Religious and community leaders will gather Thursday in Washington for the 61st annual National Prayer Breakfast, where President Obama will offer his first major remarks to America’s faith community since he announced his support for gay marriage last May. Obama usually shies away from policy at the breakfast — in his first four, he only briefly mentioned health care, immigration and the fiscal crisis. His only mention of sexuality was a quick aside in 2010. But many of the 3,000-plus guests will be wondering if his new position finds its way into his remarks. The National Prayer Breakfast’s organizer, the Fellowship Foundation, has historically held conservative evangelical positions and was linked to legislation in Uganda that would make being gay a capital offense. The breakfast is not a White House–sponsored event — the National Prayer Breakfast leadership and congressional offices handle the invitations, and the President just goes to speak. But this relationship has drawn criticism from marriage-equality advocates in recent years. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent letters to congressional leaders urging them to boycott the breakfast in 2010, and that same year, gay-rights activists organized competing prayer events in 17 cities. Last year, Occupy Faith held a countering People’s Prayer Breakfast with gay-rights groups.
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