Not a Disagreement among Friends … NCLR on Rick Warren
Even as we endured the passage of Prop 8 and three other anti-gay measures on November 4, we took comfort in the near end of the most treacherous administration in recent history and the historic election of a man who seemed to live and breathe a genuine commitment to equality, fair play, and political integrity. Many of us believed that the election of the first African-American President, in a nation with such a shameful and entrenched history of white supremacy and racism, signaled a greater commitment to, and appreciation of, the unmatched diversity and pluralism of this country. This hope cushioned the blow—we hurt, but we had reason to believe things would get better.
Now, six short weeks later, we have reason for worry. The invitation of Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, and a major proponent of Prop 8, to give the invocation at the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama is a dispiriting early signal that our new President may not fully understand LGBT people’s tenuous place in American life. Objections to the selection of Warren are being dismissed as a desire to shut out diverse voices and alternate points of view. But this is not an issue of simple disagreement. In the past weeks, Warren has said that legal recognition of same-sex couples is as serious a threat to family life as incest and pedophilia.
Warren’s views represent the most extreme outer margin of religious views on LGBT issues. He denies the existence of lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation and his public statements demean our relationships and our humanity. While there may indeed be a reasoned discourse on civil unions v. marriage, for Warren there is no debate. He rejects any recognition for our relationships and is a prime figure in the wholly discredited “ex-gay” ministry. One of the most powerful letters I have read on this subject comes from a former NCLR law clerk (pdf). To have Warren elevated to a national stage to offer a welcoming prayer for and with Obama, a man with perhaps more current moral authority than virtually any other living human being, is an event of enormous cultural and political significance.
It is impossible to imagine the President-elect giving a likewise endorsement to a leader of faith who espoused such dangerous, extremist views about any other minority group. But here we are. Before our new President, who embodies the hopes and aspirations for a new day, has even taken the oath of office, it seems the marginalization of the LGBT community begins.
We are now on notice: as brilliant and visionary as Obama is, it certainly seems he does not get gay people or our issues. So, now we must hold him accountable to the promises he has made. Eight years of brutal intolerance may be over, but the real work of a fully inclusive America begins anew.