Alex Blaze

To all those folks telling us to keep it quiet about Rick Warren...

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 06, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, Billy Graham, Christie Keith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, inaguration, invocation, LGBT, Nate Silver, political power, rick warren, spiritual leader

Nate Silver has a post up about how Obama's transition website is more LGBT-friendly than his campaign site:

What to make of the difference? On the one hand, this would seem to demonstrate Obama's (over)sensitivity to the politics embedded in gay rights issues. A waffling, now-you-see-it, now-you-don't attitude toward gay rights is exactly what many in the community fear from the administration. On the other hand, one can argue that Obama is moving in the right direction, now willing to make a more explicit and comprehensive series of commitments to the gay community than he was while in campaign mode.

One consequence of the Rick Warren controversy is that Obama may now be under a greater amount of pressure from Democrats to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to pass ENDA, and to expand hate crimes statutes, and to do all of the above relatively quickly. As we have pointed out before, large majorities of the public are in line with the Obama position on all three issues. If Obama is not willing to expend the relatively modest amount of political capital required on those, then one can reasonably anticipate that he won't be willing to touch more controversial subject areas like adoption or civil unions.

More after.

I doubt the changes in the site are due to the Rick Warren outcry specifically, but I wouldn't doubt that the site looks better after a whole campaign season's worth of criticism of and skepticism about his stance on LGBT issues. (Queerty disputes Nate's timeline but agrees with his overall point.)

Which all makes me wonder why there are some in the community who want the rest of us to keep quiet on Rick Warren or any other issue when it comes to Barack Obama and the LGBT community. Are people genuinely skeptical of him? Yes. And they should be. That's not hate, that's just accepting reality - we've been through this process before.

In fact, I'd venture to say that one thing the queers have been good at, especially our national orgs, is keeping their mouths shut to avoid rocking the boat. HRC was quick on this one, but there have been other times when the same orgs have been far more concerned with staying in pols' good graces than registering displeasure with certain government actions.

But a byproduct of Prop 8 passing is the fact that the LGBT community is just getting more involved, informed, and angry. And that's a good thing. For far too long we've been apathetic when it comes to organizing and fighting back, and far too often we've just thought that we'd elect good people and we'd get what we want. Too bad politics doesn't work that way.

The good part about the anger unleashed after Prop 8 and Rick Warren is that it's authentic, as Christie Keith observed a little while ago:

Let me explain something very carefully, for those who don't know: none of what's going on in the fight for LGBT rights is part of a strategy, as should be apparent by our lack of a cohesive movement and any viable leaders. It's a true grassroots uprising among people who got a taste of freedom and decided we wanted more. We were no longer willing to settle for a long, slow, state by state battle, for death by a thousand cuts, for an extended period of second class citizenship.[...]

You say that equality for LGBT citizens is an "issue" that needs to take its place on the list of progressive causes, and not a fundamental civil right that is the very foundation and bedrock of our entire constitutional system: equality under the law.

You say we're too angry and it's not an effective strategy, completely missing that we're not strategizing; we're really this angry -- even me, a 49 year old lesbian who lives in San Francisco and has a good job. I'm so furious I often can't sleep, can't eat, and sometimes I shake with rage.

And I can't imagine why we'd ask people to stifle that.

If anything's going to put the Obama team on notice from the LGBT community, it's going to be outcry like this. Keeping quiet and being polite has never done anything for us, and it won't do anything for Obama either. He needs pressure from the left in order to get these policies through. Or, as FDR put it:

FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."

He understood that a President does not rule by fiat and unilateral commands to a nation. He must build the political support that makes his decisions acceptable to our countrymen. He read the public opinion polls not to define who he was but to determine where the country was - and then to strategize how he could move the country to the objectives he thought had to be carried out.

One thing that maybe a few people in the community aren't ready for is the fact that Obama is not going to be perfect. I think there's also a significant, cynical group out there who think that there's no chance of working with him, he's already another Bill Clinton.

The truth's probably somewhere in the middle, and he's going to need to feel pressure from us to act. There are going to be more stumbles in the future, and more bad ideas floated just to see what the community's reaction will be. And we have to be ready to raise hell at each point. Rick Warren's just practice.

One thing we do know, though, is that the Religious Right isn't telling evangelicals and other homophobes to sit quiet and not worry about Obama. And they won't just give up because he's a Democrat. They're going to be out there making noise on every turn, no matter what he's trying to do, no matter what concessions he's made to them in the past.

