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Not All Gays Have a Problem With Rick Warren

Yet, it seems that it is not the president-elect, but his critics from the gay left who are fostering that division. They are objecting to the prominent presence in the inaugural program of a pastor with whom they have a profound disagreement on one key issue: gay marriage. As if that disagreement alone should disqualify him from speaking. I guess they want an ideological litmus test for inaugural participants.

Even Obama acknowledges his differences with Warren. Last week, he pointed out that during the campaign he had spoken at Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County despite it holding "views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights." The president-elect noted further that Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a man with "deeply contrasting views to Warren on a whole host of issues," will offer the closing benediction at the inauguration.

But, Lowery's presence won't quell the anger of gay activists, bloggers, and their allies on the left); they don't just see Warren as offering a different perspective on a controversial issue. They believe his position on that issue defines him a hate-monger who harbors "an anti-gay agenda."

By so defining Warren, they paint gay marriage opponents with a broad brush, assuming that anyone who opposes same-sex marriage does so out of animosity toward gay people.

Warren, however, has made clear that he opposes same-sex marriage not because he hates gay people, but because of the longstanding definition of this ancient institution: "For 5,000 years, every single culture, every single religion has defined marriage has defined marriage as a man and a woman, not just Christianity, [but also] Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism."

And while Warren's opposition to gay marriage has earned him the ire of angry gay activists, his support of certain "partnership benefits" for same-sex couples has upset some social conservatives. Warren's record on gay issues may not be perfect, but he is anything but a hater.

Unlike other social conservatives, Warren hasn't made animosity to homosexuals central to his ministry. He has reached out and listened to gay people. He has distinguished himself on gay issues primarily by his public opposition to same-sex marriage, a position he shares with the president-elect. Yet, that has not been his focus. Far from it.

It's unfortunate that some gay activists (and their allies on the left) have let their disagreement with the prominent pastor on this one issue color their reaction to the president-elect's choice. To be sure, had Warren expressed his support of Proposition 8 in the hateful tones of some of the proposition's proponents, these activists would have a point.

But, in coming out against gay marriage, Warren didn't attack gay people. He merely expressed his belief that gender difference was a defining aspect of the institution.

Given the civil nature with which Warren has expressed this view, activists' opposition to the president-elect's choice marks them the more intolerant party in this controversy. It shows how all too many of them readily label any opposition to gay marriage as bigoted, hateful, or otherwise anti-gay. Moreover, their claim that the inclusion of Warren means the exclusion of gay people is belied by the inclusion of the gay band in the inaugural parade.

Obama has acquitted himself quite well on this issue. He has reached across the aisle to tap a man with whom he disagrees on numerous issues to play a prominent role in his inaugural. In so doing, he offended part of his base. And he has refused to back down in the face of criticism from some of his staunchest supporters.

I might disagree with Obama's choice of pastor to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, but I believe he has handled the situation as should a national leader. He didn't seek to deliberately offend his supporters, but instead to appeal to his opponents.

A nice touch at the ceremony marking his ascension to the highest office in the land.