Disparity in Police Response to Capitol Violence is Unacceptable

Below is a statement of Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation:

“The disparity in the weak and hardly visible police response to the domestic terrorists or insurrectionists who invaded our nation’s Capitol building and defiled it this week versus the massive police and military presence that turned aggressive and violent during Black Lives Matter protests this past summer in DC is stunning, unfair, and unacceptable. The Feminist Majority Foundation is calling for a full investigation into law enforcement’s failure to respond appropriately to this insurrection and assault on our democracy. We demand that the perpetrators of Wednesday’s violent acts be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

President Trump is directly responsible for the Capitol invasion.  His speech before the siege incited it with his constant lies about a “stolen” election and his extorting of the massive crowd to fight, to be strong, and to take back America. His years of lies and rhetoric inciting white supremacist violence are also unacceptable.  

What we all witnessed this week during both the rally before and the subsequent assault on the US Capitol this week demands impeachment of President Trump for violation of his pledge to uphold the Constitution. Lawmakers who were complicit in this seditious activity must also be held accountable. 

As a veteran demonstrator for women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ rights, I have never seen such a small police response to an announced demonstration, let alone announced warnings of possible armed conflict. Peaceful demonstrators in DC have routinely been met with barricades, strict security measures, a horde of heavily armed police, sometimes on horseback, and even mass arrests during nonviolent civil disobedience actions for civil rights.  Dozens of women were arrested for peacefully protesting the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 just blocks away from the Capitol. However, the vast majority of this violent mob this week was allowed to walk away freely, with only about eight being arrested at the Capitol during the breach, while hundreds of peaceful protestors were arrested during this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. 

Law enforcement should have been well aware of the threat that this so-called pro-Trump event posed, with the possibility of armed insurrection being discussed online in right-wing forums in the weeks prior.  We saw a precursor to this insurrection in Michigan when armed Trump supporters occupied the state capital building to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders. We have witnessed misogynistic attacks on both Gov. Whitmer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi by these so-called pro-Trump extremists. Some members of the police who were present on Wednesday appeared to be allied with the white supremacists, taking selfies and even opening barricades to let the mob in to breach the Capitol. The disgusting inequity in police response to these treasonous extremists exposes the ways white supremacy works at the highest ranks of law enforcement.

The Feminist Majority Foundation is shocked and dismayed at the inadequate police response to the mob that defiled the Capitol, one of our most sacred symbols of democracy. The double-standard of how peaceful protestors who marched for racial justice and equality this summer were met with police brutality, tear gas, and rubber bullets is unacceptable. Thus far, there has been an inexcusable lack of consequences for the violent extremists who breached the Capitol this week. We stand with Black organizers, activists, organizations, and community members who are fighting America’s historic legacy of white supremacy and trying to build a better world where the most marginalized among us are equal.” 

Nancy Pelosi Elected Speaker of the House for the 117th Congress

On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House for the 4th time by a narrow margin.

“As we are sworn in today, we accept a responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced. We begin the new Congress during a time of extraordinary difficulty,” said Pelosi, acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead. “Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus. And defeat it, we will.”

Many speculate that this may be Pelosi’s last term, as she has signaled her time as Speaker may be drawing to a close. Pelosi has led the Democratic Caucus since 2003, and is the first and only woman to ever hold the position.

Pelosi faces a difficult two years, as the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans grows. With the fate of the Senate still uncertain, future legislation for more coronavirus economic relief hangs in the balance and will be one of the first fights Pelosi will take on.

“We have the most capable speaker in modern times,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) stated. “She is clearly the most capable and competent speaker — to bring a large group of people with diverse backgrounds and political ideology together, and function as one.”

Top 10 Feminist Moments of 2020

2020 was an unprecedented and difficult year, but that didn’t stop feminists from achieving some great things over the last 12 months.

Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President of the U.S.

In November, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris became Vice President-elect of the United States. Harris broke multiple barriers by becoming the first woman, and woman of color, to hold the position.

“So, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black Women. Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight,” said Harris in her victory speech. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.”

SCOTUS ruled in favor of protections for abortion access and LGBTQ employees

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination based on sex. The three employees involved in the case contended that they were fired based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Justice Gorsuch wrote that if there are two employees who are attracted to men–one male, one female–and the male employee is fired for no other reason than being attracted to men, that it is clearly discrimination based on sex.

