Senator Obama linked to “ex-gay” singer

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Senator Barack Obama has drawn criticism for signing up a gospel singer with controversial views about gays and lesbians for his campaign in South Carolina.

According to AP, gay rights group Truth Wins Out have urged the Democratic Presidential candidate to his cut ties with Donnie McClurkin, one of several gospel singers scheduled to raise money for the Illinois senator at a concert in South Carolina this weekend.

Gospel music is one of many ways in which Obama’s campaign is trying to reach black evangelicals in South Carolina, an early voting state where half the Democratic primary voters are black and where at least one recent survey shows Mr. Obama is losing ground to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

McClurkin has drawn attention from gay rights activists for his views on homosexuality.

“I don’t believe that it is the intention of God,” McClurkin told AP in a telephone interview on Monday.

McClurkin also said that he does not believe in discriminating against homosexuals.

“What people do in their bedrooms and who they are as human beings are two different things,” he said.

Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, said in a statement: “We strongly urge Obama to part ways with this divisive preacher who is clearly singing a different tune than the stated message of the campaign.”

At a forum on gay issues in August, Obama argued that civil unions for same-sex couples would not be a “lesser thing” than marriage.

Obama belongs to the United Church of Christ, which supports gay marriage.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Besen told AP he admired Obama, but wasn’t ready to endorse him, especially considering McClurkin taking part in the campaign’s “Embrace the Change” concert tour.

“I think he’d be a great president. But I think it’s going to drive away support from people who are on the fence such as myself,” Besen said.

McClurkin, a Grammy Award winner, performed at the Republican National Convention in 2004.

According to the New York Times Mr. Obama said through a spokesperson last week that he “strongly disagrees” with Mr McClurkin’s views.

He did not indicate he would cancel Mr. McClurkin’s appearance, but said, “I have consistently spoken directly to African-American religious leaders about the need to overcome the homophobia that persists in some parts of our community so that we can confront issues like H.I.V./AIDS and broaden the reach of equal rights in this country.”

McClurkin has spoken out against homosexuality on several occasions.

McClurkin wrote on a Christian Web site in 2002 that he struggled with homosexuality after he was molested by male relatives when he was 8 and 13.

“I’ve been through this and have experienced God’s power to change my lifestyle,” he wrote. “I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too.”

In his book, Eternal Victim, Eternal Victor, he writes: “The abnormal use of my sexuality continued until I came to realise that I was broken and that homosexuality was not God’s intention… for my masculinity.”

He then describes himself as going through a process by which he became “a saved and sanctified man.”