About 75 gay and lesbian demonstrators, led by Atlanta black gay activists, protested at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta against the appearance of anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-science televangelist Rick Warren at Martin Luther King Day observances. The demonstrators included 22-year-old Michael Brewer seen at far right, the openly gay Morehouse senior and Out 100 honoree.
Warren was invited to give the keynote address at the historic church once pastored by Dr. King. Warren is a noted opponent of gay rights and was a prominent supporter of the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign that ended same-sex marriage in California. Gay activists say Warren's divisive rhetoric belies King’s message of inclusiveness. Warren's high-profile participation at Ebenezer and his invitation to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday has infuriated gays and lesbians. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
[Warren] praised Martin Luther King Jr. as both a model pastor and a heroic civil rights leader.
But Warren’s appearance also drew protesters who were angered that event planners invited an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage.
Several dozen gay activists gathered outside Ebenezer before the service. Two protestors made their way inside and rose to shout at Warren when he began speaking; they were escorted out to applause from many in the crowd.
Earlier, the protesters outside hoisted signs declaring: “We still have a dream. Equality.” They chanted: “Gay, straight, black or white, we demand our civil rights.”
[Warren] did not directly address the same-sex marriage issue.
"This is not just a gay marriage issue," says Craig Washington, one of the founders of the Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition. "Warren is a deceptively divisive demagogue on several fronts. He claims to befriend gays yet his church does not admit gays unless they repent their very nature. He compares women who choose to have abortions to Nazis, pro-choice supporters to Holocaust deniers."
On the last King Day, then-Democratic hopeful Barack Obama spoke to the church the day before the national holiday and delivered a well-received challenge to black churches to renounce homophobia. Warren's selection as this year's keynote speaker is, to say the very least, a curious follow-up to that historic address and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The slain civil activists' widow, Coretta Scott King, dedicated her later years to building the King Center, which sponsors the Ebenezer MLK Day service, as well as working on civil rights for the LGBT community. Mrs. King would not be pleased.
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