The Feminist Majority Joins The ERA Coalition in Urging Biden-Harris Administration to Prioritize Enshrining the ERA into the US Constitution

The Feminist Majority has signed on to a letter sent by The ERA Coalition to the Biden-Harris administration calling for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to finally be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution within the first 100 days of the Biden presidency. President Biden and Vice President Harris are both strong supporters of the ERA.

A diverse coalition of over 150 national, state, and local groups with memberships representing millions of people, prominent ERA activists, women of color led organizations, women’s groups, civil rights organizations, LGBT rights groups, Black and Latinx sororities, religious organizations, legal defense groups, labor unions, educational groups, professional associations, and progressive groups have signed onto the letter.

Signers also include feminist activist Gloria Steinem, actor and activist Alyssa Milano, Feminist Majority Foundation board member and co-founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, ERA Coalition president Carol Jenkins, Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal, United Federation of Teachers, National Congress of Black Women, Voto Latino, the National Organization for Women (NOW), TIME’S UP Now, Supermajority, The Women’s March, GLAAD, She the People, Transformative Justice Coalition, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), and many more.

The letter reads in part:

With Virginia’s becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA on January 27, 2020, all requirements for it to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have been satisfied. The ERA has yet to be published by the Archivist, however, following the opinion issued in a memo from the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel. We ask you to work with Congress to pass historic resolutions to remove the arbitrary time limit from the preamble and recognize that the Equal Rights Amendment has been ratified by three-fourths of the states and is now the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“We are so close to enshrining the ERA into the U.S. Constitution,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority and a 50-year veteran in the ERA struggle. “After 100 years of struggle these 100 days are the most important for finally banning sex discrimination in our states’ and nation’s laws, programs, and policies. It will unleash the talents and contributions of tens of millions of people. There cannot be a time limit on equality especially when the overwhelming majority need and want it.”

Resolutions have been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate in recent weeks to remove the arbitrary timeline that is in the preamble and not in the actual text of the Equal Rights Amendment. ERA advocates assert that the timeline was enacted by Congress and therefore can be removed by Congress to ensure that the ERA is placed in the Constitution now that three-fourths of the states have ratified.

“For almost 100 years, there has been a constant battle to enshrine in our constitution that the equality of rights cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex or gender,” said Carol Jenkins, president and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality. “The ERA Coalition and our allied partners have fought a state-by-state campaign across the country to see the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Now is the time for Congress to act and acknowledge the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Read the full letter here.

Texas Judge Temporarily Blocks Order to Remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

A state judge has ruled to temporarily halt the expulsion of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood affiliates brought an emergency lawsuit against the order on Wednesday, asserting that the state failed to give proper notice.

The change was set to take effect on Thursday of this week, but the temporary restraining order will give Planned Parenthood an opportunity to await action from the Biden administration, which has vowed to support Planned Parenthood and the expansion of the Medicaid program. The lawsuit is the culmination of a years-long battle between anti-abortion politicians and reproductive health advocates in the state of Texas.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state in November of last year, decreeing that around 8,000 Texans would lose access to non-abortion health care services provided by Planned Parenthood this week. Even though the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding from being used for abortion, except in rare circumstances, anti-abortion proponents argue that any funding from the Medicaid program indirectly supports the abortion care Planned Parenthood provides.

“Texas’s Medicaid ‘defunding’ offers a clear example of how critical it is for the Biden-Harris administration to stop attacks that target the reproductive health care of people with low incomes, women, and people of color,” said Planned Parenthood in a statement.

According to a report from CNN, the Biden administration is expected to release guidance that “states cannot bar Medicaid funds from going to qualified health care providers that also perform abortions or provide related services, such as Planned Parenthood.”

“Make no mistake — forcing Planned Parenthood out of the Texas Medicaid program would have a devastating impact on Texans. And Gov. Abbott knows exactly who he’s hurting — people of color, women, and people with low incomes. Let’s be clear — patients should be able to go to the provider they know and trust regardless of their zip code and income level. Accountability is coming, and we will fight back against any politician who doesn’t prioritize expanding accessible, affordable quality health care,” said Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson in a statement after the ruling in November.

