Melissa Etheridge & Wife Defend Rick Warren

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Dec 23, 2008

Tensions over President-Elect Barack Obama choosing mega-church pastor Rick Warren, who has worked against LGBT equality and compared gays to pedophiles, remain high, but now openly lesbian singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge and her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, have joined to fray with a pair of articles that defend Warren as Obama's pick to deliver the Inauguration's invocation.

In a blog entry that was edited and re-published by the Chicago Sun-Times on Dec. 23, Michaels described a meeting her partner, Etheridge, had with Warren recently.

Wrote Michaels, "[Etheridge] spoke to him on the phone beforehand, giving us insight into the man the media has made our latest 'HE HATES YOU!' target."

Michaels wrote, "If I sit real still and think about it, it's almost like reverse smear-the-queer.

"At times, it seems that the media presents us with target after target to smear, as if to say to us, 'THIS IS THE GUY HOLDING YOU BACK!! GO GIT 'IM!!!'"

Continued Michaels, "And it does seem that my lovely gay family is so bruised and battered and ready to fight back that we attack and deem someone anti-gay, and ready to smear, simply when they don't want the word 'marriage' brought into our gay ceremonies."

Many supporters of marriage equality for gay and lesbian families have condemned the pick for the Inaugural invocation, because Warren, who heads a twenty-thousand-member congregation, worked to see marriage equality repealed in California.

Michaels, however, approached the subject as a matter of nuance, writing, "Now, if the person doesn't want gays at all, then I'm gonna chase that one down.

"But I'm starting to think that there are indeed some people--some well-meaning and loving people--who are not at all anti-gay.

"That's not why they don't want the word marriage used. They are merely religious. And for religious (archaic) reasons, they want to stay safe and respectful to what they've been taught."

Michaels compared "marriage" to "non-marriage" forms of domestic commitment between couples such as civil unions and domestic partnerships with baseball caps and yarmulkes, saying that the differences between the variations are not important and do not affect the basic function of the different, but similar, things.

It is generally regarded as the case that domestic partnerships and civil unions do not provide the more than 1,000 rights that are automatically conferred upon families with marriage. However, Michaels made the point that, in theory, "Joel and Hanna can have a piece of paper with the word 'marriage' on it, and all 1,200 rights, and I can have a piece of paper with 'who cares' on it, and all 1200 rights."

Added Michaels, "The word marriage is a religious, holy, word that people who go to church on Sundays are told belongs to them."

Added Michaels of Warren, "Rick is not a televangelist. Rick is not Falwell.

"Rick spoke of some 'stupid' things he's said (his word, not mine), some misquotes that were given, and lots of ammunition from the media. All excellent points."

Continued Michaels, "The public is given an animation of Rick Warren--and then my wife meets the man behind the projections, the quotes. And he is warm, caring, effusive, and LOVES gays."

Etheridge herself wrote on the subject in an article published at The Huffington Post on Dec. 22.

Wrote Etheridge, "We have spent a long time climbing up this mountain, looking at the impossible, changing a thousand year-old paradigm.

"We have asked for the right to love the human of our choice, and to be protected equally under the laws of this great country.

"The road at times has been so bloody, and so horrible, and so disheartening."

Etheridge continued, "From being blamed for 9/11 and Katrina, to hateful crimes committed against us, we are battle weary.

"We watched as our nation took a step in the right direction, against all odds and elected Barack Obama as our next leader. Then we were jerked back into the last century as we watched our rights taken away by prop 8 in California.

"Still sore and angry we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration."

Recounted the singer, "I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me.

"This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same 'ole thing.

"Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again?"

Warren has been denounced for supposedly promoting intolerance of Muslims as well as of gays, but Etheridge described how her path crossed Warren's when she was scheduled to play at a meeting of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, where Warren, as it happened, was slated to serve as keynote speaker.

Upon finding that out, Etheridge wrote, "I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel?

"Then a calm voice inside me said, 'Are you really about peace or not?'"

Etheridge decided to talk with Warren beforehand.

"On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was," Etheridge wrote.

"He had most of my albums from the very first one."

Added the recording artist, "This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher.

"He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection.

"He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman.

"He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays."

Added Etheridge, "He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine."

The singer-songwriter wrote, "When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future."

Etheridge went on to exhort gay and lesbian readers to reconsider the widespread opposition among the LGBT community of Warren as Obama's pick, writing, "Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention.

"We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts.

"Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change.

"Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world."

Wrote Etheridge, "Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.

"I know, call me a dreamer, but I feel a new era is upon us."

