President-elect Barack Obama defended
his choice of megapastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his
inauguration. Gay rights groups began protesting the pick on
Wednesday – immediately after it was announced – saying Warren
But at a Thursday press conference
Obama said: “I am a fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian
Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on, and I
intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency. What
I've also said is that it is important for America to come together,
even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.”
That, however, was clearly too close
for Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors who has decided
to decline his invitation to the festivities.
“I have decided to decline the
invitation to attend the inauguration as I cannot be part of a
celebration that highlights and gives voice to someone who advocated
repealing rights from me and millions of other Californians,” he
said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Joe Solmonese, president
of Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights
advocate, made available a letter he sent to Obama asking him to
reconsider his choice.
“We feel a deep level of disrespect
when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is
given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination,”
The Reverend Rick Warren is the
spiritual leader of millions and heads the prominent evangelical
Saddleback Church in Southern California.
Warren and Obama first met in 2006 at
a Saddleback AIDS forum where the president-elect challenged him on
preaching against contraception.
A prominent leader in the evangelical
movement, Warren supports the outlawing of abortion in all cases and
is a staunch gay rights opponent.
On Friday, Warren appeared on NBC's
Today Show, where he told Ann Curry that even if proven
biological he would still be against homosexuality.
“If science finds that this is a
biological, indisputably, not something that can be explained in any
other way except that people are born gay, would you change your
position?” Curry asked.
“No,” Warren answered.
“Why?” Curry cried out.
“We all have biological
predispositions ... I'm naturally inclined to have sex with every
beautiful woman I see. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to
do. And why should I reign in my natural impulses and you say,
'Well, because I have natural impulses towards the same sex, I
shouldn't have to reign them in.' Well, I disagree. I think that's
part of maturity, I think that's part of delayed gratification, I
think that's part of character.”
“See, if you can just wait long
enough for that gay gratification eventually you may be able to delay
away the gay ... maybe,” Rachel Maddow said on the Friday edition
of her MSNBC show in response to Warren's comments.
Obama believes it would easier to
weather this anti-gay controversy than to rescind Warren's invitation
and face the wrath of the religious right, openly lesbian Maddow told
Since Wednesday's announcement, gay
blogs and left media have gone on to uncover more disturbing and
homophobic examples of Warren. Prominent blogger John
Aravosis of Americablog found a statement on Warren's
Saddleback Church website that said the church did not accept gay
members. And Andrew Sullivan, who blogs at the Atlantic
website, posted details about Warren's support for the ex-gay
movement which promises to “cure” gays through devout prayer.
“Rick Warren has masqueraded as a
moderate, when he is really just a folksy, focus-group tested clone
of Jerry Falwell on gay issues,” said Wayne Besen, executive
director of Truth Wins Out, a group that opposes the ex-gay movement.
“It is time people rip off the faux-mask of moderation and
understand that Warren is a phony and an extremist. It is
unconscionable that Obama used the stature of his office to further
elevate this anti-gay charlatan. What Obama did was truly
insensitive and I hope this move is not a harbinger of what we can
expect from this administration.”
Most disturbing to gay activists,
however, is Warren's support for Proposition 8 – the California
constitutional amendment that yanked back the right of gay and
lesbian couples from marrying in the state.
“Rick Warren has not sat on the
sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness,” Solmonese
said. “In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of
Proposition 8 [the gay marriage ban] 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.”
Warren, however, has gone further by
likening gay marriage to an incestuous relationship, pedophilia and
In an interview with Beliefnet.com
editor Steven Waldman, Warren said: “I'm opposed to having a
brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed
to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm
opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”
“Do you think, though, that they are
equivalent to having gays getting married?” Waldman asked.
“Oh, I do,” Warren answered.
Solmonese urged Obama to reconsider his