Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists celebrated their access to the White House to view the welcoming ceremonies for Pope Francis, after a week of political controversy over their invitations.
The White House issued invitations to the activists to attend the event in spite of their opposition to many of the teachings of the Catholic Church. At least 20 LGBT activists were reportedly invited to the ceremony, even though they did not meet Pope Francis personally during their visit.
The White House downplayed the controversy by reminding critics that they were more than 11,000 people who would attend the event on the South Lawn of the White House.
In response to the controversy, many of the activists who were criticized grouped together for a series of photos proclaiming their visit.
“LGBT. Catholic. Proud.” wrote Aaron Jay Ledesma on Twitter as he stood waiting for the pope at the White House with a group of fellow activists. “Witnessed history today. Thank you White House for allowing me to help welcome Pope Francis to the US.”
— Aaron Jay Ledesma (@aaronjayledesma) September 23, 2015
A grassroots LGBT group called “Owning our Faith” also signaled defiance to their critics. “LGBT. Catholic. Proud. Welcome Pope Francis!” they wrote.
The photos feature Michael Tomae founder of OwningOurFaith, an activist group for LGBT Catholics, Mateo Williamson of DignityUSA’s Transgender Caucus, and Vivian Taylor, a transgender activist.
Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic from New York who was dismissed from parish ministries, was also present, as his pictures were shared by the Empire State College’s first LGBTQA Student Alumni Club.
Retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson was also present, the first openly gay episcopal bishop. He was interviewed on the South Lawn by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Dawn breaks at the White House. pic.twitter.com/rVaXWC3rYm
— Gene Robinson (@BishopGRobinson) September 23, 2015
Robinson took a nuanced position, signaling his wish to avoid being “snarky, rude and adversarial” during the visit and interview.
Other people who were invited to the ceremony included Margie Winters, a woman who was fired from a Catholic school as a result of her same-sex marriage.
According to the Washington Blade, Ross Murray, Director of Programs, GLAAD, Frank Bua of the Family Equality Council, Mayor Bao Nguyen of Garden Grove, California, and Ben de Guzman of the Diverse Elders Coalition were also invited.