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Mary Frances Berry in the NYT: New Civil Rights Commission in Order

Mary Frances Berry, the former co-chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, outlines the inequalities LGBT citizens suffer in an op-ed today in the NYT, calling on Obama to abolish the now "moribund" commission she once co-chaired and replace it with one that address the rights of LGBT people and other disenfranchised groups. A powerful piece:

Berry"The commission (launched by Eisenhower in '57) conducted interviews and public hearings, prepared detailed reports and recommended new protections that would ultimately be passed in the form of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These laws embodied the goals of the protestors who marched, went to jail and died to end racial discrimination. The commission became what the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who was the chairman from 1969 to 1972, called the 'conscience of the government' on civil rights issues. There is no need to analogize the battle for the rights of gay and lesbian people to the struggle of African Americans to overcome slavery, Jim Crow and continued discrimination. But as Coretta Scott King said to me as she tried to imagine what position the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would take on 'don’t ask, don’t tell': 'What’s the yardstick by which we should decide that gay rights are less important than other human rights we care about?' The Commission on Civil Rights has been crippled since the Reagan years by the appointments of commissioners who see themselves as agents of the presidential administration rather than as independent watchdogs. The creation of a new, independent human and civil rights commission could help us determine our next steps in the pursuit of freedom and justice in our society. A number of explosive issues like immigration reform await such a commission, but recommendations for resolving the controversies over the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered people should be its first order of business."

Berry served on the Commission for Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004.

Gay But Equal? [nyt]

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  1. I've seen and heard her before on Bill Maher etc and have always enjoyed her perspective on things.

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Jan 16, 2009 10:21:09 AM

  2. Andy,

    You missed out on coverage this week of Berry being called "black and bitter" by Bush Department of Justice appointee John Tanner. This revelation was part of the Inspector General's report that revealed widespread discriminatory practices in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, which had been corrupted by politicization.

    Posted by: noah | Jan 16, 2009 10:52:47 AM

  3. You're right, I did miss that. Thank you for providing us with links.

    Posted by: andy | Jan 16, 2009 11:03:43 AM

  4. If only Berry wasn't certifiably nuts, something even her supporters agree on. She's a bit of a laughingstock, even in progressive DC circles.

    Posted by: Daniel | Jan 16, 2009 11:53:47 AM

  5. Ah, it's good to hear from Mary again. She was one my profs in college and my advisor.

    Posted by: Brandon | Jan 16, 2009 11:56:03 AM

  6. "She's a bit of a laughingstock, even in progressive DC circles."

    "Laughingstock" Isn't that often another term for genius? And what kind of live stock do they keep in DC circles anyway?

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jan 16, 2009 12:06:05 PM

  7. "She's like a sexy centaur!"

    Sorry, Daily Show reference, had to blurt it out.

    Posted by: TikiHead | Jan 16, 2009 12:36:47 PM

  8. Brava to Ms. Berry!

    "...the sweeter the fruit."

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Jan 16, 2009 12:42:19 PM

  9. Daniel

    On what do you base your wild statements?

    The only people to publicly critic her are repubs.

    Michael bedwell


    "The darker the berry....."

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Jan 16, 2009 1:58:13 PM

  10. Any commission headed by Ted Hesburgh wouldn't know an LGBT human right if it bit them on the ass... see Notre Dame for an abject lesson on that!

    Posted by: David B. | Jan 16, 2009 4:20:30 PM

  11. Mary Frances Berry is fired up and ready to go -- and I have to say "hell yes" to that!

    Her opinion piece is a call to arms for all people facing oppression in the US to join together in our differences to stand for one future as a just country that which prides itself on the rule of law.

    Posted by: Foochy | Jan 16, 2009 7:35:54 PM

  12. Ah Foochy, but they don't care about the rule of law. Or elections for that matter. Look at the out come of the Prop 8 elections.

    Posted by: Diogenes | Jan 17, 2009 4:35:23 PM

  13. this is just pitiful to me ;;(

    Posted by: Mary Frances | Feb 9, 2009 9:20:37 PM

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