Rick Warren, Founder of Saddleback Church
Who is this guy, Rick Warren? And why has he set off a firestorm of straight-bashing by the gay community? It’s not like Obama asked Pope Benedict XVI to pray; now there’s a conservative when it comes to gay rights. So Rick Warren holds fundamentalist views on various sensitive issues. So what? He isn’t going to be a member of government; he’s going to pray. So hey, gay rights people: See if you can extend the tolerance you demand, often quite vehemently, to others. Others who disagree with you about legalizing gay marriage. At least for three whole minutes on January 20, 2009. In deference to god, or God, depending on your viewpoint. That might be the ethical, not to mention adult, thing to do.
It would be far from accurate to say that the United States favors gay marriage; it might be more accurate to say a great number of people in the United States advocate institutionalizing civil unions. Many who are positively disposed toward including gay unions for legal purposes still can’t get around the term marriage, and rightfully so. Marriage refers, specifically, to a sanctioned union (by church or state) between a man and a woman. On the other hand, the term civil union is completely appropriate for defining same gender unions of a permanent and committed nature.
Some people have pointed out that the word marriage is already used to describe close relationships of other sorts, such as a marriage between art and architecture to describe a lovely building. But that’s using the term in a tacit analogy; do gay people who are committed to each other in spiritual, economic and emotional ways want to be considered no more than a convenient analogy? I wouldn’t. I would rather be part of a civil union, as long as formalizing that union afforded me familial rights, such as inheritance, health benefits, the right to make decisions for my partner, and so on. And I do think there should be a government-supported means for doing that, a civil union document not unlike a marriage license.
There is also the danger that misusing terminology long agreed upon in western thought will impoverish the language to the point that it is incapable of expressing nuanced thoughts and concepts. Creating an impoverished language out of arguably the language with the greatest range and precision would seem an inadvisable thing to do, especially in a world getting more complex--and thus less explicable except by nuance--by the minute.
One thing is not debatable, however. The whining that has gone on since the Warren choice has been deafening, and highly unattractive, not to mention counter-productive.
I admit that most of Huffington Post’s commentators get many things right, at least in my world. But Joan Garry’s column about Warren—and being disappointed that her hero, Barack Obama, would have the audacity to choose someone inimical to gay marriage to pray at the inauguration—struck me as a near-perfect example of whining.
“My partner says she is done. She doesn't want to go to the inauguration or any of those balls with me,” Garry wrote on December 30. This sounds a lot like the Repubs taking their marbles and going home when every little thing doesn’t go their way. Oh, right, for the Repubs, it was a whole national election that didn’t go their way. In the case of Garry’s partner, it is that, despite continuing to confab with LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bi-Sexual Trans-Sexual) community leaders, Obama tossed a small bone to their opposition. What an unforgivable act! Each of his other choices has been perfect in Garry's estimation, apparently (leading one to believe Garry and her partner thought the Richardson choice was brilliant.)
Perhaps it is sad that one can call the invocation at an inauguration a small bone; it’s God we are talking about here, after all, not some gay-suburban-housewife-wannabe from Jersey who decides her hero has deserted her so she won’t dance at his party.
Actually, I would say that Garry’s partner ought to be rejoicing. The LGBT debate has been ramped up another notch, and better yet, the brunt of it is a man of god and a conservative; how much more mileage do they want from a straw man? Perhaps Obama should have asked Pope Benedict XVI to preside. Now that would have been a really grand choice. Or would it? Protestant conservatives don’t truly appreciate papists, or so I learned living in the South as a JV Catholic (Episcopalian). So Obama would have lost the Protestants, the gays, the Jews….
No, in retrospect, his choice of a mainstream bigot was, in fact, a stroke of genius.