Eugene Robinson is a Crumb from the Master's Table

02/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Alvear Author of Eat It Later. Mastering Self Control & The Slimming Power Of Postponement

That's what my roommate, filmmaker Cindy Abel, said to me in a heated debate about the twisted pretzel of the Obama-Warren-Robinson controversy. Here's the rest of our kitchen table coffee clash:

Cindy: Eugene Robinson is a crumb thrown from the master's table to those of us living on the edge of legal starvation. Are we supposed to be grateful that Obama picked a gay bishop without civil rights to pray at an obscure ceremony while the chief opponent of those rights gets to lead the invocation?

Mike: Obama promised change and he's delivering it.

Cindy: Giving a platform to an opponent of equality is not a change. We've had that for eight years.

Mike: It is a change. Would George Bush have chosen Gene Robinson for anything, even as a crumb? Think about this: An openly gay bishop is going to kick off a presidential inauguration. That's historic change. Look at all the good that's come out of this. Mainstream America has heard more gay voices and seen more gay faces -- it's harder to demonize the humanized.

Cindy: Well, of course good can come from bad, but why does something bad have to be committed in the first place?

Mike: Because unfortunately that's how progress is made. A Matthew Sheppard had to die to get people to see our humanity. A Harvey Milk had to die to accelerate a movement.

Cindy: That's partially true, but completely wrong, morally.

Me: If Nelson Mandela could get people who killed each other's families in the same room, Obama can get people who disagree on gay human rights to say the same prayer. I'm not discounting your hurt or your point of view, all I'm saying is that the pain is necessary if we're going to live in peace.

Cindy: I think it's good to have different points of view expressed in a forum of dialogue. But a ceremony, in which there is no discourse, only statement, is not the place. If Warren used the Bible to argue against Jews or Muslims having the same rights as Christians, would Obama have given him this honor? Would the Martin Luther King Center?

Me: No...

Cindy: So there you have it. Obama does not give gay people the same respect as other groups. That's the kick in the gut.

Me: I don't disagree. But you think we're living in 2009, when, from a civil rights standpoint, we're probably somewhere in the late 1960's. George Wallace was not considered a racist by the mainstream then and Rick Warren is not considered a homophobe now. I'd rather make friends with him -- meet him where he is and move him towards our humanity -- than to stay with the politics of polarization. Now be a dear and pass me the half-and-half.

Cindy Abel is a film maker and board member of Victory Fund (a PAC that works to elect openly gay candidates to public office)

Author, columnist and TV personality Mike Alvear writes about sex, love and vodka.