This is politics. We have to make noise. Shutting up is the absolute worst idea for the LGBT community right now, and I, for one, won't be participating.


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The psychology of human beings can be so much fun to watch as the drama plays out in full view of the world.

For eight years, we had a President who would bend to the demands from his base, the Religious Right. They view gay people as evil and vile people who do not deserve consideration. They spent a great deal of political capital to force their President to act against gay people and he listened to them. Them making demands on their President was considered wrong by gay people.

Now the gay community, who probably feels they are part of Obama's base, are starting to make demands on the up-coming President when it comes to Rick Warren. Gay people view Rick Warren as an evil and vile peson who do not deserve consideration. They are spending a great deal of political capital to force this new President to act against Rick Warren and he may listen to them. Them making demands on the new President is considered good by gay people.

I'm sure that there are a few people on this list who will see the irony in that. But, then majority will let their part in this passion play continue without see any irony at all, and even make excuses for it. Me, I just popped some popcorn (really, here at work) so I'll just watch this gay mini series as it comes to its conclusion, when Rick Warren says, "Amen" after his prayer on Jan 20. There will be limited commercial interruption.

You have to love the irony, care to share some of that popcorn!

We, that little "t" on the end of LGBT (at least as regarded by our 'national represenatives'.) know all about this sort of anger and feeling of betrayal, we went through it just last year and the year before in fact. We are still the one's who get killed or beat up more than anyone else, get discriminated against, treated as second or even third class citizens, the American version of the 'untouchables' of India.

The thing is, at least you have the numbers compared to us, so getting mad and getting vocal might be what is needed. Most people will not face an issue until it bites them in the ass if that issue does not directly effect them normally. That is why the economy got so screwed up, though warning signs were around for years.

Americans have never been known for their long term thinking and enlightened social conscience, at least not for the past century or so.

Get mad, get out, and get loud.

Hey maybe we should start a chapter of the Gay Panthers, or the Woosieman Underground?

Now that would really got the establishment's attention!

I don't really get the irony...

A few notable folks have switched sides between the two fights, like John Aravosis. But for the most part the homocons (like Chris Crain, Jamie Kirchick, Andrew Sullivan...) were in favor of splitting the ENDA and are now telling us that this isn't a big deal. They're fine and the rest of us don't have a right to complain.

Other than that there hasn't been a big movement, except for die-hard Obama fans.

Am I missing something?

Alex,
You either see it or you don't. It is not a bad or good thing if you can or can't.

It all depends on how far down the "Warren well" some LGBT have fallen on whether they can see the top or not. Those of us who haven't gone down the Warren well are still perplexed at all the people who are still willing to jump in. It will be interesting to see who climbs out of the well and who are willing to stay at the bottom, drowning in their anger.

i-ro-ny [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-]
–noun, plural -nies. 1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
2. Literature. a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.

3. Socratic irony.
4. dramatic irony.
5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
6. the incongruity of this.
7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.

He is a man associated with some vile and untenable positions, Monica. Silence denotes consent and I do not consent to Reverend Warren's positions.

Them making demands on their President was considered wrong by gay people.

That's an overly simplistic formulation. It presumes that gay people objected to the idea of a political base putting pressure on the President, when if fact the objection is not to the process but rather the intended results.

Phrased another way, what was objectionable was not that Bush's base thought he owed them something, but rather, the *objective* which they were trying to achieve by bringing pressure to bear upon him. What was offensive about the situation wasn't that the political pressure was unseemly, it was that it was anti-gay.

Does it not make sense that objecting to one's political opponents' motivations and goals does not immediately invalidate one's own goals?

In other words, gay folks were in the right to object to Bush's supporters, and they are also right to expect the new administration to have some consideration for our point-of-view. It's simply not an either-or type of situation.

Sometimes you have to make a simple analogy to make a point. I stand by what I said. Some LGBT people are acting no better than the Religious Right, AND, using the same lame excuses to justify their hate. Seems pretty simple to me, right Maura?

I mean, you can definitely make that argument, the one that the Right and the Left are the same and all that matters is how they argue for what they want.

There are a lot of people who think style is much more important than substance, including a large part of our political establishment.

But the rest of us are going to see a difference.

Anyway, what tactics are you talking about? Are LGBT people out there committing hate crimes against evangelicals?