SCOTUS also delivered a ruling in favor of abortion clinics by striking down a Louisiana law that would have left only one doctor in the state to perform abortions. The law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The court had previously stuck down a similar Texas law in 2016, deeming the law an unconstitutional burden on those seeking abortion care.

Millions of people demanded change during the Black Lives Matter protests

In over 1,360 counties in the US, millions protested police violence in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people at the hands of police. These protests have created change in the movement to defund the police and move money towards social programs like housing, health care, and education.

“It looks, for all the world, like these protests are achieving what very few do: setting in motion a period of significant, sustained, and widespread social, political change,” Professor McAdam, social movements professor at Stanford University, said. “We appear to be experiencing a social change tipping point — that is as rare in society as it is potentially consequential.”

Transgender and nonbinary legislators elected across the country

Six new transgender and nonbinary state legislators were elected this year, bringing the total number of transgender elected officials nationwide from 28 to 32.

Trans legislators won historic races in both red and blue states including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“It’s inspiring for the trans community. Ten years ago, no one would have thought that transgender people could win elected office, let alone in Oklahoma or Kansas. And now, we’re seeing boundaries broken all the time,” proclaimed Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

First openly gay Black men elected to Congress

Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres became the first openly gay Black men elected to the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Both are from the state of New York. Jones will represent the 17th District, while Torres will represent the 15th District.

“I’m excited about serving with Ritchie,” Jones stated. “He’s a tremendous candidate and a good friend. This is a chance for us to be the role model we looked for growing up — for queer youth and especially queer youth of color.”

“Growing up poor, Black and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress, let alone win,” he concluded.

New Jersey codified Roe v. Wade into state law

In October, Governor Murphy signed the Reproductive Freedom Act, which ensures all people in the state have the right to make their own decisions about pregnancy-related care, including abortion.

The Act also ensures that people of all incomes have equitable access to birth control and abortion care, requiring private insurance to cover birth control and mandating no out-of-pocket costs for abortions.

“As access to health care and the right to choose are under attack at the federal level, we will support, defend, and protect reproductive rights here in New Jersey,” said Governor Murphy. “The Reproductive Freedom Act will remove barriers to reproductive health, as well as expand access to contraception while reaffirming choice. Together, we stand unwavering in our commitment to work towards reproductive freedom for all New Jerseyans.”

Colorado defeated Proposition 115 to ban late abortions

On November 3, 59.1% of Colorado voters voted against a proposition that would have restricted abortions after 22 weeks. The law did not include exceptions for incest or rape, would have imposed expensive fines on abortion providers, and would have suspended the license of medical professionals who provide abortions.

In a year that had challenge after challenge against abortion rights, Colorado’s decisive vote to protect abortion rights was critically important.

President-elect Biden appointed a diverse group to cabinet positions

In the last few weeks, President-elect Biden has appointed a record number of women and people of color to serve in his cabinet, including Neera Tanden, Cecilia Rouse, Symone Sanders, Susan Rice, Marcia Fudge, Xavier Becerra, and many others. 

In a historic move, Biden appointed Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) to serve as the Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American Cabinet secretary and first Native person to head the Interior Department. Appointing an Indigenous person to be responsible for our nation’s lands was an exciting and moving pick.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday night. “ … I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

Scotland became the first country to make period products free for all citizens

Last month, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed a bill that makes menstrual products free for all who need them.

The bill requires local governments to make the products available free of charge, in schools, colleges, and certain public places.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland tweeted, “Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls.”

While there is no similar federal legislation in the U.S., several states have policies that remove the tax on menstrual products and that require schools to provide tampons and pads to students free of charge.

Kim Ng became the first female general manager in Major League Baseball

After a 30-year career in Major League Baseball, Kim Ng was named the first female general manager of a national American baseball team, the Miami Marlins.

Ng began her career as an intern with the Chicago White Sox, moving up through the ranks of an organization dominated by men and working with teams like the Yankees and the Dodgers. Ms. Ng served as senior vice president of baseball operations for the MLB previously.

“This challenge is one I don’t take lightly,” she said in a statement. “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.”

Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Anti-Trans Birth Certificate Law

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled against an Ohio law that prevented transgender individuals from correcting their assigned gender on their birth certificate.

Judge Michael Watson found the measure unconstitutional, writing in his decision that, “This policy resembles the sort of discrimination-based legislation struck down under the equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans as nothing more than a policy ‘born of animosity toward the class of person affected’ that has ‘no rational relation to a legitimate government purpose.’ “

The state argued that the policy was intended to maintain “accurate” records and prevent fraudulent criminal activity, which the judge struck down.

