I moved away from my small hometown in West Virginia more than seven years ago and vowed never to return for anything other than a visit. Less than two weeks ago, I made such a visit under very unpleasant circumstances–to say goodbye to a dying relative. At her funeral, I was reunited with family and old friends I hadn’t seen in many years. Most of them were from the evangelical church I attended as a child. We hugged and kissed and prayed and through the tears, tried to catch up and pledged to keep in touch. I love those people and they love me. And most of them are bigots.
I have no doubt that many of the people who hugged and kissed me at my aunt’s funeral, the people who watched me grow up, who changed my diaper, and who taught me in Sunday School, hold extraordinarily intolerant views of homosexuality. Yet, they love me and I love them. How? How can someone who believes that homosexuality is a sin, that gays should not be married, that homosexual sex should be a crime, and that gays and lesbians are entitled to equal rights protection love me? The reason that I love them. Hate the sin, love the sinner.
Seeing these people brought back wonderful memories of my childhood and their love and support was very important to my family and I on that difficult day. Yet, most of them no doubt believe that my boyfriend and I do not have the right to get married. They confer benefits upon themselves that they deny to me because they do not approve of who I am. That is discrimination. Period. It’s not a difference of opinion. It’s not a different view of an issue. It’s intolerance of people who are different. Those who hold such views are bigots, no matter how much we may love them.
Is Barack Obama a bigot? I don’t think so. He opposes gay marriage, but he does support civil unions (same benefits, different name). While many may dislike the careful approach he is taking to dismantling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I appreciate it. He believes that trying to build consensus–and thus support–within the military before making such a major change will better in the long run. Fair enough. I think his approach is worth trying. President Clinton tried the more direct approach in 1993 and we ended up with the current policy.
Is Rick Warren a bigot? Absolutely.
Much of the criticism directed at Rick Warren has to do with comments he made about homosexuality in a interview with Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman.
[Rick Warren] The issue to me, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
[Steven Waldman] Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
[Rick Warren] Oh , I do.
Since these statements came under scrutiny, after he was chosen to give the invocation at the Inauguration, he walked back these comments saying he didn’t mean to equate homosexuality with pedophilia and incest.
“I have in no way ever taught that homosexuality is the same thing as a forced relationship between an adult and a child, or between siblings,” Warren said. “I was trying to point out I’m not opposed to gays having their partnership. I’m opposed to gays using the term marriage for their relationship.”
Fair enough. He was trying to make the slippery-slope argument and he stumbled over his words in an interview. And for the sake of generosity and forgiveness (hey, it’s Christmas), I will even submit that his removing the anti-gay language from his website was not an act of political expediency, but something he meant to do a long time ago, but only remembered to once he was being criticized for it.
Still, despite all that, and despite all his gay friends and his efforts on AIDS (I just love how so many straight people still think AIDS = gay), the Rev. Rick Warren, the media’s–and Obama’s–favorite evangelical, is still a bigot.
Why? Because he still doesn’t believe in equality for gay couples. Again, from the Beliefnet interview:
[Steven Waldman] One controversial moment for you in the last election was your support for proposition 8 in California. … Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?
[Rick Warren] I don’t know if I’d use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don’t believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.
[Clarification from Pastor Warren 12/15: I now see you asked about civil UNIONS -and I responded by talking about civil RIGHTS. Sorry. They are two different issues. No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the “right” to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage. It’s just not there.]
[Steven Waldman] What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?
[Rick Warren] You know, not a problem with me.
[Clarification from Pastor Warren 12/15: I favor anyone being able to make anyone else the beneficiary of their health or life insurance coverage. If I am willing to pay for it, I should be able to put a friend, partner, relative, or stranger on my coverage. No one should be turned away from seeing a friend in the hospital. But visiting rights are a non-issue in California! Since 1999, California has had a domestic partnership law that grants gay couples visiting rights and all the other rights. Prop 8 had no
zeroeffect on those rights.]
So my boyfriend and I should be able to visit each other in the hospital and inherit one another’s life insurance policy, but any institution that could be the equivalent of marriage–and it’s 1138 benefits–is unacceptable. That is not equality, no matter how you try and spin it.
What I have learned in my 32 years of life is that the people you love will disappoint you. They will say things that hurt you. They will do things that hurt you. They will believe things that hurt you. That doesn’t mean that you stop loving them. But no matter how much the truth hurts, you don’t sugarcoat it. The people from my church are bigots. Rick Warren is a bigot. And Obama has given him a platform at the Inauguration. Whether you agree with that decision or not (I do not, but I think that good people can disagree on this), you cannot sugarcoat it with flowery language about his gay friends, his love for the poor and his concern about the environment. Rick Warren is still a bigot.