Melanie Davis | January 6, 2009 3:53 PM

Depends on who you ask. If you ask the queer community, no we're not. If you go looking for incidents of it in the news, you don't find much evidence of anti-religious queer direct action. If you're a person caught in the misinfo loop of the Religious Right, you are at war. There are numerous unsubstantiated (and uninvestigated by the people hearing and spreading them) reports of people getting hurt, violent gay gangs, and of course the continued attack in our schools of the "recruiters."

Fear is control.

Melanie is correct. It's all a matter of perspective. Protesting Mormon churches was consider hate toward them. They consider hate crimes laws as a form of hate toward them as well, because they are not allowed to express their hate against us, even though the hate crimes law has nothing to do with hate speech.

The "tatics" has nothing to do with hate crimes. The key words in this entire Warren thing are "demand" and "anger." We are "demanding" Obama to drop Warren, and "angry" that he isn't. Simple, but it is still a "demand" and "anger."

The tactics used by the Religious Right toward Bush was also in the form of a "demand" and "anger." They "demanded" he do things against gay people and got "angry" when he didn't go as far as they liked.

So, the question is, "Can we accomplish the same desired results without resorting to acting like the Religious Right?" I get the impression that "demand" and "anger" is the only method some people are willing to use to handle an issue like this because they've seen it for so long from our enemies. Call it the "gay backlash" toward the last administration.

I actually kinda think Obama provoked us with the Warren choice on purpose, so we'd get all uppity and ornery and shift the discourse our direction a little further, and CREATE pressure so he can be all "i've got to respond to this". I'm totally serious! I think he's willing to cast himself as the villain, making it easier for us to make him do it!

He's a really good politician, and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

Look, I think Obama's a smart guy, but I don't think that he could have predicted this sort of reaction. I wouldn't have either.

Plus, I don't see why he'd want it. Isn't he supposed to be "No drama Obama"?

One thing that maybe a few people in the community aren't ready for is the fact that Obama is not going to be perfect.

Being a president of all the people, he cannot be our puppet on even the smallest of decisions --- and in the large scheme of things, the invocation at the inauguration is a small, passing thing: On the morning of January 21, it will all be over, without repercussions except for those that we insist on giving it.

Perhaps we could start calling each trivial little instance when he pisses us off a "Yo mama, Obama!" moment.

A.J., this is too funny. There is another term that will come out of all this, but it won't have to be aimed strictly at Obama. Whenever the gay community takes a trivial issue and blows it WAY out of proportion, we can say that they have "Warrenized" the issue.

Let me explain something very carefully, for those who don't know: none of what's going on in the fight for LGBT rights is part of a strategy, as should be apparent by our lack of a cohesive movement and any viable leaders. It's a true grassroots uprising among people who got a taste of freedom and decided we wanted more.
...
You say we're too angry and it's not an effective strategy, completely missing that we're not strategizing; we're really this angry -- even me, a 49 year old lesbian who lives in San Francisco and has a good job. I'm so furious I often can't sleep, can't eat, and sometimes I shake with rage.

Bully for her. That lack of a strategy over her right to marry in San Francisco is costing thousands of LGBT folks in Indiana dearly - since her rage gets transferred to our motives here.

I'm not saying she doesn't have a right to be angry - we all do. But we have different things to be angry about here and that lack of a strategy on her part ends up biting us in the ass when we have to keep changing our strategy to deflect the crap she stirs up. ("She" as in "they," really, I suppose.)

But, I'd hope that maybe she'll realize the damage her anarchy is causing her brother and sisters in the middle of America. Maybe that will cause her to lose some sleep. After all, we're losing ours now thanks to her.

I don't get it, Bil. How has the outcry over Rick Warren hurt Indiana?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 6, 2009 12:46 PM

I think its less important that gays are getting mad and more important that gays get politically smart. It doesn't do a whole hell of a lot of good to jump up and down screaming "no, no, no." That makes it far to easy to be dismissed as immature and childish.

It was good that gays responded swiftly and forcefully to Warren. Now, it is time to turn that energy into effective strategy that will accomplish legislative goals such as passage of an inclusive ENDA, hate crimes legislation and a national AIDS strategy.

ididitforthelulz | January 6, 2009 1:10 PM

So I guess the old saying of "choosing your battles wisely" is out? Rick Warren isn't going anywhere and it's been alienating quite a few people who care about more important issues. (That and racism/transphobia from within the community.)

We've heard countless stories about Rick Warren, and little to nothing on the rise of hate crimes against LGBT people.

Why can't the mainstream LGBT community be outraged by the latter? It's liek rly ridic u kno.