Biden Signs Series of Executive Orders Reversing Trump Era Immigration Policies

On Tuesday, President Biden signed three executive orders aimed at reversing the “zero tolerance” immigration policies of the Trump administration. Biden said during the signing that “I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy.”

One of the orders establishes a task force that will work to reunite migrant families that were separated at the US-Mexico border during Trump’s tenure as president. The task force will be led by the newly confirmed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

According to a report from CNN, the task force “will be charged with identifying all children separated from their parents or legal guardians on the southern border, facilitating and enabling the reunification of children with their families, and providing regular reports to the President, including one containing recommendations.”

Although the task force is a first step in undoing the harm done by the draconian policies, many immigration advocates say more urgent action is needed. 611 children in custody have parents or guardians who have not been located by lawyers, and around 5,500 children are currently in custody.

“The task force has a broad mandate and we are pleased to see the Biden administration’s commitment to reuniting families in the United States, protecting them from deportation, and care. However, all 5,500-plus separated families need immediate action — they cannot wait 120 days for a task force to make recommendations. These families deserve citizenship, care, and resources. We hope the task force acts with urgency, and look forward to working with it to reunite families and ensure that this never happens again,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gerlernt, lead lawyer in the family separation lawsuit.

The other orders signed include a review of border security, including a policy that forces asylum seekers to stay in Mexican cities while awaiting hearings in US immigration court. He ended a policy that held asylum seekers in custody with almost no access to lawyers while their claims were fast-tracked through the courts. According to the AP he also “ordered reviews of a nationwide expansion of fast-track deportation authority and of agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for the U.S. to reject asylum applicants and instead send them to those Central American countries with an opportunity to seek protection there.”

The order on legal immigration will work to reduce backlogs and create a clearer pathway to citizenship. It also will potentially roll back the Trump era “public charge rule” which makes it difficult for those receiving government benefits to get a green card.

Immigration advocates say the orders are a starting point, but there is still more immediate action that needs to be taken. “The positive steps the administration is taking must be the beginning, not an end unto themselves,” said Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum. “Congress should build on these first steps to find permanent solutions to improve our immigration system.”

South Carolina Senate Passes Bill Banning Most Types of Abortion

Last Thursday, the South Carolina Senate voted 30-13 to pass a bill that will outlaw almost all abortions in the state if signed into law.

The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act” outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs around six to eight weeks, often before a person is even aware they are pregnant.

The bill does not make exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and only allows an abortion to be performed if the life of the pregnant person is in danger. Doctors who do not check for a fetal heartbeat or perform the procedure regardless would be charged with a felony and could face up to two years in prison.

South Carolina Republicans have tried and failed numerous times to pass the bill previously and were finally successful after a new overwhelming conservative majority was elected to the state Senate this past November. The bill will go to the state House next where it is expected to pass, and South Carolina governor Republican Henry McMaster has already promised to sign it into law.

“What was done today was entirely political theater to appease extremists,” said South Carolina Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. “Republican senators showed you today that they want to deny you of your constitutional rights, but they ultimately will not be successful.”

State Senator Mia McLeod, a sexual assault survivor, said the bill “mocks God by taking away our rights, our liberties, our freedoms and our choices.” She is extremely critical of the provision in the bill which requires doctors to give the name and contact information of those seeking an abortion due to rape or incest to the local authorities.

“After taking all of that, do you have to take our dignity, too?” she said. “Does it make you feel good when women have to relive the horror, the unspeakable shame and the trauma of all that we’ve experienced at the hands of a man, then, to add insult to injury, force us to retell it to another man — this one with a badge?”

The bill is certain to face a slew of legal challenges in the lower courts and may be prevented from being enacted while it works its way through the legal system. Anti-abortion proponents hope that the case will come before the Supreme Court and that the now conservative majority will rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Biden Executive Order Ends Global Gag Rule and Strengthens Health Care Access

Today, President Biden will sign a series of executive orders that will end the global gag rule which prevents nongovernmental organizations from receiving U.S. aid if they provide or recommend abortion care. They will also order a review and assessment of the Title X domestic gag rule, as well as strengthening access to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, was put in place by the Trump administration in 2017. They also put a rule in place in 2019 that prevented Title X funds from being used by health care providers who performed or even just reccomended abortion care to their patients. This move prompted hundreds of providers, including Planned Parenthood, to withdraw from the program, leaving huge gaps in care.

