Newsom Calls Warren Invocation An Opportunity

San Francisco Gavin Newsom (D), a strong backer of gay marriage rights, said that President-elect Obama's inclusion of gay marriage opponent Rick Warren at the inauguration can serve as a chance to bridge differences.

Newsom, taking a more conciliatory tone toward Warren than gay and liberal activists, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday that Obama could use the inauguration to bridge differences with social conservatives. Warren, in addition to backing an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative in California last month, is also pro-choice and has opposed lifting restrictions on stem-cell research.

"The politics of this are lousy for President-elect Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWATCH LIVE: Obama speaks at African American Museum opening Obama talks racial tension at African-American museum opening Trump in 2011: Clintons ‘have done so much’ for blacks MORE," Newsom said. "But again, he is someone that said he was going to reach across the divide and try to bring us together. And if he can do that in a way that sparks a dialogue and a substantive one at that, where we can begin to understand one another and begin to address our differences in a meaningful way, then maybe it's an opportunity."

Newsom noted that Warren, the pastor of the Saddleback Church, has also preached about the need to address climate change, the spread of HIV and AIDS, the use of torture and poverty.

"But make no mistake -- I don't think it was a good idea under the circumstances," Newsom said. "And the folks out here in California, that just had their rights taken away, to now have a person that was one of the leaders in that constitutional amendment to strip people's rights up there front and center to kick this inaugural, obviously, makes it more difficult to, as you say, enjoy the festivities."

Newsom allowed same-sex couples to get marriage licenses from the city of San Francisco in 2004, when many states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

When asked how Obama could reach out to the gay community, Newsom said he could support a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy and federal hate crime legislation.