President-elect Barack Obama has outraged the gay community by inviting Rick Warren, a highly influential evangelical minister, to deliver the invocation at his January 20, 2009, inauguration. Warren, whose Saddleback Church is located in Lake Forrest, Orange County, is the author of Purpose Driven Life and came out strong for the passage of Proposition 8.
“When it was revealed that Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation – I felt sucker-punched,” writes Karen Ocamb, longtime lesbian journalist and news editor for Frontiers magazine.
(Obama-Warren photo: Buck/EPA)
The Obama inauguration team says that Warren was asked in a spirit of inclusion, and Chris Crain, a former editor at the Washington Blade, defends that logic. That may sound good, but did Obama see any of the live television images of thousands and thousands of people — straight and gay — marching in streets across the country to protest the fact that an existing right was taken away from gays and lesbians in California? Even straight folks like Tina Dupuy, editor at MediaBistro's FishbowlLA, is taking Obama to task: “Is the KKK going to be invited too – since we're being all-inclusive?”
It was almost a year ago that I confronted then Senator Obama at a Pacific Palisades fund raiser organized by two, openly gay staffers: Jeremy Bernard and Rufus Gifford. After Obama gave a speech, the rich, famous and powerful huddled around him, shaking his hand and asking for autographs. The whole scene felt kind of weird, with few people asking the presidential candidate to tackle certain issues.
So I was standing in the middle of a kitchen in a very modern mansion in a very swanky part of town, knowing Obama would have to pass through and remembering he had been getting a lot of headlines for reaching out to “people of faith.” Which was fine with me, but he was
mostly talking with Christian folks like Rick Warren, not gays and
lesbians in their own churches.
Obama then walked into the kitchen. We made eye contact, and the senator walked straight towards me with his hand extended. I shook it and immediately said, “Hello, Senator, I'm gay.” He nodded. Then I asked him that during his outreach to people of faith, I hoped he would also meet with gay and lesbian pastors and their congregants.
Obama, to his credit, didn't squirm away. He stood still and looked at me straight in the eyes. Then he tapped me on the chest and said when he visited churches, he made a point of telling people that homophobia had to stop.
“Yes,” I replied, “but…”
Obama cut me off.
“But you're right,” he said, “I need to do more.”
“I certainly hope you will,” I said.
Then he walked off.
I liked Obama's answer, but now his actions are showing something else. Once again, the gay community has been put on notice, which may be a good thing. For too long, politicians like Obama have gotten a pass from gays and lesbians for certain transgressions. The times, though, have changed. In this post-Prop. 8 era, there are no more free rides.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.