A US broadcaster has been criticised for starting their live coverage of a concert in Washington DC celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama after the opening prayer led by an openly gay bishop.

HBO’s coverage started after Gene Robinson, Anglican Bishop of New Hampshire, had addressed the crowd of 500,000 in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

It appears that either his microphone or some of the speakers were not turned on or working properly, so many in the crowd could not hear him either.

The decision to have Bishop Robinson speak at yesterday’s concert followed a lengthy debate among gay rights groups over the choice of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver a prayer on the day of inauguration.

Warren has publicly denounced homosexuality, likening it to incest.

HBO told gay entertainment site AfterElton.com that it had not snubbed Bishop Robinson:

“The producer of the concert has said that the Presidential Inaugural Committee made the decision to keep the invocation as part of the pre-show.”

Bloggers have accused the Obama team of marginalising a leading gay figure.

AmericaBlog.com said:

“So, big surprise that Gene Robinson wasn’t shown on HBO – who in their right minds thought HBO would start broadcasting live for Robinson’s invocation, then just sit there with ten minutes dead air time until the “real” show began.

“If the gay Bishop – the man who was basically chosen to offset homophobic bigot Rick Warren – wasn’t intentionally slighted today, then the Obama people sure have some of the worst luck ever.

“Why do I doubt the same thing will happen when anti-gay bigot Rick Warren does his invocation on Tuesday?”

During the prayer on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Bishop Robinson asked that American be blessed: “with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.”

In interviews before the concert Bishop Robinson had spoken to say that he wanted to ensure the prayer was inclusive of all American people, no matter what their religion.

He also asked for the nation to be blessed, “With anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

President-elect Obama, along with Vice President-elect Joe Biden, also spoke during yesterday’s festivities. They will be sworn in tomorrow.

The concert featured performances from performers Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Usher.