By MARY FRANCES BERRY
(From the January 16, 2009 edition of the New York Times)
AS the country prepares to enter the Obama era, anxiety over the legal status and rights of gays and lesbians is growing. Barack Obama’s invitation to the Rev. Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to give the invocation at his inauguration comes just as the hit movie “Milk” reminds us of the gay rights activism of the 1970s. Supporters of gay rights wonder if the California Supreme Court might soon confirm the legitimacy of Proposition 8, passed by state voters in November, which declares same-sex marriage illegal — leaving them no alternative but to take to the streets.
To help resolve the issue of gay rights, President-elect Obama should abolish the now moribund Commission on Civil Rights and replace it with a new commission that would address the rights of many groups, including gays.
The fault lines beneath the debate over gay rights are jagged and deep. Federal Social Security and tax benefits from marriage that straight people take for granted are denied to most gays in committed relationships. And because Congress has failed to enact a federal employment nondiscrimination act, bias against gays in the workplace remains a constant threat.