The blogosphere is aflame with the announcement that a controversial Evangelical pastor and marriage equality opponent, Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, will be delivering the invocation at President-elect Obama's inauguration in January. Saddleback also hosted a question-and-answer forum with Obama and then-competitor Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in August.
"This is a horrific insult to the thousands of LGBT Americans who worked to elect Barack Obama president," said Oxdown Gazette's Teddy Partridge, "and the millions of LGBT Americans who voted for him."
"This is more than a serious faux pas; this is an insult to all the queers and non-believers that worked their asses off to elect Obama-Biden," added blogger Mike Tidmus. "We need to let the President-Elect know that parading a homophobic bigot at his big parade rains on ours.
"Let me just say this really clearly," Warren said in a video plea, embedded below. "We support Proposition 8," California's constitutional gay marriage ban that was "needed," he said, because "four guys," otherwise known as the majority vote in the California Supreme Court, overturned the "will of the people" in affirming same-sex couples' right to marry in May. "And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage," he added, "you need to support Proposition 8."
"I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage," he told Steven Waldman in a BeliefNet interview. "I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage." Warren said that he considered those configurations equal to a marriage between two adults of the same sex because "for 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture, and every single religion...historically, marriage is a man and a woman."
"I have many gay friends," he said. "I've eaten dinner in gay homes...No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church. Kay and I have given millions of dollars...helping people who got AIDS through gay relationships. So they can't accuse me of homophobia--I just don't believe in the redefinition of marriage."
"Obama inaugural team, this is a big f*ck up a la Donnie McClurkin," added Pam's House Blend's Pam Spaulding. The President-elect, in late 2007, came under fire for his choice of Grammy-winning gospel singer and professed "ex-gay" Donnie McClurkin to perform at a gospel concert. Then-Senator Obama later said wasn't vetted "to the extent that the people were aware of his attitudes with respect to...LGBT issues." Obama also said in a November 2007 blog entry that McClurkin espoused beliefs "that I completely reject."
"I've been through this and have experienced God's power to change my lifestyle," he added. "I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too."
"It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama," People For the American Way said in a Wednesday statement. "Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors...Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn't need or deserve this position of honor. There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good."
The lineup at Obama's inauguration also includes benediction by Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery and musical performances by singer Aretha Franklin and star cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Opening remarks will be delivered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who headed the the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese has issued the following open letter:
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
As of this writing, no response has been received to e-mail requests to the Obama Transition Team and Senator Feinstein seeking comment.