The Obama Administration's expansion of faith-based initiatives and its impact on the gay and lesbian community returns to the news. The President has invited Former Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy to the advisory board—the first black coach to win a Super Bowl and known for his social conservative views against gays. US News & World Report broke the story:
"The White House has invited recently retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy, whose outspoken Christian faith fueled his 2007 support for a gay marriage ban and has won accolades from evangelical leaders, to join its Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The invitation is likely to draw praise from conservative evangelical groups and criticism from liberals and gay rights activists.
"The White House press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials with the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships would not confirm the invitation to Dungy, but his publicist said rumors of the invitation in Washington were true. "I can confirm that Tony was contacted by the advisory council and asked to join," said Todd Starowitz, a publicist at Dungy's book publisher, in an E-mail message this morning. "He has yet to make a decision if he will accept the offer."
Dungy is a darling of the evangelical crowd and very friendly with James Dobson, rabidly anti-gay founder of the Focus on the Family. The coach created a huge controversy in 2007 by endorsing an Indiana ballot initiative to ban gay marriage and fundraising for the Focus on the Family-affiliated group that funded the initiative. "I feel like telling people when they look at this issue of same-sex marriage I'm not on anybody's side," Dungy said at the banquet sponsored by the Indiana Family Institute. "I'm on the Lord's side."
Gay activists raise concerns. GLAAD notes it is "unclear exactly what role Dungy will play in the advisory council" and is concerned "he can work objectively and effectively with LGBT nonprofits and LGBT community organizations."
Cyd Ziegler at Outsports is also unimpressed: "Unfortunately, people keep giving Dungy a pass on his hateful anti-gay positions. President George Bush previously included Dungy on his Council on Service and Civic Participation. It’s another reminder that our equal treatment and rights are still playing third fiddle to politics and the rights of chickens."
Ziegler makes a very good point. There are many apologists for Dungy's anti-gay views—and unfortunately many are in the black and black gay communities. (Read comments here, here and here.) But I'm not sure what influence Dungy will have. Why not adopt a wait-and-see attitude until Obama names the entire advisory council. Let's also keep in mind the President named Fred Davie, a black gay man, to sit on the board with Tony Dungy. That should mean something.
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