Rick Warren, the Invocation, and a Reasonably United States of America
Some people don't get it.
It's not just about us queers getting married! It's about the animosity, judgement, and discrimination of homophobic people and the complicity of don't-rock-the-boaters that deprives us of our civil rights, full equality, and, sometimes, our lives.
In 1972 I started one of the first gay lib groups in Illinois, Springfield Gay Liberation, and we had three purposes: to educate, change laws, and provide social activities outside the bars. As a result, I lost my family, job, and lifelong friends. People spit on me and threw things at me, I had death threats and hate mail. In the name of change and freedom, we pressed on. I spoke in front of college classes and groups like the Young Democrats to change people's minds and let them see a real, living, breathing, gay person. They asked tragic and nearly unbelievable questions: "Do lesbians have periods?", "Do gay people wear clothes in their house?" Once we were interviewed for a radio show in southern Illinois (we followed Rajah, the talking Mynah bird) and were bombarded with calls from screaming evangelicals who wanted to set us straight. Really straight. We left fearing for our lives. Later, when I considered adopting a child I was told that, as a gay person, I could only adopt a group of delinquent siblings or a severely disabled child. My partner was thrown into jail for a day during a custody case, where the sole basis for taking her children away was that she was a lesbian. The only gay role model I had when growing up was my great aunt, Norma, who, even as an adult, was kept locked inside her parent's home because she was a lesbian (her father was a police officer). Back then Springfield, Illinois was a small town, planets away from the nearest social revolution and definitely not a launch pad for unlikely Black guys on their way to the White House. We pressed on.
1972: that was the year Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress, announced her candidacy for president as a Democrat, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, DNC offices at the Watergate were burglarized by Nixon operatives, George Wallace was shot, the song "I Am Woman" was released, light fell on the Tuskegee Experiment, DDT was banned by the EPA, "The Joy of Sex" was published, KKK rioted in Central Park, Nixon went to China, Irish protestors were shot dead on Bloody Sunday, Israeli athletes were taken hostage by PLO at the Munich Olympics and killed, and peace attempts in Vietnam failed. A lot was going on.
There's a lot going on today and some responders to the thread have pointed that out, suggesting we put the gay thing into perspective and not spoil the party. I worked harder for Obama than just about any other cause in my life. He is the first Presidential figure who, when talking about the American family, always includes "our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters". He said it in cornfields in front of farmers, where he had nothing to gain and everything to lose. As part of his speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Obama directly addressed homophobia in the African American community. I believe in Barack Obama not just because he is gay-friendly, but for the totality of what he represents and the dream of a Reasonably United States of America.
Many young gays are living on the streets today, their families having disowned or abused them. They're committing suicide because the essence of their souls is too heavy to carry and other LGBT Americans are being beaten, killed, drummed out of the military, and denied jobs, housing, and the benefits others take for granted. Rick Warren's church has a program to "cure" homosexuals and he compares gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. Through his ministry Warren perpetuates destructive stereotypes and fears that keep us apart. I not only have the right to disagree with the choice of Warren, it is my responsibility.
Of course I will celebrate on January 20th and it will be heartfelt. I will also regret that someone who so vigorously opposes change will be given prominence and validation. And, I will press on.
-pam keeley 12/21/08
Note: 12/22/08: it's now being reported that Warren has removed the egregious language about gays from his website and had a friendly conversation with Melissa Etheridge. That hardly atones for Warren's spearheading work to rewrite the California Constitution with Prop 8, but, in the best possible scenario, it may herald a shift. Overnight conversions are hard for me to trust; we'll see.