“At bottom, the court finds that defendants’ proffered justifications are nothing more than thinly veiled post-hoc rationales to deflect from the discriminatory impact of the Policy,” he wrote.

The case was brought forward by four transgender Ohio residents who had been denied the ability to change their gender identity on their birth certificates.

“This is truly a victory for the LGBT community, in every aspect,” said Stacie Ray, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

“Trans people are the experts on our own genders, lives, and needs. I’m thrilled that the court recognized that policies like Ohio’s, which misgender and endanger us, also violate the constitution. We will keep fighting until we get rid of all discriminatory and burdensome requirements for ID changes around the country,” said Malita Picasso, Skadden Fellow, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project in a statement released by the ACLU of Ohio.

The press release goes on to state that, “According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted.”

Tennessee is the only remaining state that prohibits transgender people from changing their assigned gender on their birth certificate.  

Ohio Governor Expected to Sign Bill Requiring the Burial of Abortion Remains

Last Thursday, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill that would require the burial of fetal remains from surgical abortions. The bill passed along party lines by a vote of 60-36 in the House, and 24-7 in the Senate. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is expected to sign the bill into law.

The measure will require those who receive a surgical abortion to make a determination in writing on how the remains should be handled, and if the patient opts not to do so the abortion provider will be required to make the decision. The bill will create new financial requirements, as clinics will be responsible for covering the costs of cremation or interment, unless the patient makes their own arrangements.

In testimony opposing the bill, chief lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio Gary Daniels stated that the bill “serves no legitimate medical purpose and is an obvious attempt to inconvenience patients, shut down abortion providers, and imprison doctors who do not comply with the numerous nonsensical regulations found in this bill.”

DeWine has previously signed anti-abortion legislation into law. In April of 2019 he enacted a “heartbeat” bill, which prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other states have used similar legislation to create undue burdens on abortion patients and providers. The Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law signed by Vice President Mike Pence, and Pennsylvania has also considered a bill similar to the Indiana and Ohio measures.

Biden Announces Janet Yellen as First Female Head of Treasury Department

On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden announced Janet Yellen as his nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, the first woman to hold the position in the history of the country if confirmed.

Ms. Yellen is a labor market expert and is widely considered a strong feminist. She has spoken publicly of her support for economic policies that help families and that would, in turn, boost the economy.

She supports government-financed support during the pandemic, which millions of Americans are in desperate need of as more unemployment benefits are set to expire with no economic stimulus bill in sight. She will be instrumental in helping to broker a COVID-19 economic relief deal with Republican legislators.

Yellen previously served as the first female chair of the Federal Reserve, and was the first woman to run the White House Council of Economic Advisors under the Clinton administration. She was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a Fed governor, Fed vice chair, and previously taught at University of California, Berkeley. She will be one of the most experienced economic policy advisors to hold the position.

Sources: CNN 11/23/20; Huffington Post 11/23/20; NYT 11/23/20

Biden Expected to Announce Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the UN

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a longtime Black diplomat, as ambassador to the United Nations in a move to affirm his commitment to a diverse Cabinet.

Greenfield has worked as a foreign service officer since the Reagan administration. She served as ambassador to Liberia, and as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2013-2017. She was instrumental in shaping U.S. foreign policy during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. After leaving the federal government, Greenfield took a senior leadership position at Albright Stonebridge Group, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s global strategy firm.

Greenfield’s appointment is also an attempt to restore faith in the State Department after the tumult of the Trump administration. Greenfield and fellow diplomat William J. Burns recently wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs magazine titled, “The Transformation of Diplomacy: How to Save the State Department.”

“In Washington, career public servants who worked on controversial issues during the Obama administration, such as the Iran nuclear negotiations, have been smeared and attacked, their careers derailed,” they write. “To start, the United States needs a top-to-bottom diplomatic surge. The Trump administration’s unilateral diplomatic disarmament is a reminder that it is much easier to break than to build. The country doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a generational replenishment, marking time as new recruits slowly work their way up the ranks.”

Biden is expected to officially announce the appointment on Tuesday. He will also announce other key members of his cabinet which are anticipated to include Alejandro Mayorkas, a Latino, as head of Homeland Security, and Avril Haines as the first female director of national intelligence. John Kerry is expected to be named special presidential envoy on climate.

