The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was elected the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, will deliver the invocation for Sunday’s kickoff inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said.
President-elect Obama is scheduled to attend the afternoon event, which is free and open to the public.
“The president-elect has respect for the Rt. Rev. Robinson, who offered his advice and counsel over the past couple of years,” an inaugural official said. “It also has the benefit of further reinforcing our commitment to an open and inclusive inaugural.”
Robinson remains the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay civil rights organization, said in a statement that the choice was "encouraging."
“Bishop Robinson models what prayer should be — spiritual reflection put into action for justice," Solmonese said. "It is encouraging that the president-elect has chosen this spiritual hero, and that should remain our focus today."
Many of Obama’s supporters were furious at the choice of Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor and best-selling author, to deliver the invocation at the swearing-in ceremony.
Warren had endorsed California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, with a statement saying: “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population.”
The furor has been Obama’s biggest clash with his party’s left wing since he was elected.
An Obama source said: “Robinson was in the plans before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism — but it’s just not so.”
Last summer, Robinson was united in a civil union with his longtime gay partner. The Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported at the time: “The day marked the five-year anniversary of the New Hampshire election that, once ratified, made Robinson the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican church.”
Robinson’s bio on the diocese website says: “Gene enjoys entertaining and cooking, gardening, music and theater. He is the father of two grown daughters and the proud grandfather of two granddaughters. He lives with his partner, Mark Andrew, who is employed by the State of New Hampshire's Department of Safety.”
As my friend Elizabeth wrote, "the inaugural invocation for the rest of us." Can I get an amen?
And so it goes.