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Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is representing a lesbian couple in an employment discrimination case against the British government in front of the European Court of Justice. Lisa Grant, 29, a railway booking clerk and her partner Jill Percey, 38, sued the government claiming that its policy of denying lesbians and gay men travel benefits is in violation of the European Union's anti-discrimination laws. Travel benefits are extended to both married and unmarried heterosexual partners of railway workers. Blair commented before the court, "To say that a human being can be penalized for choosing to express their sexual identity, is equivalent to saying that you can discriminate against a pregnant woman because she could have chosen not to become pregnant." Further she commented, "The court should reject such pedantry. The right to human intimacy is a fundamental right and I would suggest, a fundamental human need." The court plans to deliver a preliminary opinion on September 30, 1997 and a final opinion sometime in early 1998.
7/9/1997 - McKinney Hearing Continues
Brenda Hoster, the woman who originally brought charges of harassment against the Army's top enlisted man Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, has said she will be willing to testify at the pre-trial hearing assessing the charges under two conditions. Hoster and her attorney will ask the U.S. Military Court of Appeals to order lawyers for McKinney not to question her about her previous sex life. They will also ask the Appeals court to bar testimony in the hearing of General Dennis Reimer, Army Chief of Staff. Hoster claims that the character testimony of the General could unfairly influence the presiding officer in the case and could intimidate other witnesses in the trial.
Of her initial refusal to testify, Hoster commented, "I want to testify, [but] what I've seen these other women go through is absolutely ridiculous." She further commented, "This whole thing, this hearing, is about let's pit the boys against the girls. Let's see what we can dig up on the girls and let's get this over with." Defense attorneys are inundating other women who have brought charges against McKinney with question after question about their sexual past.
Of the General's testimony she added, "Here's the top leader for soldiers. He's going to come in and say, 'Hey, this guy has great character. There's no way he could have done any of these things.' Where does that leave me and the other three (victims)? It's definitely a slap in the face to all of us and it's a slap in the face to any other victims out there or who will be out there in the future." Hoster said she would be more than willing to testify as soon as the Army started "playing by the rules" during the hearing. The goal of the hearing is to determine whether charges brought against McKinney, the Army’s top enlisted man, warrant a court-martial.
In related news, the father-in-law of one of the other female accusers testified on July 8th that the woman felt betrayed by McKinney's sexual advances. Career Army Sergeant Major Harold Lewis testified that his daughter-in-law, Sgt. Christine Roy who claims McKinney pursued her with constant calls and had sex with her against her will while she was eight months pregnant, told him she felt uncomfortable with McKinney's advances. He testified, "I asked if he had called her a lot. She said, 'Yes.' I asked if he had said anything on the phone that made her uncomfortable. She said, 'Yes.' I told her to report it immediately."
Former Congresswoman and Vice Presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro said on July 7th that, "If it [the New York Senate race] were today, I'd probably say 'Yeah, I'm going to go'." Ferraro further commented that she would make a firm decision by December of 1997 regarding the 1998 Senate race. If she ran, Ferraro would face Rep. Charles Schumer of Brooklyn and Mark Green, New York City's public advocate, in the Democratic primaries. Whoever wins the primary will face current Republican Senator Alfonso D'Amato in the general election. Ferraro said of D'Amato, "I think he's eminently beatable." It's, 'We really want you to run!' It's very different this time. People are saying please do it."
Ferraro made a Senate bid in 1992, but lost in the primaries to Robert Abrams who later lost to D'Amato. But Ferraro feels that the loss was a reflection a last minute ad blitz inaccurately calling her ethics into question. Ferraro said of the loss, "If I lost it fairly, I probably would have said, 'The public rejected me.' But that is not what happened in 1991 and 1992. It wasn't a rejection by the people. Ferraro also commented that early polling shows her to be the strongest Democratic candidate. She commented, "What I've found, as I go to different events around the state, the response is just amazing.”
7/8/1997 - Japanese Feminist Dies at Age 101
Mumeo Oku, one of the first females elected to Japan's parliament, died from a stroke at the age of 101. Oku made several contributions to the feminist movement in her country since she attended Japan Women's University in the 1920's. During that decade, she founded "Working Women," a monthly magazine devoted to improving the status of women in Japan's patriarchal society. In 1947, one year after women won the right to vote and run for national office, Oku won a seat in the House of Councilors. She served in the upper House of Representatives for three terms until 1965. For four decades beginning in the 1940's, Oku worked with the Housewives' Association, a group she formed to highlight the "voice of the kitchen in politics." Her funeral will take place on July 10th in Tokyo.