The executive orders will also aim to revitalize the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, two programs that were under constant attack by the Trump administration. There will be a special enrollment period opening from February 15 – May 15 for those without healthcare during the pandemic to sign up. According to a statement from the White House, federal agencies will be directed to review:

  • Policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19;
  • Demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements;
  • Policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance;
  • Policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA; and
  • Policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents. 

A group of over 100 organizations published an ad in the Washington Post pushing the Biden administration to act swiftly to reverse the damage done to reproductive healthcare by the Trump administration. Their asks include rescinding the global gag rule, rescinding the Title X gag rule, lift the restrictions on medication abortion that unnecessarily require patients to receive the pills in person during the pandemic, and making good on their campaign promise to end the Hyde Amendment, a historically racist and classist policy that prevents low-income and predominately people of color from accessing most types of abortion care.

Senate Confirms Janet Yellen as First Female Head of the Treasury Dept

Last night the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury with bipartisan support. Yellen is the first woman to hold the position since Alexander Hamilton became the first Treasury Secretary 232 years ago.

“Janet Yellen is brilliant and has a track record for being unflappable,” said Greg Valliere, chief US policy strategist at AGF Investments. “She seems to be popular in all factions, from the financial markets to Main Street.”

Yellen has promised her number one priority will be working to enact the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans making under $75,000 a year, expanded unemployment benefits, and further aid for small business among other measures designed to aid in the economic recovery from the pandemic.

“She can take complicated economic theories and put them into understandable language — all while showing a real heart for the millions of Americans who are hurting through no fault of their own,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Yellen comes to the job with extensive experience, having been the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, and having led the Council of Economic Advisors during the Clinton Administration. She also previously taught at UC-Berkeley.

She had repeatedly expressed her desire to enact economic policy that will swiftly help the most marginalized communities in the U.S. – particularly minorities and women, who have been the most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is hard to imagine a better prepared nominee to meet this great moment of need than Dr. Yellen,” wrote her Treasury secretary predecessors in a letter of support for her nomination. Yellen is the third member of Biden’s cabinet to be confirmed by the Senate so far.

Biden Announces Plan to Rescind Global Gag Rule on Abortion Funding

President Biden has announced his intention to rescind the Mexico City policy on January 28, a mandate which prevents the US from providing international funding to nongovernmental groups that provide abortion and reproductive health care.

The policy has been enacted and revoked by Republican and Democratic presidents since the Reagan administration. President Trump put the rule in place shortly after taking office in 2017.

“It will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.”

An analysis done in 2019 by the medical journal The Lancet found that under the Mexico City policy abortion rates went up in numerous countries, most likely due to the lack of access to contraceptives.

The move is the first of many which reproductive rights proponents hope to see from the Biden administration, including revoking the Trump rule that prevents Title X recipients from receiving funds if they provide abortion services. The Title X move by the Trump administration prompted Planned Parenthood and other independent clinics to withdraw from the program in 2019.

They are also hoping Biden will revoke the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from being used for most types of abortion care, a policy that is particularly harmful to low-income people seeking abortions.

Biden Nominates Transgender Woman as Assistant Health Secretary at HHS

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden nominated Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine as the assistant health secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If confirmed by the Senate, Levine will be the first transgender woman to hold the position.

Levine was appointed to her current post by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017 and has been at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s response to the pandemic. At the time of her appointment, she was one of only a few transgender officials serving in such a position. The November 2020 election saw a record number of transgender and non-binary legislators elected across the country.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” a statement released by Biden’s team read.

During her time serving at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Levine addressed the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, eating disorders, adolescent medicine, LGBTQ health, and fighting diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C.

“I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity,and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues,” said Dr. Levine in a statement. “And I am extremely proud of the work we have done during the last year to save lives in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, as part of the Biden Administration if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed to this position.”

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


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