Muddled Middle Strikes Again
In choosing Rick Warren to deliver the invocation for his inauguration, Obama still tries to have it both ways:
“The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] issues,” Douglass said. “But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues.”
You might be thinking, “But he has so many important issues to deal with – two wars, the recession, health care reform, alternative energy. He can’t waste time worrying about the piddling concerns of special interest groups.”
To borrow a slogan – yes, he can. He’s on CNN right now giving lip-service to “equality to gay and lesbian Americans” but, again, “common ground despite our disagreements on important social issues.” Oh, and: “to disagree without being disagreeable.” He cites the inclusion of progressive pastor Joseph Echols Lowery as a speaker at the inauguration.
But what is “disagreeable” about respecting the struggle for equality? No one is saying Obama should replace Warren with Margaret Cho (whom I adore), but that his choice of Warren signals Obama’s willingness to cater to the special interests of religious homophobes over the basic rights of sexual minorities. More broadly speaking, that Obama will sacrifice deeper principles to the political whims of blind consensus. He’ll take the “safe” route.
My argument is not for radicalism. Despite my preferences for radical transformations in our social and economic relations, I recognize the value of incrementalist approaches to achieving long-lasting reforms — especially if they have immediate benefits for oppressed groups. Frankly, the demographics are running against opposite-sex marriage absolutism; same-sex couples who desire marriage rights and benefits will achieve those relatively soon. But we can’t just take it for granted. Bold stances need to be taken. Or even simple sensitivity.
Ultimately, Rick Warren’s soft homophobia will not prevail. Yet like other forms of soft bigotry, it should not be rewarded or excused. If Warren had come out in favor of discrimination against any other minority group, would he be sharing the dais with Obama at one of the most historic moments in the U.S Presidency?