7/8/1997 - The Citadel's Legal Battles Continue
Attorneys who fought The Citadel's all-male admissions policy face another battle with the state of South Carolina, this time over legal fees. On July 7, the lawyers requested that a federal judge grant them $6.7 million for the 23,406 hours they spent on litigation that took nearly five years. The state spent 25,385 hours defending The Citadel and used 168 attorneys and assistants while the other side used 49. Yet state attorney Bobby Hood claims that the fees which attorneys have asked for are "full of excess." Val Vojdik, an attorney who challenged The Citadel, said of the military school and its attorneys, "They fought us every step of the way. They fought us on everything."
7/8/1997 - Title IX Gets National Attention
Following recent celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in publicly-funded educational institutions, the Washington Post published an extensive feature on Sunday, July 6 on how women athletes at the University of Texas sued the university and gained more athletics opportunities for women. As a result of the lawsuit, the University of Texas agreed to provide equal funding and opportunities for women's and men's athletics, and will comply with this agreement this year.
In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. In response, the Hawaii legislature has passed a law which would allow same-sex couples marriage benefits. Governor Ben Cayentano has said he will sign the bill granting such spousal benefits as medical insurance, state pensions, inheritance rights and the right to sue for wrongful death. Same-sex couples will not have, under the law, the right to divorce, have child custody, or file joint income taxes. Couples must apply for the benefits; the state expects anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 couples to apply for the benefits within the next three months. In return for the benefits, the legislature will propose to Hawaii voters a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
7/7/1997 - Ireland Re-elected as NOW President
National Organization for Women activists from across the country have re-elected President Patricia Ireland at the organization's annual conference. Upon re-election, Ireland announced that the organization is launching "The Victory 2000 Campaign." The campaign will focus on electing 2,000 feminists to office by the year 2000. The campaign will also concentrate on re-electing feminists, such as Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to office
7/7/1997 - NEA Supports Affirmative Action Programs
The National Education Association, the largest teacher's union in the United States, has voted to support affirmative action programs. At the organization's annual conference, delegates voted to urge local unions to use affirmative action programs in education hiring. The NEA issued the vote in light of recent congressional and legal challenges to current affirmative action programs.
Dorothy Buffum Chandler, who helped her husband build the Los Angeles Times and fostered charity drives throughout Los Angeles, has died at the age of 96. Chandler married Norman Chandler, the L.A. Times publisher from 1944 to 1960, and was the mother of Otis Chandler, who served as the newspaper's publisher from 1960 to 1980 and still serves on the Board of Directors of Time Mirror. Dorothy Chandler began work at the newspaper in 1948 and, during her work, took a keen interest in the women's page and established the Times Women of the Year awards.
Chandler also helped raise funds for cultural institutions throughout the city. She raised the money to save the Hollywood Bowl and helped raise $19 million to fund the downtown Music Center in L.A. The Music Center, which is frequently the site of the Academy Awards, now bears her name.
David Halberstam, who wrote a book describing the leading communications empires in the country, described Chandler as "a woman before her time. A feminist pioneer… Always, above else, a presence." L.A. Mayor Richard Riorden said of her, "In culture, she certainly was the most outstanding leader in the history of the city."
The "Beetle Bailey" cartoon General Amos Halftrack, who spends most of time objectifying his secretary, Ms. Buxley, will soon undergo sexual harassment sensitivity training. Mort Walker, the cartoon's creator has said he decided that the General should undergo the training after recent charges that inappropriate sexual behavior runs rampant through the military. Editors’ negative reaction to the character's sexism also led to the decision.
Beginning on July 7th, the general will undergo a four-day sensitivity training. After the training is over, Walker has said that the general will no longer make comments about being a "hands on" general, ogle after his secretary, nor will he ask Ms. Buxley to file things in a bottom drawer so he can look at her legs. The general will still be a bumbling bureaucrat and a horrible golf player.
Federal Judge Eugene H. Nickerson, of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, has ruled that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. Nickerson has also become the first judge to rule that the military's ban on lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates a person's first amendment rights because the military discharges a person for declaring that he is gay or she is a lesbian. The judge also ruled that the ban on lesbians and gay men violates the equal-protection guarantee of the fifth amendment.
In 1995, Nickerson made a similar ruling in the same case regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The government appealed the 1995 decision, but an appeals court refused to affirm or sustain the ruling. Instead, the appeals panel sent the case back to Nickerson and asked for a ruling regarding the constitutionality of a ban on lesbians and gay men in the military. In making his second ruling on the case, Nickerson commented on the government's claim that the policy was needed for unit cohesion, "a euphemism for catering to the prejudices of heterosexuals…It assumes that, provided homosexuals stay in the closet, heterosexuals will believe there are no homosexuals present in their unit. In fact, homosexuals are present and are entitle to be present."
