The White House hosted faith leaders for the fifth annual Easter prayer breakfast on Monday, where President Obama remembered those killed in an attack on two Jewish centers in Kansas and urged Americans to stand together against "religious-based violence."
After the program was over, Bishop Gene Robinson was surprised and delighted to receive an impromptu invitation from the President to close the gathering with prayer. Robinson is the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop.
Robinson joined MSNBC host Alex Wagner to discuss the moving moment. "I did what I always kind of do in prayer, which is to ask God's blessing on all of God's children, worldwide," he said. "I asked a special blessing on this nation and our President, and also, since you mentioned Pope Francis, I always pray for the poor, and the oppressed, and the marginalized. I think God cares especially about them."
Wagner asked him "How optimistic are you that the Catholic Church- and broadly the Christian Church in general- is getting closer to opening its doors truly and meaningfully to the LGBT community?"
Robinson replied, "I think it's taken on an air of inevitability. We see such change in the culture. President Obama's evolution on this topic is really a reflection of what has happened all across the nation, across every demographic group, and certainly among young people. They just don't know what the big deal is."
He added, "And I think we will see even the more conservative religious groups understand that the love that two people share, one for another, is of God. And the gender of those people is not the important thing, it's the love and the relationship."
According to Talking Points Memo, Robinson retired as the bishop of Diocese of New Hampshire in 2013, and is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
The gay rights movement's winning streak in same-sex marriage lawsuits faces its biggest test yet in Denver where a federal appeals court will weigh whether to give an important victory to gay couples' right to marry or halt their momentum.
A three-judge panel will hear arguments on Thursday and next week on whether they should uphold separate rulings by two federal judges that threw out same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
They do so, however, in a climate far different than 2004, when voters overwhelmingly approved the prohibitions in both states.
After the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that a law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, eight federal judges in all have struck down state bans on gay marriage or on the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.
As the panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the Utah case Thursday, experts say pressure is on the judges at a time when polls show a majority of Americans backing same-sex unions.
"The challenge for conservative judge would be: Do you want to be the only court of appeals that upholds discrimination that the country is rapidly galloping to renounce?" said William Eskridge, a law professor at Yale University, said. "The handwriting is on the wall."
Opponents say that shouldn't factor into the judges' calculations.
"There are strong political factors that seem to be driving these district court decisions," said Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., adding that expectations that the Supreme Court will ultimately find that gays have the right to marry may also feed into it.
"It's not the job of lower courts to predict where the Supreme Court will go," he said.
"It's an institutional argument that we've seen at the Supreme Court and we've seen in state litigation," Douglas NeJaime, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, said. "If the court wanted to not say something about the merits, but uphold the ban, they could go that direction."
The three judges picked randomly to hear the case, and next week's appeal of the ruling that struck down an Oklahoma gay marriage ban, include two Republicans and one Democrat.
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