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HBO Omits - and Then Restores - Openly Gay Bishop Gene Robinsons' Invocation

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By GLAAD |
January 20, 2009

In the days leading up to the inauguration of President Barack Obama, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied Americans looked forward to the Sunday inauguration kickoff concert, set to be broadcast on HBO, which openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson would open with a prayer.

When the prayer was not included in the broadcast, LGBT bloggers, advocates and GLAAD staff reached out to HBO to express their concerns. At first, HBO suggested that the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) had kept the prayer out of the broadcast, as noted on AfterElton.com.  After some back and forth, the PIC issued the following statement from spokesman Josh Earnest:

"We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program.  We regret the error in executing this plan - but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event."

Within 24 hours, after hearing the concerns of LGBT people across the country, HBO agreed to play Bishop Robinson's prayer before the inauguration and include it in future re-broadcasts of the concert. Media outlets nationwide picked up the story, which was featured last night on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show and in reports by Reuters, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News, among others.

Though HBO viewers did not have the opportunity to see the invocation, bloggers posted the full prayer as recorded by a Christianity Today reporter. Rev. Susan Russell's blog also posted photos from the event and the text of the prayer, while Episcopal Cafe featured links to the full prayer. Numerous LGBT blogs, including Joe.My.God. and Pam's House Blend, offered ongoing commentary and updates as new details about the story emerged.

In a press release issued today, HBO gave the following update:

An updated version of the exclusive HBO special :  THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL on WEDNESDAY, JAN. 21 (11:30 p.m. ET/PT).  This presentation will include the invocation of the Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson, as well as all of the original performances of the live special, which was seen Sunday, Jan. 18.

The new version will also be seen this weekend on the main HBO channel and on HBO Latino, on SATURDAY, JAN. 24 (6:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT) and SUNDAY, JAN. 25 (3:30 p.m. ET/PT).

It will also be available on hbo.com starting Wednesday, Jan. 21.

Today, GLAAD sent out the following as part of a statement, which you can read here.

GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano said:

"We are disappointed that at this landmark moment millions of people worldwide did not get the opportunity to see the invocation by the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson during the original live broadcast of the opening celebration of the Presidential Inauguration.  Rev. Robinson's incredible voice draws attention to the common ground we share and we are encouraged that HBO has restored his invocation to their historical record of that day."

Issues: