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Obama’s second inauguration a culture-war balancing act

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — A gay Latino poet and a pastor who gave an anti-gay sermon that, in part, advocated ex-gay therapy, will share the stage at American President Barack Obama's second inauguration Jan 21.

The theme of the event is Our People, Our Future. 

The inauguration committee has announced that Richard Blanco — who will be the first Latino, the first openly gay man, and the youngest person to serve in the role of inaugural poet — will read an original poem at the swearing-in ceremony.

Blanco, who is the son of Cuban exiles, joins the ranks of inaugural poets that include Maya Angelou and Robert Frost. 

“In many ways, this is the very stuff of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story – America’s story, really,” Blanco said in a statement following the announcement. “I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry.”

Blanco, who lives in Maine with his partner, told The New York Times that he has related to Obama's life story and multicultural background since the beginning of the election campaign. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.” 

Blanco’s latest collection, Looking for the Gulf Motel, speaks to his life as a gay man in conservative Cuban culture, The New York Times says. “It’s trying to understand how I fit between negotiating the world, between being mainstream gay and being Cuban gay,” he told The Times.  

Blanco says his family once informed him that he had a choice of becoming a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Since he was good at math, he picked engineering, "suppressing his creative side (and his homosexuality) to win the approval of his grandmother, who thought he was too feminine," according to the report. But he says he felt a calling to write as he began to ponder questions about identity and belonging.  

Meanwhile, Louie Giglio, of the Georgia-based Passion City Church, has been chosen to give the closing prayer at Obama's inauguration.

ThinkProgress LGBT has reportedly uncovered an almost hour-long sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s, in which Giglio says homosexuality is a sin, gay people can become straight through Christianity, and an "aggressive" homosexual agenda must be "lovingly but firmly" fought. 

"That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family." 

Here's a link to the sermon, entitled "In Search of a Standard — Christian Response to Homosexuality." notes that while that sermon is almost 20 years old and American attitudes toward gays have changed, Giglio should be questioned about the comments and where he stands now before he speaks at the inauguration. 

The New York Times' political and government blog quotes Wayne Besen, of the gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out, as saying that Giglio needs to "clarify his remarks and explain whether he has evolved on gay rights, like so many other faith and political leaders. It would be a shame to select a preacher with backward views on LGBT people at a moment when the nation is rapidly moving forward on our issues.” 

Another pastor, Rick Warren, known for his anti-gay record delivered the benediction at Obama's first inauguration, in 2009. 

On CNN's Piers Morgan in November, Warren compared being gay to "punching a guy in the nose" and "arsenic." 

“I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t
necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get
angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act
on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t
act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not
everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.”   


Landing image: (Jorge Rivas photo)

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