Sources: Reuters 11/22/20; CBS News 11/23/20; NYT 11/23/20

Kim Ng Named First Female GM of a Major League Baseball Team

After a 30-year career in Major League Baseball (MLB), Kim Ng has been named the first female general manager of a national American baseball team, the Miami Marlins.

Ng began her career as an intern with the Chicago White Sox, moving up through the ranks of an organization dominated by men and working with teams like the Yankees and the Dodgers. Ms. Ng most recently served as senior vice president of baseball operations for the MLB.

“This challenge is one I don’t take lightly,” she said in a statement. “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.”

This is not only significant within the sport of baseball, but in the sports world at large. Ms. Ng is the first women to be named general manager to any men’s sports league in North America.

“Kim’s appointment makes history in all of professional sports,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated, “and sets a significant example for the millions of women and girls who love baseball and softball.”

Women continue to gain representation in a sport that they were once excluded from. According to the New York Times, “Forty percent of the professional employees at Major League Baseball’s central office are women (the highest percentage since 2008), and 21 women had on-field coaching or player development roles for organizations entering 2020 (up from only three in 2017), according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.”

Sources: NYT 11/13/20; ESPN 11/13/20; CNN 11/1320

Kamala Harris Becomes First Female VP-Elect in U.S. History

On Saturday, after days of uncertainty, the 2020 election was called for Vice President Joe Biden, making his running mate Senator Kamala Harris the first female, first Black and first South Asian woman to become Vice President-Elect in U.S. history.

“So, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black Women. Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight,” said Harris in her victory speech on Saturday night. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.”

Senator Harris has made a career out of breaking barriers, becoming the first Black female district attorney in California and then made history again by becoming the first female, Black and South Asian attorney general in the state of California. After being elected to the Senate in 2016, she made a name for herself in the Senate as fierce advocate for women’s rights and for her fearless cross-examinations of Trump administration officials.

 Harris’ speech on Saturday night will go down in history. She called for unity and healing after the Trump administration and highlighted the historic moment for women

“All the women who worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now, in 2020, with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard,” she declared. “And what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president. But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Sources: NYT 11/8/20; Feminist Newswire 8/12/20

Family of Breonna Taylor Awarded Settlement by the City of Louisville

Yesterday, the city of Louisville announced a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, as well as some reforms to the Louisville police force.

Breonna Taylor was shot to death in March after three police officers erroneously entered her apartment using a “no knock” warrant, which has since been banned by the city of Louisville. The wrongful death suit alleges that the officers fired more than 20 rounds at Taylor and her boyfriend during the botched drug raid. No illegal substances were found in Taylor’s home.

“This settlement is of mutual interest,” said Sam Aguiar, one of the attorneys for the Taylor family. “The city was able to afford this level of justice, and Breonna Taylor’s mother has been adamant from day one that reform was needed to reduce the likelihood that no other family has to endure this type of tragedy.”

The settlement includes several reform measures including pairing police with social workers to handle cases related to mental health, houselessness, and addiction. It establishes a housing credit incentive for officers to live in low-income neighborhoods in the city, and adds more stringent requirements for the use of body cameras and obtaining a warrant.

The officers involved in Taylor’s killing have not been arrested or charged since her death. One was fired, while the two others were reassigned to administrative duties in the police department.

“Justice for Breonna Taylor is multilayered,” Lonita Baker, another attorney for the family stated. “We’re not gonna stop our cause to hold the officers responsible for Breonna’s death accountable. We’re gonna continue to put pressure on the attorney general’s office to present a fair case to the grand jury. We know that that indictment is coming from the grand jury.”

The city has not admitted any wrongdoing in the case of Breonna Taylor’s death. Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer encouraged supporters to continue the fight for justice.

“We must not lose focus on what the real drive is. With that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more,” said Palmer. “Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name: Breonna Taylor.”

Sources: HuffPost 9/15/20; Washington Post 9/15/20; CNN 9/15/20

Mexican Feminists Take Over Federal Building in Response to Femicides

Last week, feminists rushed the National Human Rights Commission federal building in downtown Mexico City, ejecting workers and declaring the site a shelter for victims of violence.

The action is a latest in a series of increasingly radical measures taken by feminist collectives in response to the high rate of femicides in Mexico. On average, 11 women are killed every day in Mexico and despite ongoing protests President Andrés Manuel López Obradorn and other government officials are dismissive of the need for more protections.