Added the songwriter, "I will be attending the inauguration with my family, and with hope in my heart. I know we are headed in the direction of marriage equality and equal protection for all families."

Writer Emma Ruby-Sachs responded in another Dec. 22 article also published at The Huffington Post.

Written as a letter to Etheridge, Ruby-Sachs' article read, "I have been angry for so many days now. Furious with myself for trusting Obama while knowing he failed to support gay marriage during the election and furious with Obama for calling himself a 'fierce advocate' for LGBT rights while promoting a man who refers to people like us as pedophiles.

"I even stopped watching CNN and MSNBC because I couldn't stand one more pundit calling the Warren pick 'smart politics.'"

Wrote Ruby-Sachs to Etheridge, "I am so relieved that you had the opportunity to hear Warren denounce his previous views on LGBT relationships. Your story about that conversation made me breathe easier than I have for days.

"I also heard that he recently revamped his church's website, removing many homophobic phrases."

Added Ruby-Sachs, "But I know that one private telephone conversation and a quick edit of website content is not sufficient to undo the damage of the Warren choice."

Acknowledging that President-Elect Obama had made plain his intention "to be president for all Americans" and saying that "if that means upsetting his base, it might well be worth it," Ruby-Sachs wrote,"I support his message of inclusion."

Added Ruby-Sachs, "I acknowledge that giving the invocation at the inauguration is a nominal position without policy implications and could go a long way towards purchasing political capital in Congress."

However, Ruby-Sachs continued, "this concession legitimizes a kind of hate speech that torments LGBT people across the U.S. on a daily basis.

"It says, even though you irrationally degrade a group of American citizens, you are not excluded from the conversation.

"You will, in fact, be rewarded for convincing so many other Americans that what you believe is correct. You may be instrumental in passing regressive legislation, but we want you to play an important symbolic role in this presidency because you are so popular and your particular hatred is so popular."

Indicating a willingness to be open to Warren, Ruby-Sachs wrote, "I am willing to agree that Reverend Warren is a good guy who said some bad things.

"I, like you, do trust that communication and cooperation will lead to increased tolerance and progress. I welcome his conversation with the LGBT community.

"I can't forgive Obama, though."

Asserted Ruby-Sachs, "It was his choice that legitimized homophobia."

Added Ruby-Sachs, "It is his continued support for Warren without the demand that Warren apologize or publicly retract his statements that teaches other Americans to be okay with the hatred and degradation of LGBT Americans."

Ruby-Sachs' letter to Etheridge continued, "You have been fighting for equality for so many years longer than I have. I am indebted to you and your struggle and I share your hopefulness for the future.

"But I fear that this action by the Obama administration has set us back significantly."

Commenting on Michaels' article, GLBT blog Towleroad opined that, "Etheridge's partner Tammy Lynn Michaels, seems to have bought Warren's bullsh*t hook, line, and sinker."

The Towleroad item, dated Dec. 22, cited several other public figures who have spoken out against the choice, including openly gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson, who was quoted as saying, "I'm all for Rick Warren being at the table, but we're not talking about a discussion, we're talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation.

"And the God that he's praying to is not the God that I know."

The article also carried a quote from Richard Socarides, who had been a special adviser to the Clinton administration on GLBT issues, and who told the New York Times that Obama's choice of the Saddleback pastor was a "serious miscalculation that will anger a lot of people and will be hard to undo."

Added Socarides, "It's not like he's introducing Obama at some campaign rally in the South. He's been given this very prominent, central role in the ceremony which is supposed to usher in a new civil rights era."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • David02122, 2008-12-23 22:47:05

    It is just so sad and demoralizing that BO would do such a terrible thing like this to us and YOU of all people squirm around to justify such hate. I suppose you have lost touch with us who don’t have the power, money or status to let our civil rights and BO’s trust go down the toilet. I just cannot fathom how you sanctify this hateful bigot with your good name and,alas, now diminshed, moral character, not the former moral role model. It does not bode well, Melissa and Tammy what’s her name, the other one (not wife of course). He hates all of us equally, but he proves that even you, a suppossedly wide awake activist can be bamboozeled. I must now look for someone in the GLBT celebrity/spokesperson in the community that I can truly look up to. Sorry to see you go. Keep up your cancer work and we can admire that aspect of you which is so easily admired in the inclusive mainstream. Afterall, we all know someone we’ve lost to cancer. Please do not speak for me again about my gay civil rights, you are not strong enough nor dependable enough to follow through. Ciao, adios, fare-the-well Melissa. I will truly miss you but will never be able listen to you again without thinking about what and, especially, why you gave credence to someone who is not our friend. Hugs to ObamaDavid

  • , 2008-12-25 00:40:18

    To insinuate or imply that being gay is a civil right issue is asinine. It is not a race color creed..etc this new attempt to re-classify deviant sexual behavior is expected. I would warn you to beware of the same fate that befell Sodom and Gomorrah... if you continue with this rational.

