In politics, is gay the new black?
by Ben Wright
Posted on December 18, 2008
At the Presidential inauguration next month, Aretha Franklin will croon, Yo-Yo Ma will strum and Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren will pray.
The choice of Franklin won’t offend, and Yo-Yo’s appearance won't have Zuill Bailey crying himself to sleep, but the choice of Rick Warren has some folks ticked.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback church/mall in Southern California, was an advocate of the California ballot proposition that changed the state constitution by defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman and eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Emulating his predecessor as America’s mouthy Christian Pat Robertson, he agreed with Sean Hannity about assassinating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, albeit with less gusto.
Warren is a bit like John McCain. When McCain won the Republican primary, he got favorable reviews from a lot of moderates. That was because he looked like a better bet than George Bush. But this side of Sarah Palin and in direct comparison to Obama, Warren looked a lot more like the right-wing politico that he is.
Use the same logic with Warren. Compare him to Falwell, Swaggart or Robertson and he can almost pass as the poster boy for those folks who make up the ‘Christian left’ (all 14 of them). But compare him with South Africa's Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama and … well, you get my point.
In case you didn’t, here’s Warren on Prop 8:
The decision to give Warren his two cents at the inauguration has landed Obama in a spot of “purpose driven strife.” The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, called the decision a “genuine blow to LGBT Americans” and hoped the president elect would “reconsider the announcement.”
Fat chance. Instead, quite predictably, Obama explained the decision away and resolved his sermonette in the key of C.
“I am a fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to continue to be consistent on in my presidency,” Obama said.
But (there is always a “but” or a “having said that” with Barack), “it is important for America to come together even though we have disagree about certain social issues. … The magic of this country is that we are diverse, noisy and opinionated.”
Listen to and watch Obama’s explanation here:
As such, Aretha will wail, Yo-Yo will pluck and gays will be offended. It is understandable why. Warren’s theology (and political practice) is fundamentally in opposition to their lifestyle. Warren may be cuddlier than his predecessors, and a bit more nuanced in his thinking but, as we found out in the fall, behind every McCain is a Palin … and an angry army.
But it’s only a prayer right? Well, that depends. From a different angle, it’s about who you can offend and who you can't.
Warren is very popular with many people who will be heartened by the fact that an anti-gay marriage, Bible-thumping young Santa Claus will be kicking off proceedings on Jan. 20. But a lot of people just don’t care. Perhaps a lot of people watching the inauguration will treat Warren’s invocation as a commercial break – a chance to grab a beer or take the pizza out of the oven.
In a sense, it is the same with the gay issue in American politics. Many people are vehemently against equal rights for homosexual and transgender citizens. But many more, I hazard to guess, simply don’t care that much.
Apathy is perhaps more dangerous to gay issues than intolerance. Obama got a freebie with scheduling Warren. People who didn’t vote for him will be energized and reassured; even more won't care and either way. The gay community have already thrown their lot in with the Democrats. No wonder Fox News called it “politically astute.”
Gay may be the new black in the sense that the gay community doesn’t have a political alternative to Obama and the Democrats.
In October Chris Rock went on Larry King and pleaded with Clintonites to swallow their pride, just like black people have again and again.
“We have voted for white people without blinking an eye, and we have gone down in flames with white people. Just look at Katrina. Here's a perfect example of black people going down in flames supporting the Democrats.
"If 30 percent of black people in New Orleans supported Bush, maybe they would have -- maybe Bush would have helped us out. Maybe Bush would have made a call. Hey, take care of my Louisiana blackies or something. But we keep all of our eggs in one basket. So I just hope that at least the Democrats are mature enough and get over whatever's bugging them to support a fellow Democrat.”
Rock was enunciating a political reality that has been the bane of black voters since civil rights: If the Democrats don’t front up for black issues, then where are you going to go? The Republicans?
Obama’s choice of Warren for the invocation makes clear that the gay community is in a similar situation. It’s not like gays are going to punish Obama by going Palin in 2012, is it?
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