“We’re here so that the whole world will know that in Mexico they kill women and nobody does anything about it,” said Yesenia Zamudio, who whose daughter was murdered four years ago.

Around 30 women and several children remain in the building, camping out on cots. Activists have torn down paintings of historical figures and defaced them with graffiti, while covering the building with photos and memorials of women who have disappeared or been slain.

President Andrés Manuel López Obradorn has expressed sympathy to the activists’ message but has expressed outrage at the destruction of the valuable paintings of Mexican revolutionaries.

“He thinks a painting has more value than a woman’s life,” said Erika Martinez, whose 7-year-old daughter was molested by a family member and joined the movement after authorities neglected to act.

So far, the president has not decided to send in police to clear out the protestors, which has led to a standoff between the activists and authorities.

Sources: AP 9/9/20; LA Times 9/9/20; FR24News 9/10/20

New Report Finds Prison Inmates Twice As Likely To Die from COVID-19

According to a new report released on Wednesday, incarcerated people are twice as likely to die from coronavirus in prison than those on the outside.

Kevin T. Schnepel, assistant professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, found that the mortality rate in state and federal prisons is twice as high as in the general population. The infection rate is even more drastic, with close to 7,000 cases per 100,000 incarcerated people, more than four times the rate of cases per 100,000 people in the general public.

The report was published by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, which was created by the Council on Criminal Justice to study the effects of the pandemic on the U.S. criminal justice system.

While the numbers as a whole are alarming, the rates vary widely between states.

According to CNN, “Prisons with the most Covid-19 cases were those operated by state governments, those in the South, and large prisons, while the highest mortality rates were at large prisons and those in the Midwest. The worst adjusted mortality rates were among prisons in Arkansas, New Mexico, Kentucky and Ohio, the analysis found. By contrast, in New York, where nearly 33,000 people died of coronavirus, just 17 deaths were reported in state prisons.”

Schnepel says that more research is needed to determine why there are such wide variations between state infection and mortality rates.

Sources: NCCCJ 8/2/20; CNN 8/3/20; WDJT Milwaukee 8/3/20

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Rising Rapidly Among Children

Amid school re-openings and 6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that instances of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths among children and teens are increasing at a more rapid pace than the general public.

According to an article from the New York Times, while children and teenagers are less likely to contract and experience severe symptoms related to COVID-19, “Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, said that substantial community spread in many parts of the United States corresponded with more infections among children.”

While the new data comes from increased testing, there is evidence that children and young adults are contracting the virus more frequently than earlier in the year, due to the uptick in hospitalizations and deaths among children.

While there is still much that is unknown about how the virus affects minors, Black and Latino children are more likely to be hospitalized than their white peers.

“Since the beginning of the summer, every state in the country has had an increase in the number of young people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, as a share of all cases. In late May, about 5 percent of the nation’s cases were documented in minors. By Aug. 20, that number had risen to more than 9 percent,” says the Times.

Sources: The Washington Post 8/31/20; New York Times 8/31/20; American Academy of Pediatrics; CDC 8/14/20

The Feminist Majority Foundation Stands with the March on Washington Against Police Brutality

Below is a statement of Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, on the March on Washington:

“Today marks the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. The Feminist Majority Foundation is proud to be a partner in the anniversary march today convened by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. “The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” honors this anniversary and demands an end to the violence Black people in the U.S. face every hour of every day. Sadly, almost 60 years after Dr. King’s powerful call to action we are still demanding an end to racism and justice for those whose lives have been lost to anti-Black racist violence.

Despite the mammoth 2020 movement for racial justice that was sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, state-sanctioned police brutality against Black people continues unabated. We stand with the marchers who are on the streets today demanding accountability.

No law enforcement officer has been charged for the killing of Breonna Taylor in her own apartment. No officer has been arrested in the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times at a point-blank range in the back while his children screamed in terror. A Black person is three times more likely to be shot by police than a white person in the U.S. Despite the outrage, the rate of police killings is increasing. To date in 2020, 751 people have been killed by police while 1,004 people in 2019 were killed by police violence.

The time for action is now. The twin pandemics of racism and COVID-19 are killing Black people in the U.S. at an unprecedented rate. The lack of action by policymakers and law enforcement has resulted in what amounts to a genocide. The time is long overdue to heed the calls to defund the police and make real changes to end racism that both endangers and terrorizes millions of Black Americans. As we reflect on the message of today’s march, we join the calls for immediate justice for the many lives needlessly lost to racist violence.”

