ENDA, Obama and the cultural war

The House Democratic leadership delayed a planned vote this past week on ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007. The bill, introduced by gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, makes employment discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals illegal.

One reason that momentum on moving the legislation has stalled is because lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin wants a provision covering transsexuals and transgenders, originally in, then removed, put back in.

President Bush has indicated that, if passed, he will veto this legislation. And he should.

There are a good number of reasons offered by the administration, and by others, why this bill is constitutionally problematic.

But beyond the bill’s many technical constitutional difficulties, it’s worth considering it in the context of the ongoing cultural war taking place in this country.

Those pushing ENDA would have us believe that this is about making our country more just, fairer, more free. But is this really what is going on?

Consider the uproar of recent days among Sen. Barack Obama’s gay constituency about his hiring of gospel singer Donny McClurkin to perform in Obama’s campaign tour through South Carolina.

This is a critical state for the Illinois lawmaker, with a huge churchgoing black electorate.

What could be a better idea than headlining a Grammy-winning gospel singer to perform as part of his swing through the state?

The problem is that McClurkin not only preaches the gospel of the straight and traditional life, but he himself was once part of the gay lifestyle. He says that he was sexually abused as a child, which set him on the trajectory of homosexual behavior.

But through prayer and resolve, McClurkin changed. And he insists that anyone can change, as did he.

When word of the decision of the Obama campaign to employ McClurkin got out, Obama soon heard from Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights organization.

According to press reports, Solmonese urged Obama to cancel McClurkin’s appearance and subsequently expressed disappointment when this did not happen.

Now wait a second. Let’s recap where we are.

We’ve got legislation moving through Congress, pushed by gay activists, that would make it illegal for an employer to not hire, or to fire, someone because of their sexual orientation. But the head of the nation’s largest gay-activist organization asks Obama to fire a man because he is a Christian and an advocate of traditional values?

Freedom? Justice? Fairness? America?

What exactly has McClurkin done that justifies, in the eyes of Solmonese, that he be fired?

Did he ask that a gay be fired? Does he advocate that gays be persecuted? Does he advocate discrimination against gays? No. No. No.

He says that homosexuality is a problem — yes, sinful — and, perhaps worse, he suggests that individuals have choice and can change.

Choice, change, personal responsibility? In a free country? In the eyes of some, a crime.

Perhaps to add to the irony of it all, the name of Obama’s gospel tour through South Carolina is “Embrace the Change.”

Obama’s milquetoast response to all this speaks, I think, to why his campaign has been fizzling. Rather taking an opportunity to lead, he’s shown his preference for business-as-usual political pandering.

He added a gay black pastor to the tour to give the convocation, but has kept McClurkin on, despite issuing a statement that “I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin’s views.”

Obama’s idea of inclusion — being all things to all people — amounts to being nothing to anyone. This is not leadership. Particularly when he lacks the courage to draw the connection between poverty and disease in the black community and wanton sexual behavior.

McClurkin’s claim that individuals have sovereignty over their sexuality, rather than vice versa, is particularly dangerous to the gay-rights community. After all, the credibility of its whole case rests on the argument that this is not true.

The credibility of legislation, such as ENDA, also rests largely on the assumption that sexual behavior is as genetically determined as race.

But even more fundamentally, if we accept that we are slaves to our sexual impulses, then the “thou shalt not” prohibitions of the Bible become meaningless. If we are told to avoid behavior that is impossible to avoid, the Bible becomes a work of fiction and Christianity becomes a marginal lifestyle choice in our society.

This is what this is about. Not freedom, nor justice, nor fairness. But the displacement of one set of values with another and the wholesale politicization of our society.

Poor blacks are trying to crawl out of this hole. Let’s not drag the rest of the country into it.