US President-elect Barack Obama has appointed the Bishop of New Hampshire, Rt Rev Gene Robinson, to deliver the invocation at the opening of his inaugural celebrations in Washington DC next week.
He will lead prayers at the Lincoln Memorial in the presence of the President-elect and Vice President-elect.
Bishop Robinson will deliver the invocation at a concert held on Sunday, January 18th, the first inaugural event the President-elect will attend.
The announcement follows outrage from Robinson and the LGBT community over the news that Rev Rick Warren, who has likened committed gay relationships to incest and polygamy, had been chosen to pray on inauguration day.
Speaking last month, Robinson, who is openly gay, said that the choice of Warren had left him feeling as if he’d been “slapped in the face.”
The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomnese, also expressed his disappointment, commenting it was a “genuine” blow to LGBT Americans.
Robinson gained international recognition after New Hampshire Episcopalians made him their bishop and, as a result, the worldwide church’s first openly gay bishop. His subsequent appointment has caused a worldwide schism in the church.
In an interview with The Concord Monitor, Robinson said that while he doesn’t believe he was chosen in response to the criticism surrounding Warren, his inclusion will be noticed and appreciated by the LGBT community.
“It’s important for any minority to see themselves represented in some way,” he said.
“[As a] sexual minority, just seeing someone like you up front matters.”
Warren, the high-profile, outspoken pastor of a Californian ‘mega-church’, will lead prayers at the inauguration ceremony.
Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States on January 20th, when he takes the oath of office.