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Mainstream media reports on Warren controversy; HRC proffers "Blue Print" to Obama
Mainstream media reports on Warren controversy; HRC proffers "Blue Print" to Obama
by Lisa Keen - Keen News Service

Debate heated up during the past week over President-elect Barack Obama's invitation to evangelical Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. And as it has, the Human Rights Campaign has offered Obama a way to make amends, while a lone activist has called for a doughnut strategy.

Mainstream media sank its teeth into the controversy early on, with reports that "Gays are furious" about Obama bestowing such an honor on a pastor who has equated marriage between two same-sex adults with marriage between a brother and a sister or an adult marrying a child.

"President-elect Barack Obama's honeymoon with the liberal wing of his party came to a crashing halt" on Wednesday, December 17, said Washington Post political correspondent Chris Cillizza.

Associated Press called Obama's invitation to Warren "an overture to conservative Christians" and a signal of "his willingness to upset liberals by tilting to the center." The New York Times called it an "olive branch."

The Los Angeles Times quoted Gay activist Howard Bragman as saying Obama "saw that Bill Clinton did damage to his early presidency by appearing to pander to the Gay and Lesbian community."

"Obama has chosen a different tack," said Bragman.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell called the choice "insulting" to black civil rights activists.

"How do you put a civil rights icon like the Rev. Joseph Lowery," who was asked to give the closing prayer, "at the tail end of an event that honors the nation's election of its first African-American president? The only reason I can think of for Obama to give Warren such an honor is that he is already thinking about re-election."

At first, Warren did little to calm the upset.

In an interview with a Wall Street Journal affiliate December 12, he suggested that the LGBT civil rights movement "is not really about civil rights, but a desire for approval." By Saturday, he was telling Associated Press that he is a huge fan of Lesbian rock star Melissa Etheridge and has all her albums. Warren spoke with Etheridge when they both appeared at an annual meeting of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach, California. He reportedly told the audience that he loves Muslims and, "for the media's purpose, I happen to love Gays and straights."

The Los Angeles Times reported that Etheridge was "among the first to stand" and applaud Warren for his remarks at that meeting Saturday.

On NBC's Dateline Thursday, Warren reiterated his respect for Gay people and claimed that, when protesters came to his mega-church to protest his support for the anti-Gay Proposition 8, his church served them doughnuts and water.

That, according to the New York Times, prompted one activist to start a doughnuts-for-Warren movement - encouraging Gay civil rights supporters to buy Dunkin' Donut Cards and customizing them with their photos of same-sex couples and send the cards to Warren.

Meanwhile, John Aravosis, a Gay political blogger in D.C. (americablog.com) reported Friday that the website for Warren's Saddleback church states that, while Gay people can attend church, "someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at [sic] a member at Saddleback Church."

And the controversy has led to some backlash barbs for Gays, too. Boston Globe columnist Margery Eagan urged Obama to "ignore them."

"They're looking increasingly shrill," wrote Eagan. "They're on the ideological purity bandwagon that for too long has prevented Washington from accomplishing anything."

HRC Blueprint
The Human Rights Campaign on Friday, December 19, urged President-elect Obama to "turn the corner on this controversy" by committing to HRC's "Blueprint for Positive Change" on LGBT issues. The Blueprint calls for Obama to accomplish five things within specific time periods. It asks Obama, in the first 100 days of his presidency, issue an executive order that "reaffirms" regulations in place to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in federal employment; and to "develop a plan to begin the process" of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of excluding Gays from the military. In the first six months, it asks that he "work with Congress to sign hate crimes legislation. And then, without specific timetables, it asks that he commit to supporting "only a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act" and that he "work with Congress" to end unequal tax treatment of domestic partnership benefits.

The latter refers to federal tax law that enables a married employee to provide health insurance coverage to his or her spouse without counting that benefit as income. However, for a Gay employee, the fair market value of that health coverage is added to the gross income on which the employee must pay taxes. (The Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute estimate that a Gay employee pays more than $1,000 per year more in taxes because of that disparity.)

HRC's website offers visitors an opportunity to "sign" its petition to Obama, saying that the signer is "disappointed" that he invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration and asks that he "restore my trust by pledging to support" the Blueprint.

A parade note
Contrary to early reports, this inaugural will not be the first to invite a Gay contingent to participate in the presidential inaugural parade. Julian Potter was deputy director of the parade in 1993, for President Clinton's first inauguration. She said she personally invited the Lesbian and Gay Marching Band to participate. The criteria for selection prior to 1993, she said, had been to include a band for each state. But with the Clinton first inaugural, the planners decided to be more inclusive by adding bands along the parade route. The Lesbian and Gay Marching Band was given a prime spot just two blocks away from the presidential reviewing stand.

2008 Keen News Service

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