Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama Betrays Gays and Lesbians?

By now, Obama has recieved both praise and criticism, as well as every mixed reaction in between, for his selections and agenda. As some quip, his choices and behavior indicates only change from a Bush era to a more Clintonian era, which is only a step in another direction and not necessarily forward.

David Corn, a journalist blogger for Mother Jones, suggests that Obama's agenda, while baffeling to most progressives, might be "a sort of stealth liberalism draped in bipartisan centrism." He advises that "for the moment, the watchword for progressives ought to be a version of an old Reagan trope: hope, but verify…"

But Corn, along with half a dozen left-wingers and progressives, threw hands in the air in frustration when Obama announced that he has selected Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church, California, to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration ceremony next month.

While it's presumable that Obama may simply be sending Warren off to his conservative critics with an olive branch, he may have lost some important allies in the process: the gay and lesbian activists and Democrats that helped him establish base during his grassroots campaign to help him get elected.

"Here’s a question," says Corn. "Would Obama consider inviting Jeffress to give an invocation at an official event? I don't believe he would, for that could rightly be considered an insult to Mormons, Muslims, and Hindus. Which brings us back to the original matter: since Warren goes beyond arguing against gay marriage to denigrate gays and lesbians as the moral equivalents of those who engage in incest and pedophilia, it is a slap in the face of gays and lesbians for Obama to award Warren this prime plum."

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote Obama a letter saying, “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. 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."

According to The New York Times, "Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s presidential inaugural committee...noted that the benediction, or closing prayers, would be offered by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights icon who has expressed support for gay marriage, and that the Lesbian and Gay Band Association would march in the inaugural parade, the first time such a group would do so."

Nonetheless, some in the LGBT internet community, such as LeBain, stated with cynicism, "Gay and lesbian Democrats have been double crossed again, just like the were double crossed by Clinton twice. When will they learn?"

Only time will tell how far Obama is willing to go, and how much Americans are willing to trust him. But as Corn states, "If strong progressive voices are not included in Obama's wild and woolly free-for-alls at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., they will have little choice but to find outlets on the outside (remember the Internet?) -- and become their own agents of change." Those who depended on Obama for real change may find themselves back to square one. And no amount of compromising from Christian conservatives who profess liberal, progressives views will be able to stand under scrutiny when actions are brought to light. Warren has made biting remarks about the LGBT community (even going so far as to compare homosexuality to pedophilia) while hiding behind a front of "close friends" who are openly gay.

But that doesn't fool gay and lesbian activists. As Corn observes of Warren and his ilk, "They want to keep attention focused on the altar, not acceptance."

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