Balancing Out Rick Warren

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President-elect Obama’s inaugural committee has asked Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person to be ordained an Episcopal bishop, to deliver the invocation at the inaugural’s opening ceremony on Sunday, January 18. The opening ceremony will be held at the Lincoln Memorial, and it is the first event that President-elect Obama will be attending. This news comes after weeks of fallout from the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s swearing-in ceremony.

I think that this is an important–though belated–step to signal that the Obama administration values the lesbian and gay community, even as it reaches out to the evangelical community.

-Tony Infanti

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0 Responses to Balancing Out Rick Warren

  1. hysperia says:

    I’m not so sure that bigotry can be “balaced out”. If Gene Robinson is meant to mollify my community, he doesn’t.

  2. Tony Infanti says:


    Gene Robinson may not mollify you, but I don’t think that you can speak on behalf of the entire, heterogeneous lesbian and gay community, of which I form a part as well. Though I think that this could have been handled better and I don’t think that Rick Warren should have been given a role at the inauguration, I do think that the only way that we move forward is by acknowledging the views of others and respecting their religious beliefs while at the same time engaging them in an effort to persuade them to change their views and respect us. After all, studies have shown a correlation between contact with lesbians and gay men, particularly close and frequent contact, and positive general attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. That type of humanizing contact, which can do much toward advancing our acceptance in a society where we are a very small minority, will never occur when you simply dismiss someone as a bigot and refuse to engage them.

  3. hysperia says:

    Well I sure didn’t mean to imply that I could speak for any “entire, heterogeneous lesbian and gay community” – I am well aware that such a thing does not exist. I was speaking for MY community – i.e. I have a community and we are in agreement about this. I respect your right to have a different point of view – you and other members of “the” community, to the extent that it exists, which I might well challenge. I simply do not agree that allowing an anti-Semitic, homophobic bigot pray at an auguration is helpful. To have a conversation or dialogue with him would be a different thing. To grant him a role in the inauguration is, in my view, unacceptable – it’s an important symbolic role and I think it legitimizes his position. And that’s what MY community thinks too.

    Contact with lesbians and gays might well be a good thing – in fact, I think it is. I’m not as stupid as you seem to think. The circumstances of the contact are important. In my view. And in the view of my particular community.

  4. Tony Infanti says:


    I would ask that before you respond to a comment or a post, especially in such a defensive manner, that you actually read and think about the comment or post to which you are responding. You seem to have wholly missed or ignored the fact that I also said in my comment that I did not think that Rick Warren should have been given a role at the inauguration and that this was not handled well by the Obama team. Obviously, I too think that the context of engagement is important. I also nowhere made any reference to your intelligence and resent any insinuation to that effect. Finally, when you purport to speak on behalf of a community, you might make clear, to begin with, what community you represent rather than risk having that misinterpreted.

  5. hysperia says:

    I agree that I was peeved when I responded and I apologize for that, though I do think you were and are similarly peeved. When I say “my” community, I honestly don’t think that I have to define that and I think you leaped to a conclusion when you assumed that I meant a heterogenous lesbian and gay community. For me, that is an implication that I am stupid. If you don’t think so, fine, but I don’t think I deserved that.

    I do take offense again to your suggesting that I didn’t read you post or read it properly. Just to make sure, I read it again and my position remains the same. You’ve said that the invitation to Bishop Robinson “balances” the invitation to Warren. I disagree. My point remains, how do you balance a bigot? I say you can’t. You say that the invitation to Robinson is “important”. You may disagree, but it’s my view that the invitation to Warren is similar to an invitation to a racist like the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. I’m not using hyperbole here. I see no difference. He is the leader of a very large institution that holds views about Jews, Muslims, Christians of other varieties, and gay and lesbian people that I think are hateful, bigoted and indefensible. I think that he and his ilk do harm to those “communities” and to the body politic. There just is no balancing possible. In my view.

    You made a very quick comment on a complex issue. So did I. I regret mine. I do agree that it isn’t helpful to insult each other. The conversation is everything. In that spirit, I await your apology.

    Here’s another member of my community on the issue:

  6. Tony Infanti says:


    I did not leap to any conclusions about what you meant by community. There was no need to leap. You provided a short response to a post in which I explicitly mention the “lesbian and gay community.” If you weren’t referring back to that community in your short reply, you should have made that clear. How you can take my comment to then imply that you are stupid, I simply do not understand. I’m sorry that you took it that way, but I just don’t think that was a reasonable implication from what I said.

  7. frye86 says:

    I’m inclined to agree with hysperia here. If the Obama camp wanted to do the right thing, they would disinvite Rick Warren (or not have invited him in the first place). Given the shallowness of mainstream politics, I ‘get’ that this would NEVER happen.

    Inviting Gene Robinson seems like such an afterthought and does not make up for inviting a homophobic minister. To me this does not demonstrate that the Obama admin. values the actual lived experiences of LGBTQ folks so much as it values high approval ratings and votes.

    The idea of “balance” also seems disingenuous to me. At some point one has to take a stand on issues. You can’t have it both ways. And again, I understand that mainstream political figures are always going to talk in generalities and try to sidestep taking a position on controversial issues so this is NOT surprising.

    And if one’s beliefs are that my sexual orientation (or race, or sex, etc.) makes me less deserving of respect, equal access, justice, or inclusion, then I am not obligated to respect those BELIEFS. I will respect one’s right to believe whatever one wants, but I cannot and will not respect the beliefs.

  8. Ann Bartow says:

    I should probably stay out of this, but I have to defend Tony here. He wrote a short post as sort of a news item. I don’t think he was trying to make some big political statement or speak for anybody but himself.

    Obama’s choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder, acknowledges that water boarding is torture. Obama says he will close Guantanamo. These are just two of about a zillion announcements in recent days that make me glad Obama defeated McCain. Obama isn’t perfect and he deserves to be criticized for his selection of Rick Warren. But he does seem to be listening to critics and responding by adding Gene Robinson to the inauguration line up. I understand that some people feel it is contrived. But he’s a politician and at the end of the day everything he does is for political reasons in some sense. Isn’t it better that he made some effort, rather than no effort, at making things right?

  9. frye86 says:

    Politicians speaking in generalities so we’ll have trouble pinning them down is nothing new. And a politician telling people that a vote for her/him is a vote for change but then acting a lot like the people they replace after being elected is nothing new either :)

    But I’m not going to excuse Obama’s actions simply because he’s a politician acting for political reasons. At some point we have to start expecting (and demanding) more of our political leaders. I think this is a large reason why so many people are cynical when it comes to politicians and politics in general and it’s why I’ve grown so sick of the Democratic Party. I have trouble telling them apart from the Repulicans.

  10. Ann Bartow says:

    The Democrats can certainly use improvement, but I still think we are going to be way, way better off under Obama than we would have been under McCain. Here’s hoping.

  11. Tony Infanti says:

    I totally agree with Ann here. I’ve been disillusioned with the Democrats more times than I can count, but there is a big distinction for me between the Republicans and the Democrats. At least with the Democrats, we have a shot on progressive issues.