COLUMBIA, S.C. A Grammy-winning singer whose role in a Barack Obama campaign event riled gay activists served as master of ceremonies promoting the Democratic presidential Sunday night, Oct. 28.
Donnie McClurkin, who has angered gay rights groups by saying homosexuality is a choice, told the crowd he’d been misquoted and held up to be reviled. He said he did not speak against homosexuals, but added, “God delivered me from homosexuality.”
McClurkin was headlining an “Embrace the Change” concert that capped a weekend of gospel music that Obama, an Illinois senator, is hoping to use to recruit churchgoers and music lovers in this early voting state.
McClurkin told the crowd the musical acts were there “in the name of unity” and “in the name of change.”
But McClurkin’s presence created a rift as gay and lesbian activists tried to force Obama to boot the singer from the lineup. Obama wouldn’t budge, but he tried to quell the anger by adding an openly gay pastor to the event.
McClurkin, who has said he does not believe in discriminating against gays, spent much of Sunday evening introducing the acts.
He addressed the dustup a couple of times, obscurely at first and then more directly.
“We’re here,” McClurkin told a cheering crowd. “We’re here and we’re glad we’re here.”
Later, at the end of an improvised finish to “Amazing Grace,” McClurkin told a crowd of 2,000 that had been on its feet from the time he took the stage that “some people thought I wasn’t going to be here tonight.”
At the end of his act, he said that when Obama asked him to come, he readily said “Yes.”
“I didn’t know that my, my “‘yes’ was going to cause me to be misunderstood and vilified,” McClurkin said.
“Sometimes people can take your words and do this,” he said, twisting some paper he was holding. “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have been touched with the same feelings.”
Before the concert started, about two dozen gay and lesbian group supporters marched and carried a rainbow flag.
Obama did not attend the event, but in a video played at the Township Auditorium he called the evening’s acts “inspirational talent” that were among his favorites.
The people in the crowd agreed with their feet, standing and waving and clapping hands to the blaring music, regularly joining in to sing.
Obama has been courting churchgoers heavily in South Carolina. Earlier this month, he spent two Sundays at churches in Columbia and Greenville.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 2, 2007