For Obama, picking an anti-gay pastor to deliver the nation's prayer at his inauguration may result in a net gain of political capital.

While the pro-gay left media has been busy pointing out the inconsistencies of choosing Saddleback megachurch leader Rev. Rick Warren – he likened gay marriage to polygamy and an incestuous relationship, while Obama says he is a “fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans” – social conservatives, particularly the evangelical left, has been heaping praise on Obama – effectively canceling out any loss of political capital he may have otherwise suffered.

Even progressives are ready to move on. In an eloquent enough 1500-plus word essay, New York Times columnist Frank Rich calls the capital spent on Warren “small change.”

But the outrage at selecting Rev. Rick Warren – openly gay Congressman Barney Frank said he was “disappointed”, while openly lesbian MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow called him “the wrong choice” – is being outweighed by the praise he has received from evangelicals.

The choice seems to have particularly delighted three social conservatives – Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins and William Kristol – who now join Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, Douglas Kmiec and Richard Cizik in their praise of Obama.

All seven men continue to denounce abortion rights and gay unions – several called grassroots protests against California's gay marriage ban “mob intimidation” – but appear to be moving steadily left on issues such as poverty, AIDS and the environment. Some have even lowered the heat when speaking about abortion.

Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told Christianity Today: “Barack Obama has shown he's going to reach across these boundaries. He is including evangelicals at this inauguration, but I don't know if he'll include them in his administration. Time will tell. But Rick Warren will have Obama's ear on important issues.”

Tony Perkins, president of the über conservative Family Research Council, posted these thoughts about Warren on his website: “I'm heartened by this choice of one of America's leading evangelical pastors who is pro-life and pro-marriage for this honor. It was magnanimous of Obama ...”

And conservative Weekly Standard editor William Kristol appears tickled pink by the decision. Writing in the New York Times, he said: “I also have to admit that I look forward to Obama's inauguration with a surprising degree of hope and good cheer. For one thing, there will be the invocation, delivered by Rick Warren. I suspect he'll be careful to say nothing pro-life or pro-traditional marriage – but we conservatives have already gotten more than enough pleasure from the hysterical reaction to his selection by the tribunes of the intolerant left. And having Warren there will, in fact, be a welcome reminder of the strides the evangelical movement and religious conservatives (broadly speaking) have made in recent decades.”

After winning an election that clearly divided Americans on social issues, and where Democrats made significant inroads into previously Republican strongholds, it appears the leader of the Democratic Party, President-elect Barack Obama, is willing to sacrifice gay rights to gain the favor of evangelicals. An altogether predictable result considering nearly half of the nation would categorize themselves as very religious.

Favoring a homophobic pastor to such an honorable position and gaining political traction from that misstep can only spell trouble for gay rights activists who had viewed the election of Obama as the silver lining of an otherwise somber Election Day.