Federal Court Rules That Students May Use Bathrooms That Match Their Gender Identity

In a win for transgender rights, a federal appeals court has ruled that a Virginia high school’s transgender bathroom rule is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and a violation of Title IX rules.

Gavin Grimm sued his Virginia high school in 2015 after being barred from using the boys restroom, citing Title IX protections against sex discrimination. While the Virginia school board had previously argued that these protections only covered sex and not gender identity, the recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ protections in the workplace has prompted the lower courts to rule the bathroom ban unconstitutional.

“At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd stated in the court’s majority opinion. “We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”

“After the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, we have little difficulty holding that a bathroom policy precluding Grimm from using the boys restrooms discriminated against him ‘on the basis of sex,'” the ruling continued.

Gavin Grimm is now 21 and lives in California where he is a transgender rights activist. In a statement from the ACLU, who represented Grimm in his case, he said that the decision “is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country…all transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government.”

Sources: CNN 8/26/20; Washington Post 8/26/20; Politico 8/26/20

Nebraska Public College Pays $900,000 in Title IX Settlement

The Nebraska State College System will pay $900,000 in a settlement for inadequately addressing a case of dating violence that resulted in a student’s suicide in 2015.

The settlement comes after the family of Fatima Larios, who died at 19, filed a federal suit in 2017. In addition to the monetary amount, Chadron State College, where Larios attended, promised to implement suicide training for staff and students, hire an outside consultant for its Title IX policy, and establish a scholarship in Larios’s name, among other provisions. The college does not admit to any wrongdoing for Larios’s death.

Before her death, Larios played on the softball team and was in an abusive relationship. The lawsuit says that coaches had observed suspicious bruising on her body and changes in her emotional state. Other students also overheard violent arguments with her then boyfriend.

The coaches reported what they saw, which made its way to the school’s Title IX office. The Title IX coordinator, which was not a full-time position then, emailed Larios the college’s policy on sexual violence but did not meet with her in-person or offer additional resources.

While monetary settlements for Title IX cases are common, the non-monetary aspects of this settlement make the case distinct. These agreements, such as the scholarship fund, illuminate the college’s inadequacies despite it not accepting liability, according to Saunie Schuster, an expert hired by the Larios family.

The college’s Title IX staff showed a clear lack of understanding during depositions, according to Schuster, which likely contributed to the unprecedented settlement.

Both parties claim they were confident that they would win in court, but instead chose to settle to avoid the exorbitant fees and trauma associated with a long trial.

The settlement is important in preserving Larios’s legacy, her family wrote in a statement.

“This settlement ensures that legacy will endure and that she will continue to help others while also making Chadron a safer and more welcoming community,” her family wrote.

Sources: Union Journal Star 05/23/20; Omaha World-Herald 05/22/20

British Political Party’s Divide Deepens Over Transgender Inclusion

Last week multiple senior members of Britain’s Labour party endorsed a “trans equality manifesto” that supports more inclusive party values and claimed that anyone with transphobic views should be thrown out of the party. Backlash from this controversial charter comes with a call to produce evidence for transphobia allegations.

The two women in the center of the debate are Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long Bailey. Other leaders expressed support for the charter which labels Women’s Place UK as a “trans-exclusionist hate group.” Lisa Nandy tweeted her support stating that the Labour Party “should always be an open and safe space for all.” Controversy stems from Labour’s Gender Recognition Act, a policy that allows ‘self-identifying’ trans-women to participate on women shortlists. Critics say that without restrictions it will allow for abuse of the system allowing men to be ahead of women running for parliamentary seats just by checking a box.

Lachlan Stuart, who has already faced past transphobic allegations, fired back stating that Long Bailey was not fit to lead because of her views on trans rights. He also insisted evidence needs to be provided and that none has been produced. In his statement, he called the opposing women leaders “virtue signaling ill-informed cowards.” Women’s Place UK responded in a letter to Lisa Nandy, stating, “I hope you understand that expulsions of women from the party on the grounds you are suggesting (and being cavalier about evidence) will provoke a huge backlash. It will be fiercely opposed by all fair-minded members, who insist on reason and evidence.”

The tension creates more division amongst Labour party members and unified ambitions.

Sources: The Daily Mail 2/15/20; The Guardian 2/17/20

Gender-Based Violence on the Rise as Climate Crisis Continues

The climate crisis is becoming increasingly linked to violence against women and girls, and gender-based exploitation is rendering attempts to curb the adverse effects of environmental degradation ineffective.

