Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that – in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California – is looking for a fight.
Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals’ staunch support for economic conservatism. But it’s his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.
“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.”
By Ben Smith, Nia-Malika Henderson
The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an “ex-gay” singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.
“There is a lot of energy and there’s a lot of anger and I think people are wanting to direct it somewhere,” Solomonese told Politico.
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In this Aug. 16, 2008 file photo, then Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, joins Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, for a discussion on moral issues. Aretha Franklin will sing, Warren will pray and more than 11,000 U.S. troops will be watching over the ceremonies in case of a terrorist attack during President-elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration.(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)