Obama Pimp-Slaps Queer Community by Omitting Robinson’s Invocation

Rev. Gene Robinson

Rev. Gene Robinson

As quietly as it would like to be kept by the Obama team and even by many in the LGBTQ community, Obama exploits the queer community for his political gains. And like pawns on his chessboard, Obama checkmates us each time when our hopes to be included in his big tent are dashed.

Our most recent example is the accidental omission of Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation at the pre-inaugural kickoff event “We Are One” that was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial January 19.

Due to technical difficulties, those who gathered near the stage or the jumbotrons to hear Robinson’s invocation heard only the last few minutes of it.

But to add insult to injury, the televised portion of the event, for those of us at home hoping also to hear Robinson, was cut, too. Robinson gave his prayer at 2:25 p.m. ET, and HBO went live at 2:30 p.m.

An inaugural committee aide said the glitch was a “simple mistake.”

“I was at the concert…mind you, moments before Elmo was on the jumbotrons, there was no technical issue or immediately following when the concert kicked off, “ wrote a blogger.

HBO and the Presidential Inaugural Committee stated that Robinson’s invocation will be included in all future telecasts of “We Are One.’

If so, we’ll only hear the last few minutes of it.

But there is a bigger problem here. One that begs the following question:

What is it with Obama and his team when it comes to our inclusion in his transformational administration?

When the Presidential Inaugural Committee bestowed conservative homophobe Pastor Rick Warren the coveted honor of giving the inaugural prayer, a collective gasped of disbelief was heard throughout the queer community. Robinson himself balked at Obama’s selection of Warren calling it a “slap in the face” to the LGBTQ community.

But some in the LGBTQ community have argued that Obama and his team have “pimp-slapped” us all during his presidential campaign.

For example, in marking the final days of Obama’s “40 Days of Faith and Family” campaign in South Carolina in October 2007, the Obama’s team announced they would host the “Embrace the Change! Gospel Series, “ a gospel fest with gospel mega-star Pastor Donnie McClurkin as part of the concert line-up.

It appeared to be an innocuous announcement at the time, showcasing some of gospel music’s most successful artists. But it actually outed some of the black gospel chitlin’ circuit’s closeted gays ministers and biggest opponents of queer civil rights — Pastor Donnie McClurkin, the poster boy for African American ex-gay ministries, as one of them.

When it was disclosed that Barack Obama’s inspirational gospel singer McClurkin could be a potential liability to his three-city gospel tour to capture South Carolina’s black evangelical voters, Obama immediately distanced himself.

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And as a last-minute attempt to do damage control his campaign penned an open letter to the LGBTQ community with signatures from black and white religious and LGBTQ supporters. The Obama campaign also came back with an appeasement plan by inviting an openly white gay minister, the Rev. Andy Sidden, pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ (formerly MCC Columbia).

Does the Warren/Robinson scenario strike a familiar chord?

In January 2008, was it mere happenstance that once again, the Obama campaign they have allowed another anti-gay African American minister endorse the presidential hopeful?

This time it was the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, longtime spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush and senior pastor of one of Houston’s black mega-churches, Windsor Village United Methodist Church.

His church ran an ex-gay ministry, giving instructions on how to free oneself from “homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction, and other habitual sins.”

Along the campaign trail Obama, courted and wooed anti-gay ministers as a sign he can reach across the aisle. Rick Warren is just another example of his extended arm to them.

Every time Obama has nodded or winked at our community, we have taken his gestures and even his words at face value to tether our hopes to.

Our hope was to see and hear Robinson’s at this historic event.

irene-headshot.jpgRick Warren’s invocation was heard around the world. No technical difficulties. No glitches. No excuses. Nothing.

Robinson, who many felt was a last minute add-on, acquiesced to bless the President on our behalf.

But once again the sting of disappointment slaps us.

Hopefully, Obama’s words “Yes we can!” will inspire us ALL to do so as we celebrated King’s holiday and Obama’s inauguration.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Published by the LA Progressive on January 21, 2009
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”