A Call to Action for Barack Obama

By Geoff Kors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2008 12:00 AM ET

The decision by
President-elect Barack Obama to select Reverend Rick
Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration is a
profound slap in the face to LGBT Americans and all
who stand for equality.

I was one of the
many who was heartened by his call for "One America"
-- for an end to the politics of division that pitted
neighbor against neighbor that has plagued this nation for
the last eight years. I was looking forward to the
start of a new era of inclusion designed to bring us
together.

Elevating the
status of a person who actively worked to eliminate the
rights of LGBT people and supported writing discrimination
against us into the California constitution is not
inclusion.

Rather, by
starting the new administration with a blessing by someone
who denies the very humanity of LGBT people sends a
message that the new day we had hoped for is further
away than we were led to believe.

Our next
president has responded to the outcry over his selection by
saying that we are a nation of different views and he wants
all to be part of his administration. It is one thing
to bring people with opposing views to a discussion in
order to foster understanding. It is something very
different to give such prominence and stature to someone who
actively works to harm an entire community.

I find it hard to
believe that Mr. Obama would have selected someone who
opposed legal equality for any other group to give the
invocation at the inauguration. By choosing Reverend
Warren, he is indicating that opposition to legal
equality for LGBT people is an acceptable position. It
is not.

This isn't about
having different views on what the fuel economy
standards should be or the size of the bailout of the auto
or financial industry. This is about a minority group
being excluded from the equal protection guarantees of
the Constitution. If President-elect Obama doesn't
understand the difference, then we are in for a very long
and disappointing four years.

BARACK OBAMA RICK WARREN X100 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM
 

President-elect
Obama has made it clear he will not rescind the
invitation to Warren. At the same time, he offered one of
his strongest statements in support of LGBT equality.
Our voices are making a difference and we must
continue to be vocal in our outrage.

We must make it
clear that we will no longer support candidates for
office who do not support our full equality -- a position
Equality California has long embraced -- and stop
acquiescing to the notion that supporting our rights
is incompatible with electability. If that were the
case, pro-equality candidates would not have won office in
districts in California that voted overwhelmingly for
Prop. 8.

Candidates for
elected office cannot and should not receive the support
of our community if they don't support full equality for
LGBT people.

Mr. Obama may be
in a difficult position, having made the invitation to
Rick Warren. But he can, and he should, rescind this
invitation. Being president means having to make tough
decisions in difficult times. And certainly the
present administration's unwillingness to admit any errors
or do anything to correct them demonstrates the
destructiveness of such a position.

However, if
President-elect Obama truly believes in our equality and
that his vision of "One America" includes us, and yet
won't withdraw his invitation to Rev. Warren, there is
something he can do to show that he is the ardent
supporter of LGBT equality he claims.

Mr. Obama can and
should immediately:

1. Invite one of
the multitude of amazing LGBT faith leaders to join
Reverend Warren onstage and allow for an additional
invocation, showing the world that many LGBT people
are people of faith and that we are a part of the
faith community.

2. Announce that
he will move forward comprehensive legislation to
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and
gender identity -- and provide equality in rights and
benefits for same-sex couples -- in his first year in
office. Not piecemeal but the whole kit and caboodle.

We have the most
LGBT-friendly Congress in decades, and there is no time
like the present to end discrimination once and for all.

We can live in a
nation that treats every one of its citizens with
fairness, equality, and dignity. Yes, we can.