There are increasing calls for more intersectionality in governments and institutions’ efforts to combat the climate crisis while centering girls and women in their strategies. Over the course of two years, and with the involvement of over 1,000 sources of research, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has undertaken the most comprehensive look into the issue yet.

Cate Orwen, a lead author of the report, noted the presence of clear evidence to suggest that the climate crisis is related to growing rates of gender-based violence. “As environmental degradation and stress on ecosystems increases, that in turn creates scarcity and stress for people, and the evidence shows that, where environmental pressures increase, gender-based violence increases.”

More than eighty case studies demonstrated the link between gender-based violence and climate change, and six in ten respondents answered an IUCN survey said they had seen gender-based violence perpetrated to female environmental rights defenders, environmental migrants, and refugees.

The IUCN report also noted that there has been a rise in human trafficking in areas where the natural environment is under stress. The climate crisis has put heavy pressure on the earth’s resources, and extreme weather is occurring with a higher frequency and inflicting more damage. In a world where women are already among the most marginalized and excluded, the climate crisis only exacerbates exploitation of women and girls.

In periods of protracted drought, women and girls are the ones making the longer journeys to obtain water or food, rendering them more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment. A study from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) found that girls who take more time to find water attend school less which can result in the girls dropping out. A report by CARE, a major humanitarian agency, stated that women and girls are the most affected in most disasters, and the report shows that one out of five refugee or displaced women has undergone sexual violence.

Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute on climate change and the environment at the London School of Economics highlighted the role of women in bringing about awareness to this issue. “The empowerment of women and girls and their protection from the direct and indirect consequences of climate change must lie at the heart of the just transition to zero-carbon and climate-resilient societies.”

Sources: The Guardian, 1/29/20; United Nations, 9/25/19; UNDP, 1/28/20, CARE International, 2016.

Legal Abortion Upper Limit Raised to 24 Weeks in India

The Union Cabinet of India, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which will raise the upper limit for abortion to 24 weeks from 20.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that this was passed as “here was the demand from section of women, doctors and court has also requested the same”. This would be an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. An amendment to this bill has been in the works since 2014 and has only come to the floor after extensive research and consultation with stakeholders and other ministries.

Besides raising the upper limit on gestational age allowed for abortion, the amendments other main features include requiring two medical providers opinions for abortions from 20-24 weeks, and an anonymity clause that names and other personal information of women who have had abortions shall not be revealed except for specific authorized personnel.

While the amendment does say that two medical providers opinions would be needed from 20-24 weeks, it also asserts that the upper gestation limit will not apply in cases where there are substantial fetal abnormalities, and that survivors of rape, victims of incest, and other vulnerable women would not have to consult two providers, only one, before having an abortion up to 24 weeks into the gestational period.

The Prime Minister’s website cites this amendment as “a step towards safety and well-being of the women… The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy”.

Sources: Business World India 1/29/20; pmindia.gov.in 1/29/20

Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on DACA Case

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case. The Obama-era federal program that has allowed over 700,000 undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation, was rolled back by the Trump administration. The initiative allows children of undocumented immigrants who’ve arrived in the US when at a very young age, to remain in the country.

The current administration says the program which was enforced through executive order was illegal and therefore ought to be rolled back. Ted Olson, the Washington DC lawyer defending DACA in court has responded that the administration, does not want to “take responsibility for it. Instead of saying, ‘We want to eliminate DACA because we don’t like the program, because we want to send a message,’ they didn’t want any of those things.”

The decision by the Trump administration prompted a public outcry by immigration rights activists, educational institutions, and business leaders. Microsoft was one of the companies which filed a lawsuit against Trump’s decision to end the program, it said in the court documents that more than 60 DACA recipients are employed in the company.

These young people contribute to our company and serve our customers. They help create our products, secure our services, and manage our finances,” it said in the lawsuit.  According to official figures, more than 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed and around half are in school. Majority of them are from Mexico and Central America, however they’ve never been to their parents’ home countries.

Many DACA recipients will be at the hearings on Tuesday. Claudia Quiñez from Maryland says she came to the US with her mother at age 11. “DACA truly changed my life. I have a Social Security number. I have the ability to work, to contribute, and pay taxes,” she said. Quiñez is one among thousands of DACA recipients whose residence in the US is on the line and will be nervously watching the hearings on Tuesday.