The fallout over President-elect Barack Obama’s pick of a highly popular, yet anti-gay pastor for inauguration day includes a Georgia connection.
Harry Know, a former executive director of Georgia Equality, was included in a report about the flap Thursday on NBC’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Knox, now director of the religion and faith program for the Human Rights Campaign, has been in Georgia recently to work on Jim Martin’s failed campaign for U.S. Senate.
In his typical straight-shooting style, Knox criticized Obama’s choice of evangelical megapastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation next month at his swearing-in.
“By making this pick, the president-elect really sent a message to me and my community that we don’t matter as much to him as people that didnt even vote for him,” Knox says in the report.
Know summed up what’s been lighting up the gay blogosphere since the pick went public Wednesday: Obama stepped right into the middle of his controversy over gay issues, though this one seems self-inflicted and Obama seems ready for the fight. From the Washington Post:
President-elect Barack Obama this morning defended his choice of evangelical megapastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at next month’s swearing-in, saying that although he differs with the conservative pastor on social issues, he wants to have diverse voices at the ceremony.
“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,” Obama said at a morning news conference to announce several financial appointments. “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.”
Warren’s has a track record of opposing a host of progressive issues, including speaking strongly in favor of Proposition 8. That measure, approved by California voters last month, banned same-sex marriage in the state.
Gay rights advocates and progressives denounced the decision to associate with Warren, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and stem cell research, immediately after inaugural organizers announced the lineup for the ceremony yesterday.
The Human Rights Campaign sent a blistering letter to Obama (D) in which it called the choice of Warren “a genuine blow” to gay Americans, who supported Obama overwhelmingly in his race against Republican nominee John McCain.
The letter noted Warren’s vocal support of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure banning gay marriage in the state that was approved by California voters last month. “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,” the letter said.
The announcement of Warren’s role in the inauguration comes during a week in which Obama’s gay supporters also criticized the lack of any openly gay Cabinet picks.
Chuck Wolfe, executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, criticized President-elect Barack Obama today for failing to name an openly gay member to his Cabinet.
“As we talk about either keeping or renewing America’s promise, which the president-elect has been talking about, apparently it does not yet extend to gay and lesbian people in the Cabinet of the president,” Wolfe said.
Gay activists lobbied Obama to select Mary Beth Maxwell, a lesbian and founding executive director for American Rights at Work, to become the next labor secretary. But NBC News reported today that Obama had picked Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for the position.
The selection of Solis for labor secretary, the last open Cabinet seat in Obama’s administration, meant there were no remaining opportunities for an openly LGBT person to take a Cabinet-level position in the next White House.
But the criticism of Obama by some gay supporters drew its own critics, including gay blogger Chris Crain who offered this in a post on the brewing controversy:
Barack Obama’s offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.
Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage—come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a “strategery” role in the No on 8 campaign.
Never mind all of those things because they do not matters as much as ideological purity, as defined by those who somehow think of themselves as “progressive” despite their own naked intolerance. We must demand exclusion in the name of “unity”! Isn’t that ironic, doncha think?