ABC NEWS’ SUNLEN MILLER REPORTS:
At this morning’s press conference at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, President-elect Obama was asked about his choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his swearing-in during the inauguration — a choice which has since enraged the gay rights community.
“I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on, and I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency,” Obama answered but then defended his choice by making a broader argument for unity. “What I’ve also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.”
Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” holds many social views at odds with the incoming president, but Obama said today that it is in the spirit of the inauguration festivities for a wide range of viewpoints to be presented.
“That’s what America is about. That’s part of the magic of this country, is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated,” he added. “That’s the spirit in which, you know, we have put together what I think will be a terrific inauguration. And that’s, hopefully, going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration.”
Obama said that this type of dialogue has been part of what his campaign was about. “We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we — where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.”
However, Obama’s diplomatic defense today was not convincing enough for some.
While Dan Smith, VP of the Human Rights campaign applauds Obama’s attempt to bring people together, he insisted that the inauguration is neither the time nor place.
“The inauguration invocation is not a policy roundtable,” Smith tells ABC News. “It is the dawn of a new presidency. It sets the tone for the future, and to select a man who has made it his personal crusade to be against LGBT American equality is deeply disrespectful and deeply troubling sign for the future.”
- Sunlen Miller