Scott Kaiser

Make Your Voice Heard About Rick Warren

Filed By Scott Kaiser | December 18, 2008 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, controversy, inauguration, Pastor Rick Warren

As a gay American who supported, campaigned, and voted for Barack Obama, I cannot even begin to tell you how disappointed and hurt I feel by the choice of anti-gay Pastor Rick Warren to lead the inaugural invocation. Although I respect differences of opinion on social issues such as gay marriage, choosing Warren sends a strong message that the GLBT community is not being welcomed by the new administration with the same respect being given to the conservative right.

I know many of you are upset as well, so what can we do? Fortunately a Facebook group has posted some steps you can take to make your voice heard.

Let me state up front that I do not believe that Obama or his staff will uninvite Pastor Warren at this point (Obama defended the choice this morning), but vocalizing our outrage now might help the administration be more sensitive to our community in the future so your action is important.

From the Facebook group No Rick Warren at Obama Inauguration:

Anti-gay pastor Rick Warren has been selected to give invocation at Obama inauguration. This is an utter nightmare and a total insult to the LGBT community and their straight allies.

There are few things you can do about this:

  1. Send Obama a letter at and ask Rick Warren to be removed from the event!
  2. Email Parag Mehta, Obama's LGBT liaison on the transition team at to express your concern.
  3. Emmett Belivau is the Executive Director/CEO of the Inaugural Committee. Let him know your thoughts:
  4. Have your voice to be heard and send emails to the members of Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, including

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein

    Sen. Harry Reid

    Sen. Bob Bennett

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi

    Rep. Steny Hoyer

    Rep. John Boehner

  5. Post your letters on the discussion board. Let the whole world know why are you disappointed and outraged!
  6. Ask your friends and family members to do the same.

Update 12/19/2008 1:00pm MST:

The Human Rights Campaign, recognizing that Barack Obama is not going to change his mind about Pastor Warren, is asking people to sign a petition to call on our president-elect to support HRC's Blueprint for Positive Change -- a five-point plan for LGBT Equality in America. You can read more and sign the petition here.

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I have a differing view here on this issue. I think that the President -elect is trying to not to look exclusive in that he has this conservative Xtian giving the invocation and a liberal Xtian who supports LGBT rights giving the benediction. I think that it is in keeping with the inclusive character of Obama because he has to lead everyone in this country so what is to be gained by alienating a large group right off the bat? I personally do not feel alienated or bothered because he is including a conservative and a progressive in this process. I could easily decide to become offended because one of them does not agree with my views but I choose not to I also choose not to be bothered by the fact that he has two xtian ministers but my own faith is not represented.
I just think that he is making an effort to make more people feel included and I choose to look for the places where I am included and not act like the inclusion of one with whom I disagree constitutes exclusion.

Scott Kaiser Scott Kaiser | December 18, 2008 8:31 PM

True, but Obama could have chose a pastor from the right who, while still opposed to gay marriage, has not publicly compared it to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy like Warren has.

A Civil Rights icon (from Atlanta)Joseph Lowery will be giving the benediction. Warren is giving the open prayer, but people will remember the closing prayer.

To the others on this list,
Some people need to get a life. Obama promised to reach across the aisle to embrace EVERYONE and that's what he's doing. Just because Warren is doing the opening prayer, doesn't change Obama one bit. Do I have to remind you all that Obama DOESN"T SUPPORT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. Joseph Lowery does. Are we going to see gay people whine every time Obama speaks with a homophobe?

Should I remind the rich people on this list that most Americans are hurting financially? So, Obama has his plate fuller than a Sumo wrestler in an all-you-can-eat restaurant. We don't even register on his radar. Live with it.

LOL @ Sumo reference. That made my morning.

I agree with you, Monica. I think it's great that Lowery is speaking, and I love the tie-in to the Civil Rights struggle.

I keep thinking that a lot of us are overreacting to Warren. We have bigger battles - ENDA, DOMA, DADT, etc - coming up. Let's hold Obama's feet to the fire on the things he actually promised to do.

