Obama's First Days According to Rev. Gene Robinson 

After a busy month of rubbing elbows with Obama and dodging Rick Warren, Rev. V. Gene Robinson takes a look back on his time with the president.

BY Kerry Eleveld

January 30 2009 1:00 AM ET

They may have even forgotten you were gay.Exactly. Who would have thought I could make them forget that?

I was particularly struck by the contrast between your prayer and that of Rick Warren, who invoked the name of Jesus in several different languages. And then sort of forced us all to say "The Lord’s Prayer." I have to say that I love "The Lord’s Prayer" -- it’s a part of my faith tradition, it’s always been a part of my life. But for the first two or three phrases, I just choked on the words, I just couldn’t do it – just because I was so aware of the people around me.

And then my political mind kicked in and I thought, it will be just my luck that the CNN cameras will be on me not praying "The Lord’s Prayer" in the middle of this, and I’m not here to make a big protest against Rick Warren. So I did join in but, literally, I found myself choking on what I consider to be beloved words.

Speaking of politics, you’ve said in a few pre-inaugural interviews that you have pressed President Obama on LGBT issues and you’re convinced that he’s a friend of the community. What specifically did you raise and what were his reactions? I don’t remember the specifics, but knowing me, I raised “don’t ask, don’t tell,” DOMA, I know I mentioned a fully inclusive ENDA -- and on those things, he was quite specific in terms of being right where I wanted him to be. The place where that diverged of course, as we all know, none of the viable Democratic candidates endorsed gay marriage.  But my sense is that he understands why all of the legal protections and rights that come with marriage are appropriate and necessary for gay and lesbian couples and will be supportive of that. And I’m not at all convinced that he won’t eventually be supportive of gay marriage. But I think for political reasons he knew that would be very, very difficult in the primary fight not to mention the general election.

Of course, earlier this month, the Windy City Times uncovered the fact that during his 1996 bid for the Illinios state senate, President Obama said on their questionnaire that he supported full gay marriage rights. My guess is -- and I have absolutely no evidence from him about this -- that as he began to think about a possible run for the presidency, he was politically smart enough to know that he needed to win the general election in order to be able to do the things that he felt called to do and that, [gay marriage], in his and every other candidate’s judgment, was a third rail.

As a person of faith, does that bother you at all? I think life in general is always a balancing act between what is right and what is workable. And you don’t get a chance to do the right things a lot of times, if you’re not in a place to affect those changes. So sometimes you’re not able to say as frankly and as clearly, what’s going on with you. Some people would see that as hypocrisy or compromise. I think it’s the dance we all do. There are things that I personally believe that I would not say from a pulpit -- partially because I have a responsibility to the church, to teach what the church teaches and, as a Bishop, I’m a representative of that institution. Is that compromise, or is that selling out? I don’t know. But maybe it’s the dance we all have to do between the values we actually hold in our heart and what we’re actually able to accomplish in a community as diverse as America.

Tags: Politics

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