But then this is the same community that puts Gay Marriage about everything else so I guess I really shouldn't be surprised :)

Angela Brightfeather | January 6, 2009 1:24 PM

Ah, the irony of it all. Politics is probably the greatest and the most ironic of games that ia played on a national and international level. Is it any wonder why instead of teaching "politics" in colleges and universities, they teach some biological form of it called "political science" instead?

The GLBT people who lament that the boat should not be rocked by poltical rancor, are the exact same people who never said anything when the "T" was taken out of ENDA. They are the ones who put the pointer finger to the lips and whispered "shhhh, don't say anything divisive or we won't be allowed to sit at the big table and be part of the deal." They fear not for those on the streets or those who are discriminated against. They fear for their own political place in the political pecking order and they fear for their place in the all warming light of acceptance by the Big Kahuna, whoever that might be at the moment.

Their name might be Obama, Pelosi, Reid or any number of political higher ups who sit at the big table and take turns dealing the cards. And isn't the basis for all their complaining and the fear mongering, that We The People who want equality might disrupt the game long enough for them to look up and see the inequity in the system they oversee?

The only show I see out there now is the one that pits the "incrementalists" against the "activists". Actions like Prop 8 and ENDA only swell the roles of the activists, as the voices of the incrementalists rise in a fearful crescendo, warning them not to kick the can or wake up the sleeping giant of religious right backlash.

As a new player enters the table of politics, there appears to be hope. Not the hope that he will put his chips all in but that he will play his cards a little more closely to the chest, and every now and then throw a bluff at the other players to keep them guessing, while he bides his time and waits for the big hand where he can go "all in".

I remember reading months ago that Obama loves to play poker. I also read that he is really good at it and loves to gather his minions and friends at the table to play a lively game from time to time. Just maybe, that is what he is doing with Warren. He turns up the Black Jack of Spades on the table as his first card, when he is holding two aces in the hole and hoping to draw another ace or two pair.

Maybe politics is just a good game of poker and we are all hoping that we finally placed a person at the table who knows how to play the game for once. If Warren is a throwdown to get a better advantage on the draw and win the pot, I'm all for the play and if I was at the table I'd probably fold my cards and watch the action. But on the next hand I would be pushing that much harder for a few aces like ENDA, DADT and Hates Crimes in my hand.

Making up your mind to play or fold in this big game is always a challenge and only when the cards are face up, will you know if you've made the right choice. Even though the stakes may be very high and the pot holds the lives of GLBT people in the balance, I say let Obama play this hand his way. If I helped put him in the seat in the first place, then I should be willing to back his play.

So, I guess in this game, Warren would be the Ace Hole?

I agree that there should be some sort of peaceful and respectful protest during the inauguration. At this critical time, we cannot be silent and allow our lives and rights to be exploited yet again. Silence did not get women, African-Americans, Jews and Catholics anywhere in their historic struggles for equality in this country. Wearing a visible symbol such as rainbow flag or pink triangle (to symbolize the history of our LGBT struggle for equlaity) ALONG WITH turning our backs to the stage during Warren's invocation would be one way to convey our displeasure without being disruptive and disrespectful. Those watching on TV or online, should not tune in to (or tune away from) coverage AFTER Warren complete's his invocation.

Having fought and lived through the LGBT struggle for equality over the last 30 years, I can't say that I'm surprised by this turn of events with Obama. During the Presidential primaries and general election, I often tried to convey to rabid Obamanians that he would ultimately move to the center and result to political pandering, as in the case of Rick Warren. Even though I voted for Obama in the general election, it was because he was the lesser of two evils (I was a Clinton supporter in the primary). Hillary (not Bill) Clinton has been a more proven advocate for GLBT issues over the years, even though she is not perfect when it comes to our issues either. But unfortunately, either due to emotion or inexperience or both, many Obamanians refused to see how Obama could hypocritically sacrifice them and all their hard work for his own political purposes. And now, it appears that it's starting to happen. While I believe we must give him a chance as President to prove his commitment to LGBT equality, we must also remain ever-vigilant to ensure that happens. He should not get a free pass on this, given his campaign rhetoric in support of our community and the historic nature of his Presidency.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 7, 2009 8:10 AM

Lyndon, you are quite right, LGBT people, PFLAG, and attending friends and family of Gay persons could turn their backs on Warren just as he is speaking. Just as many have done as a controversial keynote speaker has addressed graduating college classes. That would send a quiet dignified message. No chanting or BS just an "about face" in groups and let the media know in advance it will happen. Unless, too few Gay people and FOGS ATTEND the inauguration to make an impact. Sorry, I'll be in Thailand, but I will watch.