A recent study reveals that almost one in every ten Argentine women suffers from clinical anorexia or bulimia. According to mental health experts, eating disorders among young women in the country are three times higher than in the United States and in all likelihood the highest in the world. The country's most prominent supermodel, Mancini, slipped into a coma after enduring liposuction on her already thin frame. The Hospital for Anorexia and Bulimia in Buenos Aires attempts to combat the problem by making its hundreds of patients eat five times a day, tearing all the sizes from clothing, and forbidding scales. More than 70 women a week check into the already-crowded hospital. While male patients do not comprise anywhere near the majority of patients in the hospital, the percentage of them who check in has increased from five percent five years ago to 12 percent today.
7/3/1997 - Women Underrepresented in Secret Service
Although women have been accepted into the Secret Service since 1970, only 10% of agents are women. To qualify for the United States Secret Service, an individual must undergo 16 weeks of training, pass physical fitness tests and detailed background checks and spend about eight years at the service's field offices investigating counterfeiting and other financial crimes. Contrary to the common stereotype, however, potential agents do not have to be male. When he goes recruiting, Special Agent Anthony Triplett discovers that many women do not realize they can join the Secret Service. "A lot of women…initially are not sure it's something they want to do or something they can do," Triplett said. "I've had people ask me, 'Do you have female Secret Service agents?'"
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen T. Compton will step down from his position, but remain on the Court, after receiving a private rebuke from the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct for sexual harassment. The Commission found that on two occasions Compton's conduct toward two different female court employees violated the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct because it constituted sexual harassment. The Commission's private rebuke is the lowest level sanction that can be issued. Neither Compton, the Commission nor the two female employees commented on the nature of the allegations.
The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that that state's 24 year-old ban on lesbian and gay sex is unconstitutional. The court ruled that the government has no right to govern the private sex lives of consenting adults and that the ban violates Montana's Constitutional right to privacy. Currently, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma still outlaw lesbian and gay sex.
The June 27th suspension of Lt. Col. Martin T. Utzig marks the first time the Army has decided to assign responsibility to a commander for sexual misconduct in training units at Aberdeen. Six drill sergeants and a captain in Utzig's battalion face charges of sexual assault against subordinate trainees. Delmar Simpson, the first Aberdeen drill sergeant convicted of rape, was under Utzig's command. His suspension shows a willingness on the Army's part to listen to members of Congress and other critics who believe the entire command structure at the northeast Maryland post has contributed to the secrecy surrounding the sex scandals. More than 50 women have allegedly been harassed at Aberdeen. During Utzig's suspension, Capt. Kathy Sorenson will be acting commander at the battalion.
Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM), a small New York-based abortion rights group, plans to offer mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) free to 10,000 women as part of an effort to make the drug available to American women. The group has approval from the Federal Drug and Food Administration to use its own version of the drug in research trials. Although the Population Council, also a New York based group, holds patent rights for mifepristone, other groups conduct research on patented drugs, but cannot use them for commercial gain. Lawrence Lader, the group's President, says that with new funding from the John Merck Fund, the Abortion Rights Mobilization will add research sites to New York City, Westchester County, Texas, Maryland and Florida. Currently, the group has provided approximately 1,000 women with the pills free of charge, although the women do have to pay for two required doctor's visits where mifepristone and a prostaglandin is administered. Lader commented, "We have the money, and this will provide coverage for women in all different parts of the company…Obviously, the long-term answer to getting mifepristone to American women will have to come from the Population Council. We'll get out of the business as soon as they're ready. But who knows when that will be?" The Population Council has currently run into problems with its manufacturer and is exploring whether the Abortion Rights Mobilization's manufacturer, so far not publicly known, is capable of full-scale production
A study released on July 1, 1997 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shows that conservative foundations have given over $210 million within a three year period to reshape national policy debates and push the U.S. and states legislatures to the right. The study said, "Two-thirds of their grant dollars went to organizations and programs pursuing policy agendas based on the privatization of government services, deep reductions in federal anti-poverty spending, industrial deregulation and the transfer of responsible social welfare to state and local government and the charitable sector." The report studied the funding pattern of the following twelve foundations: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Earhart Foundation; the Charles G. Kock Foundation; the David H. Kock Foundation; the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation; the JM Foundation; the John M. Olin Foundation; the Henry Salvatori Foundation; the Sarah Scaife Foundation; the Carthage Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The foundations have given financial support to, among others, the following conservative think-tanks: the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Free Congress Research and Education Fund, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
In February, retired Sgt. Major Brenda L. Hoster's allegations of sexual misconduct against Sergeant Major of the Army, Gene C. McKinney, kicked off an investigation of the actions of the Army's top enlisted man. The Army is currently conducting a preliminary hearing into Hoster's and other women's allegations, against McKinney. But Susan Barnes, Brenda Hoster's attorney, says her client will not voluntarily testify at the hearing because Barnes thinks "the Army is punishing these women [for coming forward.]" Hoster complains that the Army has failed to protect the women accusing McKinney from unfair invasions into their private lives. In a letter to the Army prosecutors on the case, Barnes reiterated these sentiments and added that the decision of the Army's chief of staff, Dennis J Reimer, decision to issue a statement in support of McKinney even before the hearing is completed "makes a fair and impartial pretrial investigation impossible."
