PORTSMOUTH — In the ongoing battle of political endorsements, New Hampshire's Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has announced his support for Democratic contender Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, Democratic Portsmouth state Representative and Speaker of the New Hampshire House Terie Norelli not only endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, but took on the role of co-chairperson of the senator's New Hampshire campaign.
Despite his endorsement, Robinson, an openly gay man, made it clear he is not happy with the position of any candidate on gay and lesbian issues.
"Gays and lesbians, just like any other voters, are not single-issue voters," Robinson said in a telephone press conference Thursday. "As far as I'm concerned, no single candidate is where we think they should be on these issues."
The controversial bishop said Obama and his campaign have, nonetheless, been very respectful of him, and gay and lesbian voters
"The senator has been very supportive," Robinson said. "If I have an opportunity, I will certainly attempt to move him to our view on the issue of gay and lesbian marriage."
Robinson said he decided to speak out on behalf of a candidate this election cycle because he believes the role of religion in politics has been distorted in recent years.
"With the rise of the 'Religious Right' we saw an attempt by religious conservatives to exert what I consider to be improper influence on the American government," the bishop said. "The rightful role, I believe, is for any religious person of any faith to review their own texts and decide who to vote for based on their individual values."
With his endorsement of Obama, Robinson finds himself in unfamiliar territory, he said.
"I've never been public about my endorsement of candidates before, but I feel that since 9/11, the country is at a crossroads," the bishop said. "The country is polarized. I'm looking for a healer and I believe Sen. Obama could be that."
Robinson said he has yet to be assigned a specific role in the Obama campaign, but he hoped he would be able to advise the campaign on the appropriate role of religion in politics.
"I won't be speaking about this from the pulpit, that wouldn't be appropriate," the bishop said. "However, as an individual I will be doing everything I can to help the Senator."
Robinson said that his endorsement of Obama does not mean he agrees with everything the candidate says or promises to do as president. He said he disagrees with some of the things the Illinois Democrat said in a recent policy statement on terrorism.
"I feel differently about going into Afghanistan (Obama has proposed sending at least two battalions of U.S. troops into that country to secure it from the Taliban)," Robinson said. "I personally oppose any pre-emptive war.
"However, the senator's statements show that he is not some sort of light, easy, liberal voice who will take the security of this country lightly," said the bishop.
A resident of Weare, Robinson is known for his innovative approach to ministry, and his work in clerical leadership development and conflict resolution. He is deeply committed to service, working in Africa to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, and leading programs here in New Hampshire to increase access to health care and promote the development of affordable housing.