In this manner we will appear civilized while showing protest and demonstrating how unimportant he is.

A shorter version of your post might read: "The squeaky wheel gets the oil."

"I have never known any action to be taken by a politician for a constituency that's silent about its needs."

That's a paraphrase from a friend who used to work on the Hill as head of a Congressman's office (a fairly important one at the time). Judging by some of the posts here, you would think some gays live in a land of "liberal" make-believe where we accomplish things quietly by sipping tea and debating politely.

A la - the Advocate Vichy Queens as typified in the movie Milk.

My friend's advice to me: Quiet means ignored. Demand what you want and you may at least get half. If you don't, you get none.

You can be vocal and still not act like the Religious Right, demanding and angry. It seems that is hard for people to grasp.

Equating us with the Christian rights is a false equivalence.

You also subject us to this mentality that tactics define whether something is good or bad. Protests are what you are equating with the Christian rights denial of rights. Your comments only make sense as an abstraction without any substance, and thus, you are just engaged in sophistry- plausible arguments that are actually false.

Your post lacks relevant context and frame of what's really and truly happening. Do you realize this? I mean- I know liberals and gays are so used to saying "sorry for putting my face in the way of your hand," but it's quite stunning the extent to which some of you are so conditioned to think any action to fight is per se bad.

Do you see what you just did here? What's hard for people to grasp is that you think that a line has been crossed anywhere near what the Christian right does. Do you really believe that?

If you do, that's why I question your judgment. When we start to a) Lie about the Christian right and denying their Constitutional rights (rather than the made up rights of pop culture definitions of rights that increasingly removes from reality) domestically; b) Force them internationally into situations that can result in death or imprisonment; then your statements may have validity.

Right now, your arguments are just hyperbole and more than like sophistry. Your argument sounds plausible so long as we divorce them from de facto context, history and legal circumstance. I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt that you don't realize this. Do you not get that you are making false arguments?

For what it's worth, I believe the stronger LGBT provisions on the change.gov transition website (compared to the barackobama.com campaign website) were there prior to the Rick Warren selection. It may be that post Prop 8 activism has influenced this, but the language was there prior to Warren.

Gay marraige was a strategic mistake because many heteros support domestic partnership. Ms Keith's rage over the issue is way over the top, and expending all this energy over bouquet tossing makes us look immature.
Likewise, the Warren issue is bull. He got a ceremonial slot because Obama needs support for a massive domestic agenda, not because he's abandoning us.
When will the community stop shooting itself in the foot?
How about this for a strategy? Argue with Warren directly without opposing Obama for choosing him. Hold a quiet boycott of the 8 backers. Argue that the Latter Day Saints should loose their tax exempt status. Switch our focus in the states to domestic partnership. And focus nationally on ENDA and national healthcare.

The City of Cleveland just had an ordinance block, which would have allowed gay couples to register domestic registries. The state of Ohio passed an amendment that blocks not just gay marriage, but also civil partnerships, etc. This is to tell you that quite plainly you are entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts. The facts say you are wrong as to what people are in America are willing to allow gay people to do. Until some of you get that there are huge swaths of America for whom this is about gays (as in you like the same gender) period, you will never get that. You will always think your b.s. is true. But it'snot Facts are stronger than what you claim to be true.

Right on, Alex. I'm no fan of Rick Warren, but as you point out, it's obvious that pouting and refusing to engage the right will only lead to defeat. Prop 8 is only the most recent example.

Obama has carefully cultivated his relationship with the evangelical community. Warren's inauguration prayer is just the beginning of a new generation of evangelical presence in the White House. Our community needs to step up and confront his and others' lies instead of withdrawing into fits of self-righteous anger. Homophobes will be homophobes. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

While we are waiting in the Wings for the Loaves and Fishes Act to sooth the economic woes, the Warren dog and pony show seems to have not gone off the radar screen. This morning I heard on MSNBC a commentary addressing the bumps in the Yellow Brick Road to Salvation. The Drama of No Drama Obama challenges were listed and those being addressed as gaffs were the Blogo Matter, Panetta and the Warren Affair. So the indifference the Obama Camp gave to the Tribes response to his choice of Warren has staying Power and credibility as a topic that has left a foot print in assessing his ability to see the bigger picture.