Barack Obama ran on the promise to reach across a divided country
and try to heal it, listening to diverse voices along the way. That’s
fine with his most liberal supporters, as long as it those voices agree
with them.

But he’s talking to Pastor Rick Warren, and they are angry.

Obama was showered with objections from gay rights
advocates upset by Warren’s support for a California ballot initiative
banning same-sex marriage. Voters there approved it last month.

One activist group, People for the American Way, said the Saddle
Back church leader and popular author doesn’t represent the values
Barack Obama ran on during his successful White House bid.

“I’m sure that Warren’s supporters will portray his selection as an
appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across
traditional divides, said the group’s president, Kathryn Kolbert.

Well, yes. Obama made that commitment, and now he’s trying to keep it. But he’s reached too far, say these folks.

Joe Solmonese, the head of gay rights group Human Rights
Campaign, was harsher, writing in a letter to Obama that his invitation
to Warren, “tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender Americans have a place at your table..”

Wait….isn’t that supposed to be a table for dialogue on how to bring
the country together? Or talk only with people who think alike?

Obama had a swift reply.

President-elect Barack Obama pushed back Thursday at the
gay rights groups trashing him for inviting evangelical Rev. Rick
Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

“It is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay
and lesbian Americans,” Obama told reporters in Chicago. But he noted
that he ran a campaign promising to reach out to all sides.

“It is important for America to come together even though we may
have disagreements on certain social issues,” he said, reminding that
Warren invited him to speak at his church knowing Obama disagreed with
many conservative religious stances.

“That dialogue, I think is part of what my campaign has been all
about,” Obama added. “We’re not gonna agree on every single issue. What
we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree
with out being disagreeable.”

“That’s what America is about,” he continued. “Part of the magic of
this country is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated.”

Good description, sort of like some families around the Thanksgiving table. But at least they’re at the table.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....