On this day in history: Obama asked Rick Warren to speak at the inauguration

This was the day we learned that the Obama team had no clue about the gay community. On December 17, 2008, Obama asked Rick Warren to give the invocation at his historic inauguration. Our initial post was titled, “Obama picks homophobe pro-’Prop 8′ evangelical preacher to give the invocation at inaugural.”

This was a real punch in the gut to the LGBT community. We were coming off the loss on Prop. 8, which was the first time in history when a public vote stripped rights from citizens. We were all devastated by that defeat. Yet, Obama thought it was acceptable to invite a leader in that anti-gay campaign to pray at the inauguration. There was no one at the top of the Obama operation who even realized this would be a problem with one of Obama’s most loyal constituencies. And, not much has changed along those line.

At the time, Obama downplayed our concerns stating:

What I’ve also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

His “certain social issues” are our basic rights. He never understood, nor did any of his top advisers understand that this was a much, much deeper for us. Warren and his cronies had just led a campaign to take away basic rights from gays. And, they vilified us to do it.

The reaction from the Presidential Inaugural Committee was even more pathetic. The Executive Director sent out talking points with this line:

And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

A parade.

This was an early indicator of where we fit in with the President and his team. Since then, we’ve gotten a couple nice speeches and the A-listers got a cocktail party. But, there’s no ENDA bill. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hasn’t been touched by the White House. And, the Obama administration is defending DOMA in the courts.

The day after Obama picked Warren, I wrote:

I knew at some point, Obama would really disappoint a lot of us. I didn’t think it would start at the inauguration. Picking Rick Warren to speak is a betrayal. It’s hard to imagine that any other speaker who consistently used hateful and derogatory language about another group of Americans could ever appear at the new president’s inauguration. But, in Obama land, we’ve now learned, rhetorical gay bashing is not only tolerated, but celebrated. I have to admit, that hurts.

The DOMA brief hurt too. That was another indicator that no one in the administration understood the gay community. And, those OFA emails to Maine, which ignored the referendum on marriage, were painful, too. Rick Warren, the DOMA brief and Maine are three of the biggest reasons we started “Don’t Ask, Don’t Give.” There were many others. But for me, those are the three big ones.

Pretty soon, Obama will shift into reelection mode. Then, we’ll all be his best friends again. He’ll need our money and our votes. But, we need him to keep his promises on ENDA, DADT and DOMA first.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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