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 was homophobic.

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,” Solmonese wrote.

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 her audience.

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 even polygamy.

In an interview with 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 decision.