The hearing will decide whether or not McKinney will face a court martial for his actions. Army prosecutors are deciding whether or not to recall Hoster to active duty, thus allowing them to force her to testify. Two other women testifying against McKinney have faced personal attacks on their characters by defense attorneys. One woman had to change her job location because of the treatment she received from co-workers after accusing McKinney of sexual misconduct. She said, "People I thought I knew, I didn't know. People are judging me."
A Navy report accuses Captain Dennis Gillespie, the air wing commander of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, of failing to adequately integrate female Navy pilots into his carrier. The report, an investigation into the integration of women on the carrier, gives many highlights of Gillespie's actions and words which created a double standard for the women and men under his command. When asked, by the women pilots, of his assessment of the women's integration in the spring of 1995, Gillespie commented, "I love my wife and my daughter. [Having women in aviation] is difficult to see…because I've always had this feeling that in this country, the philosophy was that we wouldn't put our women in harm’s way." The report comments, "The Navy must train its [commanding officers] and other leaders in communications skills, especially if its expects them to successfully lead a diverse Navy into combat."
The report pointed to Gillespie as "representative of many in the Navy who, often for reasons beyond their control and not of their choice, have not learned how to effectively communicate with and lead members of the opposite sex." At another women-only meeting, for example, Gillespie served brownies and cookies and said that the food was better and ship cleaner since the women arrived on board. The extensive use of segregated meetings was also cause for concern among the women. The report found that Gillespie's most divisive decision was to require mandatory pregnancy tests of all the females. Some women felt this was a tactic used to embarrass and single out the women. Some women refused to comply with the order, and then the issue became whether or not those women would be charged with disobeying an order. Gillespie eventually reversed himself on the pregnancy test policy, but then the men claimed the women were being given preferential treatment.
7/2/1997 - Women Attend VMI's Summer Program
Eighteen women changed a 158-year old tradition on Monday, June 30, by attending the Virginia Military Institute's previously all-male summer transition program. According to VMI, the cadets who participate in the program are less likely to drop out of the school than those who choose not to attend in the summer. Although the program will allow the women to ease into VMI, they will not obtain the complete military school experience this summer because the formerly all-male institute has not yet made all the necessary changes to the facilities. For example, construction crews have not yet finished building women's rooms and showers in the VMI barracks. The female cadets will begin the full VMI program on August 18 when the other women attending the school will join them, bringing the total number of women enrolling in the fall to 32.
Women and minority members of the Los Angeles City Council were disappointed Tuesday, July 1 when two white men were reelected to the council's top positions. While the council unanimously chose the incumbent John Ferraro as its president, Joel Wachs became president pro tempore with a nine-to-six vote. Mike Hernandez, a liberal Latino who challenged Wachs, won votes from the council's three Latino members, two white women, and one African-American. Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who supported Hernandez, said Wachs' victory proves that the council does not reflect the increasingly diverse city. When speaking of the individuals who have held the top two positions of the council in the decade she has been on it, she said, "They are all white. They are all men. They are all from another era. The city is different now."
A new study by the International Business Machines Corp. found that minority women are the fastest-growing segment of business owners in the country. In the past ten years, firms which African American, Latino, Asian and Native American women own have risen in number by 153% to 1 million businesses nationally. Minority women's businesses employ 1.7 million people and produce annual sales of $184 billion. IBM conducted its research by asking The National Foundation for Women Business Owners in Washington, DC to gather and study U.S. census data. Phyllis Hill Slater, president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said, "For the first time, we now have up-to-date information on firms owned by minority women, which demonstrates their importance to the economy."
Judge Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled U.S. District Judge James C. Turk on the evening of June 30, just hours after Turk had blocked enforcement of Virginia's Parental Consent Law. Luttig’s decision allows the law to go into effect. Physicians performing abortions on minors are now required to make sure a parent of the girl is informed at least 24 hours before the procedure. Planned Parenthood, who brought suit to block enforcement of the law, claimed that the legislature omitted three key provisions that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are mandatory when passing state parental-consent laws. These provisions are: that states guarantee confidentiality to teenage women who ask judges to waive the requirement, that states ensure a speedy verdict from the judges, and that states require judges to grant the medical procedure automatically if a girl proves that she is "mature." Planned Parenthood plans to appeal Luttig’s decision to an appeals circuit panel or to a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Currently, 39 states have parental consent laws. In seven states, federal courts have blocked the laws; one state court has blocked the law; and four states do not enforce the law.