Tolerance, Equality and Unity

With Rick Warren appointed to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, suddenly the gay community takes notice. I’ve been astonished by a number of gays and gay-friendlies I know, who voted for Obama completely unaware that he is against gay marriage.

It’s not surprising to me that an evangelical pastor, who opposes gay rights, will help usher him into office. It’s not a purely political choice either, which people who’ve been listening to him all along will recognize. Obama is the only one of the major party candidates who cited religion as the reason he opposes gay marriage, even though his own UCC church officially supports it. Even Sarah Palin didn’t do that as far as I know. In fact, she talked candidly about her gay best friend, surely realizing that it would rile her conservative supporters.

Obama’s surrounding himself with people who disagree with him is a fine and noble idea, and I’ve supported some of his selections that other groups have opposed. Rewarding a person who has been intolerant of a group he proclaims to support, however, does merit some mulling over. What will this achieve, really? Some of his supporters propose that the choice might be out of a loyalty to Warren, or to appease fundamentalist Christians. But these don’t sound like legitimate reasons, and they don’t seem like things Obama would support either.

This is also not to say that Warren himself hasn’t done some good work, or that his role is anything more than symbolic, but there are plenty of open-minded clergymen who would be tolerant of opposition and support anti-discrimination policies too, for example, the former minister of Riverside Church in New York, Dr. Rev. James Forbes. I asked a friend who was making the argument for the “team of rivals” if it would have been okay with her had he chosen Rev. Jeremiah Wright instead. She gasped and said, “No, point taken.”

Gay marriage has not been an issue that is more important to me than universal healthcare, the economy, the wars, or the destruction of the environment. Marriage itself has never been a main concern of mine, and equal rights under the law are more important to me than religious ceremonies, which could still be practiced with civil unions. But with the passage of Proposition 8, revoking the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage, it moved significantly higher up on my priority list.

What solidified the change in my thinking was a friend in Holland, where same-sex marriage is legal since 2001. I asked her what it was like living in a country where it’s legal, and she said, “Now that we have it, I think it’s important that people have that option, more than I did before we had it. It changes people’s perception of gay relationships, gay people’s and straight people’s perception and it feels as if this change in perception has happened in an almost gentle way (not everywhere and by everyone) in comparison to some of the hard fights that had to be fought to get to this point. To me, that’s beautiful and an important step, more than I could have anticipated.”

That’s reason enough for me to stand up for it, to offer legitimacy to everyone in this country not only in actuality but in perception as well. Some things are not okay, and it’s important to point those things out. Obama seems to be asking for that as well. Separate but equal is not okay, and only through true equality can we hope to achieve real unity.

– Hope Dascher

Related Stories:

Obama’s Choice Of Warren Is Very Disappointing By Rep. Barney Frank
“Religious leaders obviously have every right to speak out in opposition to anti-discrimination measures, even in the degrading terms that Rev. Warren has used…”

Disappointed by Rick Warren By Joan Walsh
“I am not theoretically opposed to Obama choosing an antiabortion gay-rights critic; I’m opposed to Warren himself. He’s a poster boy for kinder, gentler 21st century bigotry…”

Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage By Patrick Healy
“The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.”

United Church of Christ Backs Same-Sex Marriage By Shaila Dewan
“The United Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage officially …”

Obama on Warren by Ben Smith
“Obama makes the case for including people he disagrees with in the inauguration… ‘I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency…’”

How the hell did Rick Warren get inauguration tickets? By Mike Madden
“…Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. ‘[Warren’s] job there is to kind of represent the spiritual totality of our nation. When that sort of person is put there, it definitely makes our community stop and think…'”

Justin Bond Is Living
“…it seems we need to be fighting for two things.
1) The repeal of tax-exempt status for any organization that uses that status to disrupt our democracy…
2) The word “Marriage” should be stripped from all civil codes and laws…”

Freedom or Power? by Andrew Sullivan
“The key point about marriage rights for gays, after all, is that they do not affect or change marriage rights for straights. No one’s rights are removed.”

1 Comment »

  1. Stella Chance Said,

    December 23, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

    Dear Hope,

    I think that Obama’s choice of Rick Warren is at best a tone-deaf selection for inclusion at his inauguration. Like many, I also profoundly disagree with Obama’s position that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” And I learned from you about his citing of religion when discussing marriage.

    So I looked that one up. I think you are referring to this quote: “For me as a Christian, it is a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

    Now I don’t know what he was getting at with this one. And I don’t like it much…but perhaps he meant to say that he feels that marriage is a religious institution and therefore as a politician his job is not to insert himself in that debate. Based on the context, and all his other comments on the subject, I’m inclined to believe he meant it this way.

    If the government wasn’t deep in the marriage business that argument would hold more water. I think that government should be in the business of certifying civil unions for all (with all rights and benefits)—and relegate marriage to religious institutions. But the government is in the biz, and that’s why this is muddy.

    Not to excuse him entirely, but I think it should be noted that Obama made this comment only once (as far as I know), and it was at that Rick Warren evangelical forum with him and McCain. So they were supposed to get all religulous, and I guess Obama overreached a little there! But I wouldn’t cite his comment in this forum as anything more than a glimpse into his personal views on the subject—not necessarily a formal policy position. The distinction is important.

    In fact, he has been quite clear about his position on gay marriage and part of it is his conviction that he will not support a ban on gay marriage (he opposed Prop. Eight) nor will he be a proponent. But he is committed to guaranteeing civil rights, including all of the rights afforded by legal marriage. It is long overdue that a president focuses on these issues. No other politician who has come so close to the White House has offered more—it’s a good start.

    Which brings me to your comment about Sarah Palin, which I thought was misleading.

    You say that unlike Obama, she hasn’t brought religion into her comments on gay marriage. It’s important to note that she brings religion into almost everything she talks about. Also, she barely has any utterances on the subject of gay rights at all (“on the issues” has nothing in this category for her—lots for Obama). Obama’s positions are well-documented. The only clip I have come across where Palin discusses gay marriage (link below) is more notable, not because she doesn’t mention god in this clip (but it’s there between the lines) but rather because she says that though she won’t stand in judgment of anyone, she still would do everything she could as a legislator to ban gay marriage (my wording, her inference).

    So, she has no problem with the idea of a federal ban on gay marriage (without judgments, of course), while Obama clearly says he would not support a ban while vigorously supporting all rights of marriage for same-sex couples. Meanwhile Sarah Palin has a murky record when it comes to supporting benefits for same sex couples.

    To say that Obama “cites religion as the reason he opposes gay marriage” kind of makes it sound like he wants to ban gay marriage, which he doesn’t. And to say the Sarah Palin hasn’t gone this far, ignores the fact that her stance is to outright ban gay marriage. And ignores that her religion seems to inform all of her policy. The real distinction here is who wants to ban gay marriage and who doesn’t. In this respect it is Sarah Palin who goes too far!

    And a tangential question: Where is this gay best friend of Palin’s?

    Here are two videos, one of Obama and one of Sarah Palin, on gay marriage:


    Stella Chance

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