(Community Matters) President-elect Obama’s selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the prayer during his inauguration has many in the gay community nearly apoplectic.
Dear President-elect Obama –
Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.
Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population … This is not a political issue — it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.” Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it’s a lie today.
Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.
We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.
But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.
Human Rights Campaign
Well, sorry, but I disagree with many of my gay colleagues. I especially disagree with the chatter on national gay list serves screaming that we’re being thrown under the bus and that Obama is back tracking on support for our community.
I’ve said in this forum before, the most enthusiastic Obama supporters will be disappointed more often than those who didn’t vote for him – who I expect will have plenty of occasions to be pleasantly surprised. P-e Obama has always said he wants to bring together all of America, that he is open, willing, even enthusiastic to talk with representatives from all parties and perspectives. I have no doubt that P-e Obama remains completely committed to LGBT equality. Wish my community would back off this tantrum which inappropriately frames us as unwilling to talk, to reach out, to bring change in the way America is governed.
An important and thoughtful response from a gay colleague in one of the list serves.
. . . . Along the same lines, however, I think you should consider whether it’s unfair of you to simply dismiss out of hand Obama’s stated motive (i.e., unity) here. Talk about being over the top. You argue this is about “human dignity”? Based on what? Based on your characterization of Rick Warren as “equating” gays with pedophilia that is almost as sloppy and mean-spirited as Warren himself was.
Here’s the Warren quote: “I’m not opposed to that [gay marriage or civil unions] as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”
On its face, Warren is making a classic “slippery slope” argument. If you allow “x,” which itself may seem OK, you will be also be allowing “y” and “z” etc., which we all agree are unwanted or horrific. The whole point behind the parade of horribles in a slippery slope argument is that “y” and “z” (polygamy and incest) are NOT the same, but much worse, than “x” (gay marriage and civil unions).
It is similarly unfair and illogical for Leah and others to argue from disagreement with Warren over marriage that he therefore wasn’t a “unifying” choice. Unity is not about bringing together only those in this country who agree on everything. It’s about bringing the country together through focus on common ground (in the service, by the way, of the most pro-gay president in history).
If you doubt the value of focusing on common ground, then just consider Warren himself. In the SAME interview, Warren says he has “no problem” with gay couples being recognized with D.P. benefits, domestic partnerships and civil unions. Because so many of us are distracted by Warren’s marriage argument, which of course I agree was ridiculous, we are missing that this enormously influential mega-pastor is actually supportive (or at least unopposed) to recognizing our relationships in very significant ways. (Warren’s position on DPs and civil unions also disproves your claim that he “equates” gay relationships with polygamy or incest, since he obviously would not support these forms of legal recognition for those types of relationships.)
So because we ignore pleas of “unity” and common ground, we pillory this conservative religious leader as a “homophobe,” when in fact his views on legal recognition for gay couples is very close to Obama himself (and Hillary). The only real policy difference among them is Prop 8, which Warren backed. But let’s remember that just four short years ago, the gay rights movement heaped praise on the presidential campaign of John Kerry, who backed a similar effort to amend the Massachusetts constitution, back when that was the ONLY state where gay couples could marry.
What a wasted opportunity, what a waste of activist energy, and what a disturbing display of intolerance by a movement that claims tolerance as one of its core principles.
my note this morning to even more heated calls for protest:
I support Pres-elect Obama’s ambition of broadening the conversation to include those with whom we don’t always agree. This is part of the change he promised.
If Warren agrees with domestic partner benefits, then we should focus on that as initial common ground and try to build from there.
Our community is coming across as radical, polarized and unreasonable. We are losing face as a result of our public response to this.