Monday, January 19, 2009

Shame on You, Barack Obama, For Inviting Bishop Gene Robinson, Then Silencing Him

Were gay Americans ever meant to be included in "We Are One," the inauguration kick-off event at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday?

Apparently not, judging from the organizers' contemptible treatment of gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

The inauguration committee made a huge public deal about inviting Robinson to give the invocation for the event. But then they made him speak before HBO began its exclusive television coverage, before the sound system was working for most of the live audience, and before the president-elect was even in attendance. So much for atoning for promoting quirky evangelist Rick Warren as the new Billy Graham.

Shame on the Presidential Inauguration Committee for trying to keep Robinson from being seen or heard.

Shame on HBO for acceding to the committee's decision
to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show."

And above all, shame on Barack Obama for allowing his inauguration party to be yet another occasion to deny equal civil rights for gay people--at the memorial to the Great Emancipator, no less.

As far as the HBO audience knew, Robinson was never there. He was not seen during the live broadcast, from 2:30-4:30 ET, nor during any of the successive re-broadcasts on various HBO channels.

The only viewers who had any clue that Robinson actually spoke were those like me who watched CNN's coverage before the event. I could see Bishop Robinson standing at the podium, as pictured above. However, since HBO had exclusive rights to the production and would not allow CNN to show any of the performances, I assumed naively that the bishop was just testing the microphone. Once HBO began with Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," it became clear that HBO's audience was never going see Robinson or his prayer.

One blogger reports that a spokesman for the Presidential Inauguration Committee has just issued this apology for excluding Robinson: "We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program. We regret the error in executing this plan - but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event."

But that apology rings false in light of HBO's statement that the committee instructed them not to cover Robinson's prayer. It also does not address why a sound system that was working fine just before the invocation suddenly broke down right when Robinson spoke.

the same blogger links to a YouTube video of Robinson's prayer, and gives a transcription of what he actually said.

Ironically, Robinson mentioned "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people" only once in his invocation, at the end of a sentence which began "Bless this nation with anger - anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color and ..."

How unfortunate that Robinson could be so inclusive in asking God's blessing on every human being without exception, but Obama's people could not include him.

It is now to the point that there is only one apology that would truly matter: let Bishop Robinson speak at the inauguration itself. Why should anything less than that be believed?

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