As quietly as it would like to be kept by the Obama team and even by many in the LGBTQ community, Obama exploits the queer community for his political gains. And like pawns on his chess board Obama checkmates us each time when our hopes to be included in his big tent are dashed.
Our most recent example is the accidental omission of Bishop Gene Robinsonâ€™s invocation at the pre- inaugural kickoff event, the “We Are One” concert, that was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Jan. 19.
Due to technical difficulties those who gathered near the stage or the jumbotrons to hear Robinsonâ€™s invocation heard only the last few minutes of it.
But to add insult to injury Robinsonâ€™s invocation was cut from the television broadcast of the event, too. Robinson gave his prayer at 2:25 p.m., and HBO went live at 2:30 p.m.
An inaugural committee aide said the glitches were a “simple mistake.”
HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee have since said that Robinsonâ€™s invocation will be included in all future telecasts of “We Are One.â€™”
But there is a bigger problem here, one that begs the following question: What is it with Obama and his team when it comes to our inclusion in his transformational administration?
When the Presidential Inaugural Committee bestowed conservative homophobe Pastor Rick Warren the coveted honor of giving the inaugural prayer, a collective gasp of disbelief was heard throughout the queer community. Robinson himself balked at Obamaâ€™s selection of Warren, calling it a “slap in the face” to the LGBTQ community.
But some in the LGBTQ community have argued that this is nothing new and that Obama and his team have “pimp- slapped” us all throughout his presidential campaign.
For example, last fall as part of Obamaâ€™s “40 Days of Faith and Family” campaign — a grassroots effort in South Carolina to win over African American voters — the Obama campaign announced that in late October 2007 it would host an “Embrace the Change! Gospel Series,” a three-city Gospel-fest with gospel mega-star Pastor Donnie McClurkin as part of the concert line-up.
At first the event appeared to be an innocuous showcase of some of gospel musicâ€™s most successful artists, until the LGBTQ community got wind that McClurkin, an ex-gay who has condemned homosexuality as a “curse,” was going to taking part.
When it was disclosed that Obamaâ€™s inspirational gospel singer McClurkin could be a potential liability with his LGBTQ supporters Obama immediately distanced himself. And as a last minute attempt to do damage control his campaign penned an open letter to the LGBTQ community with signatures from black and white religious and LGBTQ supporters. The Obama campaign also came back with an appeasement plan by inviting an openly white gay minister, the Rev. Andy Sidden, pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ (formerly MCC Columbia).
Does the Warren/Robinson scenario strike a familiar chord?
In January 2008 another anti-gay African American minister endorsed the presidential hopeful. This time it was the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, longtime spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush and senior pastor of one of Houstonâ€™s black mega-churches, Windsor Village United Methodist Church. His church ran an ex-gay ministry, giving instructions on how to free oneself from “homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins.”
The Obama campaign was not directly involved in Caldwellâ€™s endorsement, and once the media picked up the story about Windsor Villageâ€™s ex-gay ministry the Obama campaign distanced itself from Caldwell. But was it mere happenstance that Obama won the support of another influential anti-gay African American minister?
Along the campaign trail Obama courted and wooed anti-gay ministers as a sign he can reach across the aisle. Rick Warren is just another example of his extended arm to them.
Every time Obama has nodded or winked at our community we have taken his gestures and even his words at face value to tethered our hopes to them. Our hope was to see and hear Robinsonâ€™s at this historic event. Rick Warrenâ€™s invocation was heard around the world. No technical difficulties. No glitches. No excuses. Nothing.
Robinson, who many felt was a last minute add-on, acquiesced to bless the President on our behalf.
But once again the sting of disappointment slaps us.
Published in Bay Windows, Thursday, January 22, 2009