Lesbian Congresswoman to serve as honorary inauguration co-chair

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

President-elect Barack Obama has named the only out lesbian in Congress as one of 16 honorary co-chairs for his inauguration tomorrow.

Tammy Baldwin will be seated “in the Obama family-and-friends box across from the White House during the parade, along with her partner Lauren Azar, a member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission,” reports WisPolitics.com.

“She’ll also attend at least a pair of inaugural balls, including the Home States’ ball hosted by Illinois and Hawaii and the Midwest States’ Ball, co-hosted by Wisconsin.”

Congresswoman Baldwin said that Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United Sates “marks a turning point in American history.”

The new President’s decision to include one of America’s most prominent LGBT people among luminaries such as former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton and close members of the Obama family has been interpreted as another attempt to mollify the gay community.

LGBT activists have protested at the choice of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural prayers.

The Californian preacher opposed gay marriage and has compared homosexuality to incest.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” Joe Solomonese, the leader of America’s biggest gay rights group, said in a letter to Barack Obama.

“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.”

It later emerged that Gene Robinson, the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, had been asked to say a prayer at the first inauguration event, a free concert held last night at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

News of his inclusion was welcomed by gay rights advocates as “encouraging.”

However, an Obama source told Politico.com:

“Robinson was in the plans before the complaints about Rick Warren.

“Many sceptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism — but it’s just not so.”

President-elect Obama said that the honorary co-chairs were “distinguished men and women.”

“From family members to former Presidents, each of these leaders has an unwavering commitment to bipartisan cooperation and a proud record of service to their community and our country,” he said.

“They exemplify the spirit of unity and shared purpose this inauguration will reflect.”

Congresswoman Baldwin was the first openly gay person elected as a non-incumbent.

She has represented Wisconsin’s second district since 1999 and  served as a co-chair of the Obama campaign’s National LGBT Steering and Policy Committee.

Under the Bush adminstration her partner was reportedly barred from accompanying her on a military aircraft during an official trip.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, phoned Defence Secretary Robert Gates to ask him to intervene.

In April it was reported that the Pentagon had refused to allow Congresswoman Baldwin’s partner Lauren Azar to accompany her as part of a Congressional delegation using a military plane, citing rules that only allow husbands and wives of politicians to do so.

Mr Gates ordered she be allowed to go after Ms Pelosi spoke to him about the issue.