Meghann Burke | December 18, 2008 9:22 PM

I embrace Obama’s approach to bringing people from all sides of the ideological spectrum to solve the crises of our existence. As a gay Midwestern woman from a middle class background, I am more than willing to say that gay marriage is the least of our troubles. By “our,” I mean the collective “we.” War. Poverty. AIDS. Health. Education. To the extent that it matters to reinforce identity, these issues matter as much to the queer community as to any group of folks in this country. I am beyond supportive of bringing supporters of Prop 8 to Obama’s inner circle in order to problem-solve the greatest issues of our time.

But that is precisely the heart of the matter: these aforementioned “social issues,” to quote Obama, are just that. Issues. Humanity is not an “issue.”

Rick Warren and I have a fundamental disagreement about the facts. Whether my wife and I are pedophiles is not an issue. It is a fact that we are not. Whether gay people comprise less than 2% of the population is not an issue. (Note to Rick: you argument is logically flawed in that if we really are only 2% of the population, then you need not worry about our vast presence as a “humanitarian issue.”) It is a fact that every community on Earth, across race, sex, gender, religion, ability, religion, nationality, consists of up to 10% of said population – and those are just folks who are brave enough to identify themselves as queer. How does one reach across the ideological divide to solve the greatest crises of our time when we disagree about the facts?

My humanity is not up for debate. It’s a fact.

It is also a fact that a significant portion of the people who are survivors of HIV and homelessness are queer. The best data we can collect (which is difficult to accumulate for obvious reasons) shows that 40% of homeless youth are queer. 50% of new HIV cases in the United States this year will have been transmitted through male-to-male contact, many of whom will not identify as “gay.” How does Rick Warren intend to combat poverty and HIV when he denies half people dealing with AIDS and homelessness their humanity?

The trouble with parsing out “issues” while denying facts is precisely this kind of paradox. Obama can – and should – surround himself with advisors and thinkers who disagree about whether gay marriage is the “issue” to focus on in his first term. (It’s not.) Obama can – and should – wrestle with the tough questions of how to provide breakfast to poor kids in elementary schools, or how to decrease the rate of HIV transmission, or how to decrease unwanted pregnancies. But Obama himself should know this: when you deny a person’s humanity, when you deny their dignity – you deny the very avenue through which you might actually address their human, economic, and social rights. A country is ready to say that a person deserves housing, healthcare, or employment when a country is ready to recognize that the person’s humanity is worthy of recognition.

By selecting Warren to call upon God on what should be a joyous day, Obama has tacitly endorsed the dumbing down of our nation’s discourse: a ranting fight over facts rather than a thoughtful debate over ideas. Obama’s public statement that he seeks to bring together both sides of “social issues” conflates facts with issues. The suggestion that he is balancing the conversation with "Yes" and No" on Prop 8 positions conflates where one stands on gay marriage with where one stands on the fact that gay people are just that: people. Obama had an opportunity to raise the low bar of entry into our national conversation at an agreement on the facts we know to be true. By violating this even before he took his Oath, Obama has registered an official warning signal that the recognition of a person's humanity will continue to be an "issue."

I have written many variations, but it all comes down to one thing that appears in all my emails and letters:

You cannot be inclusive of hate and remain inclusive of the objects of that hate.

Don't be "hurt", just use it as a learning experience. You were electing another politician, not the second coming of the Messiah. See it as ....another day wiser.

Yes, I expect Obama chose Warren as the obvious purpose-driven selection, in an attempt to keep conservatives from going on the warpath. Warren is white. He's conservative. He's pro-life. He does stop short of being a total Neanderthal, and at least recognizes that HIV victims deserve health care instead of just morality lectures. Things could be worse.

But seeing that Obama is a Harvard man, I would have much preferred Peter Gomes.

(No, Rev. Jesse Jackson didn't make the short list ... having your male parts discussed in public is not very presidential, and Jackson has demonstrated he can be a bit careless while the mike is hot.)

For goodness sake, it's just a prayer. It's not like Warren became the National LGBT Advisor. It's not like Obama has endorsed proposition 8 (he specifically came out and opposed it). Obama has been the most pro-LGBT president we've had.

