and an outright, left-wing radical.

Obama’s gay advisors were mysteriously absent when the McClurkin incident went down. It puzzled the gay community how such an anti-gay voice could get past them.

“No matter how he or his reps defend, deny or explain it, the Donnie McClurkin fiasco was arguably the single greatest miscalculation in the entire primary,” we wrote in a staff editorial before North Carolina’s primary. “And that’s at best, because at worst it was the most egregious example of political expediency seen in the entire primary. Either way, it stung like hell.”

Now Obama has stung the queer community, yet again. In mid-December his inaugural team announced that the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of the mega-Saddleback Church and author of the nationally-acclaimed “A Purpose Driven Life,” will lead the nation in the inaugural invocation.

The hope Obama instilled in countless millions of Americans is continuously being dashed among his gay and lesbian constituents. On the heels of our painful losses in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and California, many queer folks looked to the inauguration as another time of hope — one day they could share in the joy of being American citizens and dare to dream that Obama might bring change for us and our families.

“It is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues,” Obama said at a press conference on Dec. 18. “That dialogue is part of what my campaign has been all about. We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable.”

What’s up with this idea that gay and lesbian Americans should sit down and “disagree without being disagreeable” with those who call us pedophiles, call us sick and sinful and malign and demean our families? What kind of political B.S. is this?

It’s this non-sensical “big tent” approach — including some of the most hateful and homophobic people in America — that keeps getting Obama in trouble, and making our collective queer dreams look more and more like fantasy and science-fiction.

In a separate commentary on my personal blog, I asked, “If including all American viewpoints is important, why not include a preacher associated with the KKK or Aryan Nation? Well, duh! Because we realize that their opinion is antithetical to our American dream and dangerous.”

I added, “The same should go for including anti-gay pastors like Rick Warren. He and his ilk stand in the way of forward, progressive movement toward a more fair and equal United States of America.”

As long as our lives, loves and families continue to be painted as a “social issue,” we will continue to be victimized by shrewd, pandering politicians like Obama and anti-gay, anti-American preachers like Rick Warren.

And, as much as I hate it, I’ll continue to hold out hope that Obama will be best for our continued fight for comprehensive and inclusive hate crimes legislation and an Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

I’ll hope he’ll push forward with plans to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But given my continued disenchantment with Obama and his weird love affair with anti-gay preachers, there’s just something inside of me that says, “Don’t hold your breath.”

Harvey Milk told us, “You gotta give ’em hope.” I’m pretty sure he’d also say you have to follow through. Can Obama do it, or will he continue to play to the Right? All this, and he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

3 replies on “Obama’s anti-gay preacher problem”

  1. I, for one, applaud Obama’s decision to include someone with divergent philosophies and attitudes. We live in a pluralistic society in which people will disagree on various issues. As a gay man who wants to legally marry his lover of 11 years, I disagree with Rev Warren and others who argue against gay marriage. Having said that, they have a right to their opinion and to have their voices heard. If gay people would leave the safety of their enclaves and get to know the entire world, we would make more progress. To silence the voices of those who disagree with us is not only UnAmerican but is downright wrong. I applaud Obama’s decision and hope that gay people will take an opportunity for discourse with those who disagree with us.

    Yossi G.
    North Miami Beach, FL

  2. I have no problem with Obama including Rev. Warren on a roundtable or a committee to debate what to do about marriage. But putting him front and center in a solo appearance at the Inauguration gives Warren special status — some are interpreting it as anointing him “the nation’s spiritual leader.” Maybe that’s exaggeration but it’s still a troublesome sign.
    OK, we’ll end up giving Obama a pass on this, just like we did with McClurkin. But it could be time for a new slogan: “Commitment we can believe in.”
    Incidentally, the benediction speaker, Rev. Joseph Lowery, also has been quoted in blogs as admitting he has “culture shock” when it comes to same-gender marriages. I guess it will be up to the gay marching band to toot out something like “I am What I Am.”

  3. With all due respect to the comments made by Yossi G, they are dead wrong. Yes you are right that members of the LGBT community need to get to know the whole world and not be so sheltered, thats the only thing we agree on. To suggest that as a gay man I should break bread with the man who has branded me a pedophile because of my genetic make-up and who was largely instrumental in the passing of a refferendum taking away marriage equality in California is absurd. I find it mind boggling that members of the LGBT community would deffend this guy or Obamas decision to include him. Rick Warren should be offensive to any self loving, equal rights minded gay or lesbian. Unless you are masochistic or are suffering from a psychological dissorder where you begin to empathize with your abuser there is no excuse for anyone in the LGBT community to agree with this decision. Yes, I beleive in diversity and freedom of speech, but I also beleive in self preservation and gay pride. It’s about time we in the LGBT community take off the blinders and realize we are the door mat of society. Unless we are willing to stand up for what is right and say no more we will continue to get the short end of the stick. I can understand the religeous right criticising us for wanting equality and not agreeing with Rick Warren, but when it comes from within I will never understand it. Its time we get some self respect and some pride.

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