Melissa Etheridge, Lesbian Spouse Defend Pastor Rick Warren

Last week, after a flurry of debates and protests broke out over Barack Obama's selection of prominent megachurch pastor Rick Warren as the invocation deliverer at his inauguration, openly gay singer Melissa Etheridge and her partner stepped into the ring in hopes of avoiding another "reverse smear-the-queer."

"At times, it seems that the media presents us with target after target to smear, as if to say to us, 'THIS IS THE GUY HOLDING YOU BACK!! GO GIT 'IM!!!'" wrote Tammy Lynn Michaels in an edited version of her blog last week.

"And it does seem that my lovely gay family is so bruised and battered and ready to fight back that we attack and deem someone anti-gay, and ready to smear, simply when they don't want the word 'marriage' brought into our gay ceremonies," she added.

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But Michaels, who also goes by Etheridge's surname, said she is starting to think that there are "well-meaning and loving people" who are not at all anti-gay but simply don't want the word "marriage" used to describe the relationship between two individuals of the same gender.

"The word marriage is a religious, holy, word that people who go to church on Sundays are told belongs to them. Like yarmulke, menorah or matzo," she wrote, referring to other terms held sacred by people of faith.

Michael's comments follow Etheridge's recent meeting with Southern California pastor Rick Warren, who was the keynote speaker at an event the award-winning singer was also invited to perform at.

Though Etheridge said she had only heard of Warren after "the man we (the gay community) helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration," she decided to have her manager reach out to Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him."

"He (Warren) explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone," Etheridge recalled in an article that appeared last week in The Huffington Post.

"He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman," she continued.

"When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future."

Like her spouse of 5 years, Etheridge called for understanding from the gay community.

"Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen," she wrote.

"Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world."

Michaels, meanwhile, went as far as suggesting that the gay community not fight so hard for the word "marriage" but instead for the rights that come with it.

"Let's say I am wearing a baseball cap," she wrote to explain her point. "Now what if I want to call it a yarmulke? You know, it's basically the same thing, but one is missing the sun visor. I don't call my caps yarmulkes because that is a religious name for a hat that is worn by religious people.

"Now if I apply that thinking to this situation, if they afford us the exact same rights, who cares what it's called?" she concluded.

In recent weeks, Rick Warren has been inundated with criticisms from evangelicals as well as gay-rights groups for accepting the invitation to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration in January. Obama has also been blasted for his selection of the evangelical pastor for such a significant role.

Last Monday, in response, Warren posted a lengthy video message blaming the media for the destruction of America by "the demonization of differences."

"[T]he media often fans controversy and conflict to create a story and we start yelling at each other so much, nobody listens to each other anymore," Warren said in the video message addressed to members of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

As the media creates or fuels conflict, it's creating more polarization and causing people to be more rude and inflamed, the increasingly prominent pastor added.

Warren also blamed bloggers for contributing to the polarization of the country and said one of his three life goals is to restore civility to civilization.

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