What Obama understands that some don’t is that to bring this country together you have to be both willing to stand up for progressive values and sit down at the table with those who disagree with you.
No one of any serious worth would question Obama’s overall commitment to the gay and lesbian community. But some want more than that: they want total fidelity to their point of view. That sounds a lot like fundamentalism to me. The Religious Right has for years told politicians and parishioners alike that it is their way or the highway straight to hell. We need to have more tolerant hearts.
The author of the blog Think On These Things wrote today:
There is no way to unify this country if people on both sides refuse to be in the same space as those with whom they disagree.
Amen to that.
African-American leaders and gay and lesbian leaders issued an important statement together on this subject. In it they wrote:
As representatives of Barack Obama supporters from the African American religious community and the gay community, we are issuing a statement together for the first time. Our letter addresses the recent issue of Pastor Donnie McClurkin singing at Senator Obama’s “Embrace the Change” concert series. In the midst of division, we hope and believe that this is a moment to bring together communities that have been divided for far too long.
A few things are clear.
First, Pastor McClurkin believes and has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful and offensive to many Americans, most especially to gay Americans. This cannot and should not be denied.
At the same time, a great many African Americans share Pastor McClurkin’s beliefs. This also cannot be ignored.
Finally, we believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together.
Not at arms length. Not in a war of words with press and pundits. Only together.
It is clear that Barack Obama is the only candidate who has made bringing these two often disparate groups together a goal. In gatherings of LGBT Americans and African Americans of faith, Obama has stated that all individuals should be afforded full civil rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that homophobia must be eradicated in every corner of our nation. If we are to end homophobia and secure full civil rights for gay Americans, then we need an advocate within the Black community like Barack Obama.
At the same time, while Obama has said that he "strongly disagrees" with Pastor McClurkin's comments, he will not exclude from his campaign the many Americans including many in the African American community who believe the same as Pastor McClurkin.
We believe that Barack Obama is constructing a tent big enough for LGBT Americans who know that their sexual orientation is an innate and treasured part of their being, and for African American ministers and citizens who believe that their religion prevents them from fully embracing their gay brothers and sisters. And if we are to confront our shared challenges we have to join together, build on common ground, and engage in a civil dialogue even when we disagree.
We also ask Senator Obama’s critics to consider the alternatives. Would we prefer a candidate who ignores the realities in the African American community and cuts off millions of Blacks who believe things offensive to many Americans? Or a panderer who tells African Americans what they want to hear, at the expense of our gay brothers and sisters? Or would we rather stand with Barack Obama, who speaks truth in love to both sides, pulling no punches but foreclosing no opportunities to engage?
Good for Senator Obama for standing up for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans. Good for Senator Obama for inviting my colleague The Rev. Andy Sidden to join the concert program. Good for Senator Obama for being secure enough in his own beliefs not to be afraid to share the stage with those he disagrees with. It’s good for America that we have at least some political leaders who do not bend with the wind.