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Rick Warren fallout: Do LGBT Americans Fit into Obama's Vision for Change?

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Like many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, I have spent the last six weeks eagerly watching President-elect Obama create his new Administration. Throughout his remarkable campaign, Obama was more inclusive of our community than any presidential candidate in history, and we worked hard--pounding the pavement, working the phones, and writing checks--to ensure he would become our nation's next president. As a religious leader I have also been heartened by his ability to speak to people of faith across our diverse communities. The euphoria of Obama's victory raised our community's hopes like nothing before, especially after eight long years of simply struggling to stand our ground.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. The elation of Obama's victory was tempered by the devastation of heartbreaking defeats in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and, of course, California. Our lives, our loves, and our families were put up to a popular vote--and we lost. A successful campaign for California's Proposition 8, based on lies and fear, put 18,000 married same-sex couples into legal limbo and stripped thousands more of the fundamental right to marry. But with Obama's place in the White House secured, at least there were prospects of some legal protections on the horizon.

But today, we don't feel hopeful anticipation of a new day in our country, and we don't feel optimism. We feel betrayed.

I had planned to join the estimated millions on the Mall here in Washington next month, to look up at the steps of the United States Capitol and watch history be made when an African-American man swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States. But now, this momentous day will be tainted. It will begin with a prayer uttered by Reverend Rick Warren, a man who has equated our relationships to incest and pedophilia and who strongly supported the passage of Proposition 8, the greatest blow struck against our community in 40 years.

Reverend Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California and a prominent voice in the evangelical community, strongly and publicly endorsed Proposition 8, calling it "not a political issue... [but] a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about" and minimizing the struggle for marriage equality as an alteration of "the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population".

And only days ago, he equated the marriage of a loving, same-sex couple to "having a brother and sister be together... to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage" and parroted the deliberate falsehoods of Proposition 8's proponents, suggesting the measure would have limited the free speech of religious leaders who spoke against homosexuality.

Yesterday, our last hope of an openly-LGBT cabinet appointee faded away. President-elect Obama has said he aimed to build a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of America. But after all his bold, first-time-ever mentions of LGBT equality--in his legendary address at Invesco Field, during his historic first speech as president-elect before a rapt crowd in Chicago--have we now disappeared? Are we not part of his America?

What can we conclude from Reverend Warren's presence other than that inflammatory anti-LGBT viewpoints are - unlike racism, sexism or religious intolerance -- an acceptable part of President-elect Obama's vision of political discourse? Let's face it: a religious figure - admirable works fighting poverty or disease notwithstanding - who had advocated that the California Constitution should bar interracial marriages, or women working outside the home, or Jews holding public office would never share the inaugural stage with the President of the United States. But for LGBT people, the standard remains different.

On January 20, 2008, early in his candidacy, then-Senator Obama gave a remarkable speech at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, in which he took the African-American church to task for scorning "our gay brothers and sisters" instead of embracing them. This was a powerful message in a symbolically powerful place - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's church--that LGBT people of all faiths and colors heard and knew hope.

On January 20, 2009, the man who has been asked to raise up his hands and invoke the blessings of the divine on the historic beginning of the Obama Presidency believes that that same Supreme Being condemns the equality of LGBT people under law.

That message on the steps of the United States Capitol will, I dare say, have greater power and symbolism than last year's words from Dr. King's pulpit, and will say much more to LGBT people about how an Obama Administration truly values them.

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