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A Call to Action
for Barack Obama

A Call to Action
for Barack Obama


In the wake of the decision by President-elect Barack Obama to select Reverend Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, Equality California executive director Geoff Kors calls on Obama to live up to his promise of "One America" and prove he is the ardent supporter of LGBT equality he claims to be.

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.

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.

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