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Biden defends Obama's pick of anti-gay pastor Rick Warren for inauguration invocation

by Nick Cargo

Vice President-elect Biden said on Sunday that President-elect Obama's choice of controversial megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation on Inauguration Day was one in the spirit of unity.

"Many in the gay and lesbian community simply can't understand how you can give this place of honor to a man who's equated gay marriage with incest and pedophilia," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said. "What do you say to that?"

"Barack Obama...has a stellar and outspoken record in support of equality for all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans," Biden said. "But he also has made a judgment, I think correctly, that in order to heal the wounds of this country and move this country forward...that he was going to reach out."

"He made it clear there are parts of the positions taken by the Reverend that he strongly disagrees with, but there's also some very positive things about what he did," Biden told Stephanopoulos. "He's giving invocation. He's not making policy. He's not part of the administration."

Rev. Warren and the President-elect have been under criticism from the LGBT community over Warren's opposition to marriage equality along with a history of anti-gay statements and repeated comparisons of same-sex relationships to incest and pedophilia. Obama has insisted that his choice was not meant to be a slight of his LGBT constituency, nor does it signal a lessening of his commitment to work for LGBT rights during his presidency.

"I'm not making a commitment for the administration based on any timetable," Biden said on being asked to address the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. "But the commitments we made during the campaign to deal with these issues of equity and fairness we will deliver on in our administration."

The full interview, broadcast on ABC's This Week on December 21, 2008, can be viewed at this link. A partial video and transcript follows.


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TRANSCRIPT:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking forward, switching subjects here to the inaugural, quite a bit of controversy the last couple of days over the choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural. And I'm sure you've seen the reaction in the gay community. We've gotten e-mails, phone calls.

And many in the gay and lesbian community simply can't understand how you can give this place of honor to a man who's equated gay marriage with incest and pedophilia. What do you say to that?

BIDEN: Well, look, Barack Obama, candidate Obama, Senator Obama, President-elect Obama has a -- a stellar and outspoken record in support of equality for all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans.

But he also has made a judgment -- I think correctly -- that in order to heal the wounds of this country and move this country forward so we get out of this -- this -- this mindset overstated of red and blue and the like -- that he was going to reach out, he was going to reach out.

He made it clear there are parts of the positions taken by the reverend that he strongly disagrees with, but there's also some very positive things about what he did.

So he believes -- and I think he's right -- that this is a time to reach out, reach out to constituencies and people who you don't share the same view with in the hope that the end result of all this will be ultimate reconciliation.

And so -- and, look, he's giving an invocation. He's not making policy.

He's not part of the administration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So on matters of policy, what do you say to the gay and lesbian community? They're calling out for an action plan, saying have an action plan on revoking "don't ask, don't tell" within the first 100 days. Will that be done?

BIDEN: I'm not making a commitment for the administration based on any timetable.

But the commitments we made during the campaign to deal with these issues of equity and fairness we will deliver on in our administration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But no timetable?

BIDEN: But there's no -- look, we are faced with the first, most critical urgent problem. And the immediate, the day we're sworn in, the thing that we have to worry about is the further collapse of this economy.

We -- we have not -- no president raising his right hand will ever have been in the position by the time he says, "I so swear," and drops his hand, will he have such an immediate, urgent obligation of consequence since Franklin Roosevelt. And I would argue this is equally as consequential.

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Originally published on Monday December 22, 2008.


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