Do you remember the anticipation surrounding the great non-debate between Barack Obama and John McCain hosted by Pastor Rick Warren? Televised from Saddleback Church as millions watched, Warren pledged to ask the hard questions in order to get to the truth. It was a critical juncture in the presidential campaign and there was much public discussion over faith and values and marriage and Proposition 8 and where, exactly, each man stood.
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman ... for me as a Christian it is also a sacred union…you know, God is in the mix,” Obama declared to thunderous applause.
So there it was … proof. The skeptics of Obama’s Christian faith and his position on the moral implications of same-sex marriage had been put in their place. The man had said he believed marriage was between a man and a woman, it was sacred and that it was his Christian faith that informed him of this. It was convincing and powerful and many social conservatives breathed a sigh of relief and voted for the charming candidate with the lovely smile, believing they were affirming a new era in race relations and signing on to “hope and change.”
Fast forward to a recent appearance by the president in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the annual dinner for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the leading organization promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. That audience was also eager to know just where he stood. Restless with his perceived inaction on their issues, they waited eagerly as Obama rose to speak.
He promised them the world. He promised a hate crimes bill that will put an added measure of federal law enforcement on anyone perpetrating a violent crime against a gay, lesbian or transgender person. If passed, murdering a gay man will be a much more serious crime than killing a grandmother. With bravado, he pledged to name this bill after Matthew Shepherd, the young gay slain in Wyoming in 1998. ABC tried to correct the narrative not long after the incident to clarify it was robbery not “homophobia” that resulted in the murder, but the story was already larger than life. Matthew was known for soliciting straight men and abusing drugs. His murder was tragic, but he was no hero. Still, Obama advanced the legend, and gave tribute to a man not known for his character, but for his sexual preference.