  • , 2008-12-25 14:19:15

    LGBT respect and trust could have been President elect Obama’s, with so little effort. We worked every bit as hard to have him elected, as any community, and did not deserve to be repaid being SPIT ON by Rick Warren. NOTHING makes Warren’s Invocation.....OK. Whether this idea of including Warren was Obama’s or one of his advisors, it will do LASTING DAMAGE to the relationship that could have been forged with MY community. The hard feelings won’t end the day after the Inaugural, and shoving US (LGBTs) away, will be much easier than ever bringing us back. Democrats in Blue States ought to remember that. Melissa and her partner speak for themselves, and there is a HUGE part of the LGBT community who feel exactly the OPPOSITE of Melissa. The extreme change from Melissa not willing to pay taxes after prop 8 to singing the praises of Warren is strange to say the least. The OBVIOUS PR stunts of Warren just "happening" to show up at a shop in West Hollywood benefiting HIV/AIDS...fooled NO ONE with an IQ above room temperature. There is a push to make Warren palatable to gays, and it WON’T WORK! That STUPID coining the phrase "CHRIST-O-PHOBES as an openly lesbian woman was gang raped by 4 assailants, makes FAT WHITE PRVLIDGED RICH HETERO Warren look like the faux VICTIM he is.

  • , 2008-12-25 14:30:47

    The straight politicians and celebrities, (beyond a handful who joined early prop 8 demonstrations)....are a tremendous disappointment.When it’s ONLY gay’s and lesbian’s Constitutional Rights being GUTTED from equal protection are too busy to give a GOOD G*D D*MN, that will be filed in our memories for decades. Who took the time to stand with us, and WHO DIDN’T.

  • , 2008-12-25 15:44:15

    i left this message on Obama’s transition Christmas thread:Maybe a little DIGNITY for Christmas. You claim to value service members and their families, (except the queer ones.) They you tell, wait a few years when it’s EASIER to help you serve openly and honestly, as if your sacrifices and your deaths in battle need to be kept a dirty little secret.You claim to FIERCELY support equal rights, (except the queer ones) so you allow Warren to SPIT ON me on day one, when I gave more to your campaign than any other, and live on a fixed income.Democrats will find what could have remained an alliance, will also be missing THE QUEER ONES.As your HONORED guest preacher Warren gives his Invocation, maybe include a prayer for the openly lesbian woman GANG RAPED by four assailants, then reflect on the HOLLOW PATRONIZING SOUND of Rick Warren’s coining his unoriginal catch phrase...."CHRIST-O-PHOBIA"

  • , 2009-01-27 16:31:00

    Honestly people. I would never be on this sight except by slip up--I was looking up Rick Warren and his slight change of focus from his book. I don’t understand why homosexuals think people who do not agree with it HATE them. It is not the people that are hated, it is the act that is viewed as immoral and a sin. We are all sinners. Homosexuality is a sin just like anything else--there is no gray area when it comes to sin. I hate all sin. Yet I do not hate the sinner. Jesus hates all sin, yet still loves the sinner. Do we have to walk straight in order to be saved. NO. All we need to do is believe to be saved. Believing brings about righteousness. I know most of you do not believe it is a sin, but then you do not believe the Bible so it is irrelevant. I do know we are all unworthy of what He has done for us and deserve eternal punishment in Hell. But He has washed us clean. His grace is sufficient for all. I also don’t understand why because people do not approve of homosexuality and the others, we are considered Homophobes --what is up with that. Do you know what phobia is???? Disapproval and phobia are not even close. We love all people cause we are told by God to love our neighbors and even our enemies. Warren does love Homosexuals--I am sure he loves everyone as we are supposed to. That does not mean he approves of homosexuality. That does not mean he is phobic of them or a hater of them. It is simply sin and as a follower of God, we are to keep ourselves separate from sin. That doesn’t mean we are phobic. That doesn’t mean we would run at the first sight. It just means you probably are not going to have a close personal relationship with someone who feels homosexuality is a sin and a follower of God who feels they are to keep themselves from sin. I really think you just need to get on with your own life and quit pressuring everyone to accept homosexuality as a normal sinless activity. I for one am tired of the state trying to teach children about homosexuality. To me that is even a bigger sin and evil.

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