Since Barack Obama announced his choice of Reverend Rick Warren (the same man who hosted the Saddleback Forum early on in the campaign) to give the invocation at his inauguration in January I decided to take a look at gay rights in America. Many gays and people on the left cried foul, given Warren's conservative social views - specifically his anti-gay marriage stance (he was a staunch supporter of Prop 8 in California). While Warren certainly holds views that those on the left do not, his choice should not be that surprising to those who have followed Obama's stance on the issues. Obama never has been a proponent of gay marriage, so his choice of Warren should not be "shocking" to anyone. He supports civil unions for same-sex couples, but marriage itself is a thing he would like to leave up to religion and to the states. Obama is not in favor of banning same-sex marriage, but he certainly is not fighting for its practice. Obama does make good points on gay marriage - points I will be making in this post - but he will not go as far to say that gays have the same right as straights when it comes to matrimony.
Many people point to religion to say that gay marriage is wrong, immoral, or sinful. They point to things like Sodom and Gomorrah and the biblical laws that seemingly ban homosexuality. That's fine, but I bet these same people would decry against the backwardness of things like Islamic extremists enforcing harsh, out-of-date Sharia law in Middle Eastern communities and the treatment of women, etc. How is invoking a book older than the religion of Islam itself to deny a right to a group of people that much different than Islamic fundamentalists using Quranic/Hadith law to deny rights to a group of people? Has humanity not changed drastically since the days of the Bible? Do these same folks who invoke the Bible argue for the relationship between man and wife as laid out in Genesis 3:16 (that the husband will "rule over" the wife)? There are plenty of biblical laws that would make no sense in today's society; we cannot just pick and choose the ones we want to justify things we do not agree with.
Others point to the societal ills that will abound if we allow gays to marry. To begin with, they say that the "sanctity" of marriage will be destroyed, the whole concept will become meaningless. Seriously? How does allowing two people of the same sex to marry ruin any part of marriage? I would say folks like Newt Gingrich, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig, Tim Mahoney, David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer (the list goes on and on) ruin the sanctity of marriage. Why is it legal to cheat on your wife, but not for two gays to get married? The other hypocrisy of gays ruining marriage is the divorce rate in this country. We often hear that 50% of American marriages end in divorce. From what I can glean, this is a misleading statement, but the divorce rate in this country seems to be somewhere between 30-40%. Now I may be old-fashioned, but I thought that marriage was a "death do us part" deal, not a "til I decided you changed or did not become as successful as I thought or just get sick of you" thing. The logic behind allowing people to leave a marriage being okay but allowing other people to enter a marriage being wrong is mind-boggling. So again I pose this question: Why is it legal to break a martial promise/bond/covenant/whatever you want to call it, but not for two gays to get married?
It seems that America as a whole has a problem with homosexuality. This is a country that had sodomy laws up until 2003 when the Supreme Court struck down such legislation as unconstitutional. If you are openly gay, you are not allowed to serve this country in its armed forces. There is no federal legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, which leaves that matter up to the states. This means that in any state that does not have anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation, it is legal to not hire someone or purposely discriminate against someone based solely on their sexual orientation. And, as a good friend of mine pointed out to me recently, the United States refused to back or sign a United Nations resolution decriminalizing homosexuality. The only other nations to not sign the resolution were Russia, China, the Catholic Church, and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In the context of human rights, not exactly the best company to be in.
So back to the original point about Obama and Warren - why is it that surprising? Obama touted the fact that he could work across the aisle, and Warren is pretty socially conservative (something Obama is not). They both agree that gays should not expressly be allowed to marry, but beyond that they have little agreements. Barack Obama, in my opinion, did not do anything that outrageous - he chose a reverend who is quite influential and will help him bridge the gap between social conservatives and his future administration. This is Obama making good on a promise to work with a diverse group of people. Not everyone is going to agree with everything he does, but, as long as he is not overtly hypocritical, moronic, or plunges this country into unnecessary wars, that's just politics.
Photos - Obama and Warren (Washington Post), Larry Craig, a symbol of hypocritical homophobia (Wikipedia)