President-elect Barack Obama’s senior advisor David Axelrod has spoken in support of the decision invite evangelical preacher Rick Warren to his inauguration.

Mr Axelrod is a chief advisor to President-elect Obama. Speaking on NBC, Mr Axelrod defended the controversial decision to include Warren in the ceremony.

“The important point here is you have a conservative evangelical pastor coming to take part in the inauguration of a progressive president,” he said according to the Associated Press.

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his January 20th inauguration in Washington DC.

The decision sparked outrage, particularly amongst the gay community.

Gay congressman Barney Frank said: “Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair.

“If he was inviting Rev Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing.

“But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honour. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect.

“I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”

Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT advocacy group was unhappy about the choice of Mr Warren.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” HRC president Joe Solomonese said in a letter to Barack Obama.

“Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years.

“And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.”

President-elect Obama has defended his choice.

“We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common,” he said.

He cited Mr Warren’s decision to invite him to speak at his church in California even though “I have views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues about abortion.”

The preacher echoed that sentiment in a statement.

“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue,” he said.