celebration may have gotten off to a rocky start with
the omission of Bishop V. Gene Robinson's prayer from
the HBO broadcast of the opening ceremonies, but by
the time Barack Obama raised his right hand, LGBT
people attending the festivities seemed willing to forgive.
"It was an
emotional moment for all of us -- a chance to put our anger
over Rick Warren aside and join the nation in celebrating
this moment," Kevin Naff, editor in chief of
the Washington Blade, said to me at the Out for
Equality Ball Tuesday night.
To a person, gays
I spoke with said they were moved by the experience of
seeing our first African-American president sworn in and
sharing it with those around them.
"Particularly, right when he took the oath of office
is when people were crying and were really
emotional," said Jeff Trammell, a Democratic
strategist in D.C. who was seated among a group of
African-American Tuskegee Airmen. "The real
poetry was there in the crowd. Some of them were in
their 70s and 80s and they were just ecstatic."
And while most
people objected to the inclusion of Rick Warren in the
ceremony, the overriding postmortem was that he had so
watered down his theology to avoid being offensive
that his prayer was, quite simply, forgettable.
"What a small prayer for such a very big
moment," said Joan Garry, who cochaired
Obama's LGBT Finance Committee during the election.
But even as
grievances softened among those who had attended the
ceremony, they weren't the least bit complacent.
"I think what a lot of people need to
understand is, this is the beginning of the process, not
the end," Trammell said.
told ballgoers that it had been "an extraordinary few
days." Despite what he called "a bit of a
mess-up" with his invocation, he had been
seated just six rows behind President Obama during the
inauguration ceremony, and he and his partner had been asked
to worship Tuesday morning with the president-to-be
before the swearing-in.
sermon, Robinson said he was reminded that "there is
no heat without light. So we should expect it to be
hot, we should expect it to be hard." And then
he sounded this rallying cry, "As much as we
love this president, and I do, we are going to hold
his feet to the fire about our issues."
In that vein, Dr.
Marjorie Hill, CEO of the New York-based Gay Men's
Health Crisis, told me, "I have very high
expectations that President Obama will keep his word
by endorsing a national AIDS strategy. He has
committed to do all he can to work with the HIV community in
reducing HIV/AIDS infections in the U.S. That's
simply what I expect him to do."
Hill hoped the
new president would add an office of national AIDS policy
within the White House and give the office some budgetary
influence. She also wanted HIV/AIDS issues to have a
prominent place in any of the
administration's health care reforms -- a strategy of
simply folding LGBT concerns into greater governmental
initiatives that a number of activists have adopted.
Robinson, executive director of the National Black
Justice Coalition, noted that LGBT Americans
have many "shovel-ready" projects
that should be included in the economic stimulus package.
"I look at the LGBT community centers, for
example, places where we are serving homeless youth,
people who have substance abuse and drug treatment
issues, where we need infrastructure," he said.
And though a
number of gay leaders have been lowering expectations by
noting that major issues such as the Iraq war and the
economy will command the lion's share of the
government's attention, other political
strategists feel "the fierce urgency of now,"
as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. put it.
don't realize that in government, often the best time
to get controversial things done is when people
aren't paying attention that closely or when
people are focused on something else," Richard
Socarides, who served six years as a senior adviser to
President Bill Clinton, told me a week before the
inauguration. "That's what's happening
right now. Everybody's attention is focused on
the economy, jobs -- as it should be. This is a great
time to make progress on issues around which there is
that President Obama has an "enormous reservoir of
goodwill" and solid majorities in both houses of
Congress that may not last. "When I hear people say we
should wait two years to change 'don't ask,
don't tell,'' he said, "I think that's a
To his point, at
a National Journal-sponsored panel discussion I
attended Wednesday about President Obama's first 100
days, not a single social issue was mentioned -- the economy
sucked all the air out of the room with a few gasps
left for foreign policy. Not only is America totally
preoccupied with pocketbook issues, so are mainstream
But on that
front, the Blade's Naff shared some good
news for LGBT people: The Obama press office has reinstated
his publication's press credentials, which had
been revoked during the Bush years.
is real change," Naff said. "Access now is
night and day."