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VIEWS: Does Oprah have her OWN problem with LGBT equality?
Why Oprah's network is two-sided on LGBT rights
by Ella Vincent
2013-02-13

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Oprah Winfrey certainly knows how to bring people together. Her show, interviews and programs on her OWN network bring together diverse audiences to watch shows such as Oprah's Next Chapter and Fix My Life, Iyanla. The family-friendly and therapeutic shows are often empowering and entertaining, especially her shows with gay icons Lady Gaga and Neil Patrick Harris. She has shown Harris with his husband and their twins as just an ordinary family. However, the show Oprah's Lifeclass has one problem that may anger her LGBT fans—the tacit approval of homophobia.

Guests on her Lifeclass show have included Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and TD Jakes. These megachurch leaders give inspiring messages about self-empowerment and prayer as ways guest and viewers can improve their lives. However, when Jakes and Osteen were interviewed on her Next Chapter show, they professed their belief that being gay is wrong. Of course, it's not surprising that evangelical ministers believe that. More surprising was the lack of pushback from Oprah. She accepted their answers without further challenging them on their opinions. Winfrey asked Lance Armstrong more probing questions about his use of performance enhancing drugs than Osteen about his homophobia.

Osteen's homophobia is even more hypocritical than Jakes'. Osteen got the permit for his Houston megachurch with the help of councilwoman (now Houston Mayor Annise Parker), an out lesbian. Winfrey never mentioned that fact in her interview with Osteen when he said, "I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the scripture. "It's a hard thing in a sense, Oprah, because I'm for everybody. I'm not against anybody. I don't think anybody's second class." Except, apparently, Parker and her wife.

While Osteen is free to express his beliefs and Oprah is free to have homophobic ministers on her shows, where is the balance? If Rick Warren can appear on Lifeclass after saying in an interview in 2005, he ''would counsel gays and lesbians to adopt a heterosexual lifestyle'', Winfrey should also have progressive ministers on her show as well. Winfrey could show her LGBT fans that she truly is an ally by featuring Rev. Otis Moss III, the minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Moss said in a memorable sermon from May 2012: "Gay people have never been the enemy… Gay and lesbian citizens did not cause the economic crash, foreclosures, and attack upon health care. Poor underfunded schools were not created because people desire equal protection under the law." She could also feature Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop, who fights for equality and spiritual fulfillment.

Winfrey has always been a supporter of the LGBT community. She has always featured gay guests on her show, from Ellen DeGeneres, to having Coming Out Days on her show. To really show her support for the community, she should have more LGBT-friendly guests on her Lifeclass show that want everyone to, as Oprah herself has said, "live your best life.''

Ella Vincent is a freelance writer for Blackworthy.com and she can be followed @bookgirlchicago on Twitter.


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