At a press conference in Chicago this morning, President-elect Barack Obama responded to attacks from gay-rights advocates who say they his selection of Pastor Rick Warren, a critic of gay rights, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
Warren, a leader of the evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County,Calif., came out in favor of Proposition 8 — a ballot initiative that stripped gays of the right to marry in the state. The hot-button initiative narrowly passed, setting off a firestorm among gay rights advocates who took to the streets in protests across the state.
Obama, who often mentioned his support of gay rights in stump speeches, though not gay marriage, said today that he is a “fierce advocate for gay and lesbian Americans,” adding, “It’s something I’ve been consistent on.”
When pressed by a reporter on why he would invite someone with opposing social views to speak at his inauguration, Obama responded: “It’s important for Americans to come together, even if we have different social views…that dialogue, I think, is what my campaign has been about.”
For those who see gay marriage as one of the great civil rights struggles of this era, the “coming together” message doesn’t take away the sting.
California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs said to Politico:
“Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up in arms,” he said.
Obama, who has been commended for a near-flawless transition, might have just made his first major misstep.