He may be a prick, but Warren represents a major part of the America we've got, though it may not be the one we want. It's like saying, don't invite grandma to Christmas because she's a racist. We don't want to appear to promote racism. Instead let's invite Aunt Sue, who is more enlightened.

"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 19, 2008 4:38 AM

Hear Hear! By overreacting to this I think we weaken our cash in chips. Would it not be interesting if the Benediction includes an inclusive message. I'll be watching and so will the bigots courtesy of Warren's presence.

Just in case you were worried that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Keith Olberman would be out of material when Bush slithers off into the sunset:

Frank Gurucharri | December 19, 2008 6:22 AM


Frank Gurucharri

[This is a copy of my letter to our leaders in Scott K's list above.]

The gay community has been accused (in most cases, infuriatingly so) of being as intolerant of others as we accuse others of being toward our issues. In most cases people spouting that crappolla are the biggest 'phobes and saying it with an vaguely evil smirk.

Not unlike Rick Warren's spine-chilling laugh and smile @ the suggestion of his homophobia. When truth be told, WE and HE knows he's a big ol' Get-Behind-Me-Sodomites Holy Homophobe. Yeah. Without a doubt.

But even he knows its not PC to admit that bias. That alone says a whole lot.

However, like it or not, LGBT America is not all of America. The sun doesn't rise and set for our issues or our beliefs. I mean, who do we think we are -- Christians?

Bottomline, Obama is the president of the extremely enlightened and the butt-ignorant. Sometimes he's gonna make decisions that piss off the left, sometimes the right -- which is a whole lot better than Bush who just blew the right for 8 years while consistently pissing off the left.

Telling Obama he can't let Warren speak when a vast swath of Americans believe Warren speaks their values smacks of our own brand of inflexibility ... or, uh, intolerance. Yes. It. Does.

As much as he makes me wanna vomit, we have to accept his ignorant seat at the table if we hope to have our seat respected by those who dislike us as intensely.

They cried long and hard on election night. Let's give them their brief moment now without kicking and screaming like spoiled brats in a toy store. Please. It won't kill us.

We won, remember. Sheeesh....

Looks like you, myself and some others here seem to have a healthy outlook on this issue and want to put it in perspective. Like you said, it's just a prayer. He's not making a policy statement. The important things coming up will consume all Americans. Let's focus on those.

Lots going on here, but I want to comment on at least one thread of thinking. Seems like lots of people are saying a variation of this:
"It's just a prayer, we have bigger fish to fry."

This sort of claim strikes me as strange. Sure, we ultimately have limited resources and time, but why in the world can't we stand up to Obama's decision to have Warren have a prominent role in Obama's inauguration and at the same time be concerned about the other, so-called "bigger" issues? I'm not going to stay awake nights worried about Warren in the way that I sometimes do worrying about whether or not LGBTQ people are treated with the same respect that others are treated, but that doesn't mean that I can't stand up and say: Obama disappointed me by asking this hateful bigot to be a part of his inauguration.

If those who ask us to save our energy for larger issues are worried, don't worry--I still have lots of energy for criticizing Obama's stance on Iran, so-called "clean coal", his misogyny during the campaign, etc. (I'm also excited about having an intelligent president, and one who actually answers questions, etc...but I figure there are plenty of people singing Obama's praises and not enough people calling him on his bs when it comes up.)

Just a prayer? There's no such thing as 'just a prayer!' - especially when prayer meets with politics at the Inauguration of the most important elected leader in the world. Even up here in icy-cold Canada we can see that. To quote Harry Knox from HRC on last night's News Hour on PBS, "Prayer matters!" Sure, if Warren were to make a genuine appeal and commitment to dialogue and reconciliation, then I'll say that's change I can believe in, but does anyone really think that's likely? Meanwhile, he's basking in the contoversy and playing straight to his fundamentalist anti-queer constituency - America's pastor indeed! Ask LGBTQ Californians, they'll tell you that in this case "prayer matters" a lot! more than their equality before the law. It's great that there's band in the inaugural

Following your logic, then I guess it would be ok for the Imperial Wizard of the KKK to offer the opening prayer, as well. How about Louis Farrakhan? They say he helps the poor. This is not about a "social issue", it's about GLBT Americans getting CIVIL RIGHTS. What a shame our first African American president doesn't even get this basic premise of the gay rights movement. Instead, he legitimizes a right wing religious extremist who compares gay marriage to pedophilia. This is not "Change we can believe in." Shame on PEBO.

