Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gay Bishop Will Give Invocation Sunday at Lincoln Memorial Inaugural Kick-off

The Huffington Post, among several other news outlets, reports that openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has been invited to give the invocation at "We Are One," the kick-off event this Sunday for Barack Obama's inauguration festivities.

Obama's gay supporters were quite dismayed by his choice of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration itself--largely because of Warren's support for outlawing gay marriage in California (despite his church's significant outreach to AIDS sufferers). Several see inviting Robinson as atonement of sorts for that slight.

While it is possible to view Robinson's invocation as a consolation prize, it should at least be seen as a significant one, for several reasons.

Robinson himself has made it clear that he finds the event and its physical location especially important to advancing gay rights. It is not lost on him that choosing the world's most prominent gay clergy-person to lead off an event called "We Are One" is a marvelous opportunity to stress that gay people should be included in equal rights for everyone. Staging the event at the memorial to the Great Emancipator and the site of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech ties the struggle for gay equality to the historic struggle for racial equality that achieved its zenith with Obama's election.

The Robinson invocation is being seen in England as prominent support for the Episcopal Church USA in its fight to keep Robinson a bishop despite sustained harsh criticism and schismatic actions by conservative Anglican bishops from the Global South.

Several commentators also see Robinson's position as the first prayer-leader at the first official inaugural event as a sign that even though Obama may never be in a political position to support gay marriage, he may yet emerge as the president who does the most toward actually achieving full civil equality for gay people.

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