Hyperbole and canned phrases sounds like the opposions tactics to me, Rick -- 'gay marriage will lead to people marrying their DOGS!'... yada yada. It was silly then. It still is.

Monica's correct when she says "one issue queers", and I'll add this whole thing smacks of people who want everything, right now, this very second, or they'll stamp their feet and hold their breath.

I love my gay brethren but this is pretty pathetic.

Obama has been putting together a team that both sides has mostly stated is remarkable. There is a gay marching band involved in the ceremony and it seems that in this administration we will have more representation than EVER BEFORE.

Tantrums only work when you're pudgy and five. After that they grow quite annoying. By now, we should have learned much better ways to get things done.

dear president elect obama,

i knocked on doors for you. i phonebanked for you. i donated a couple thousand dollars out of my salary to you. as a proud GLBT american. and i am still so glad that you won.

but rick warren at your inauguration -- giving such a visible platform and apparent stamp of approval to a man who has repeatedly compared gays to pedophiles and insists we need to be "cured" -- is a true slap in the face to me, and to all the other gay americans who worked their butts off for you.

i understand that you want to be inclusive in every area of your administration. but does that mean that you intend to include and continue including hatemongerers? would you have invited a white supremacist to give the invocation, for the sake of inclusion?

offering this opportunity to rick warren was a mistake. it's an insult -- no, a degredation -- to so many of us who worked so hard for you.

what a disappointing way to start your term as president.

i have already cancelled my previous plans to be in DC on 1/20. because of this.


Thanx Jaxx,
WAY too many people coming anyway ....

oh, and also -- there's a "dump warren" facebook group as well. please do join if you're a FB member.

Yeah, dump Warren, that's gonna happen.

This whole idiotic dust up is almost hilarious if it didn't muddy the euphoria of this event. Actually, the dust up after the election over Prop 8 and the blaming "the blacks" really screwed up my joy. Finally, reason surfaced with that. Now this!!!

I really don't know what to say except: Who did you think you were voting for?!! The man ran a crystal clear platform of talking to those we disagree with. Oh, it's fine if he wants to talk to Iran, but he can't let Warren offer a freakin' prayer?!!

What even funnier is the dust up on the other side. The kooks on the right are pissed at Warren! Ain't that a kick in the special place?

Hopefully, after all is said and done, people will see that all our problems are caused by the kooks -- the ones over there, and the ones over here. Then those of us sensibly in the middle can live happily ever after.


"One issue queers." They can be so self-centered and narrow focused that they can't see the reality in front of them.

Helms??? HMMMMMMM FOJ? (Friend Of Jesse)???!!!

I am not "one issue queer," Monica.

I object to Warren on four grounds, none of them having to do with prop 8.

He advocates murdering a head of state in violation of Hague no IV and has called upon people to do so.

He supports Peter Akinola, who lobbied for and got enacted into law the most repressive anti-gay laws in Africa outside of areas under Sharia law. Reading this blog in Akinola's Nigeria carries a punishment of 5 years imprisonment with hard labout.

He whitewashed and minimised Akinola's part in the murder of 700 Muslims, an action tht had been condemned by the Parliament of the European Union

He opposes the rights of women to reproductive choice.

He supports and funds reparative therapy programmes.

One issue?

Well, the first issue would be issue enough. Time at the ICT makes me rather sensitive to Crimes Against Peace and iolations of the UN Charter and Subsequent Treaties, and of any of the Hague Conventions.

And I have enormous sympathy for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, who will see our lack of overt response to their persecutor's defender as a slap in the face.

Or don't African LGBT's count?