57 Years Later, Thousands Protest Against Racial Injustice at 2020 March on Washington

Exactly 57 years after the first March on Washington and 65 years after the murder of Emmett Till, demonstrators are coming together once more to protest against police brutality and racial discrimination.

A march continuing the unfinished work of its predecessor has been convened today by the Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network along with a number of other organizations. Organizers describe the march as displaying their “advocacy for comprehensive police accountability reform, the Census, and mobilizing voters for the November elections.”

Family members of Black people killed by police such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and Jacob Blake will speak at the Lincoln Memorial. Rev. Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, the son of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), will also speak. Protesters will then march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The event will be livestreamed.

Following the march, the Movement For Black Lives will broadcast a Black National Convention at 7pm EST. Organizers will pass a political agenda which advocates for defunding police departments and reinvesting the money in community services, along with a number of other policies supporting black communities.

Rev. Sharpton announced the march at the funeral for George Floyd, who was murdered by police after an officer kneeled on his neck for almost 9 minutes. The name of the march, “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington,” is in honor of Floyd.

“The reason why George Floyd laying there with that knee on his neck resonated with so many African-Americans is because we have all had a knee on our neck,” said Rev. Sharpton. Rev. Sharpton has stated that the march will “restore and recommit” the dream MLK described in his “I Have A Dream” speech during the first March on Washington.

Protesters will advocate for the passage of two legislative measures combating police violence and racial discrimination. One of these measures is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases, ban chokeholds and create a national registry of police misconduct among other measures. The protesters will also call for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in honor of Sen. John Lewis, who passed away recently and spoke at the first March on Washington. The bill would combat racial discrimination against voters.

Organizers expect 50,000 protesters to attend the march in Washington D.C., while thousands more will watch from home or attend smaller marches in states such as South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and Wisconsin. Strict measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 are being enforced, with mandatory temperature checks being administered and masks required.

Jacob Blake Shot in Back Multiple Times by Police in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot in the back by police seemingly 7 times on Sunday afternoon in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Witnesses report that Blake was helping break up a fight and that police attempted to taser him after responding to a domestic disturbance call. In a Twitter video, Blake can be seen walking to the driver’s side of his car. Police follow him, guns drawn. As Blake enters the car, police pull his shirt and then fire their weapons. Blake’s children were inside the car at the time. The Kenosha Police Department reported that officers provided “immediate aid” to Blake, who was airlifted to a Milwaukee hospital. Facebook posts from Blake’s family show that he is now in stable condition.

“That don’t make no sense to treat somebody like that, who is not armed,” said Laquisha Booke, Blake’s fiancé. “That man just literally grabbed him by his shirt and looked the other way and was just shooting him. With the kids in the back screaming. Screaming.”

An investigation into the shooting has been opened by the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s criminal investigation division, who will release a report within 30 days. Two police officers involved have been placed on administrative leave as per department policy.

Following the shooting, protesters marched to the Kenosha County Public Safety Building. Police used tear gas and pepper balls were used to dispel them. Buildings and cars were set on fire and a mandatory curfew was implemented.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) released a statement following the shooting: “We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country – lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites,” said Evers.

Ben Crump, the Blake family’s attorney who is also the attorney for Taylor and Floyd’s families, stated, “I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.” Of the officers involved, Crump said that “their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing.”

Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, tweeted of the continued murder of black people by police that “anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.”

Sources: CNN 8/24/20; CNN 8/24/20; NPR 8/24/20; CBS News 8/24/20; Kenosha News 8/23/20; ABC7 8/24/20; WISN12 8/24/20; Washington Post 8/24/20

19th Amendment Centennial Celebrated as Trump Pardons Susan B. Anthony

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted many women the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 35th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, and events across the country are being held remotely this month to celebrate.

However, while the 19th Amendment is often praised as granting women the right to vote, in reality, it only guaranteed this right for white women. Women of color were, and continue to be, systematically excluded from voting, even though many were integral to the 19th Amendment’s passage. Black women were marginalized in many feminist organizations due to these organizations’ desire to appeal to white southern women. After the 19th Amendment’s passage, Black women were systematically disenfranchised through policies such as poll taxes, deliberately difficult literacy tests, and grandfather clauses which required the grandfather of voters to have been eligible to vote in order for them to be able to do so. As the grandfathers of many Black women at the time were slaves, these women were rendered unable to vote. These practices persisted until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which enacted protections for voters of color. However, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder stripped away many of these protections, thereby allowing states to implement measures such as Voter ID Laws which systematically disenfranchise people of color. These laws also harm transgender and non-binary people, many of whom face difficulty obtaining an ID that matches their name and gender identity.

Native American women were also not guaranteed the right to vote under the 19th Amendment, as they were not citizens at the time of its passage. Once these women became citizens in 1924, they faced many of the barriers that Black women faced when trying to vote. Latinas had to overcome these same barriers and an additional language barrier, as until 1975 voter registration materials were not required to be translated. Laws such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and its extensions also systematically disenfranchised Asian women, barring them from obtaining citizenship. Women of color continue to face discrimination today due to language barriers, voter ID laws, and the pay gap which forces women to work longer hours –“leaving little time to vote” according to Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino.

In celebration of the centennial, President Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony, a major activist in the women’s suffrage movement who illegally registered and voted in New York in 1872. Anthony was arrested, found guilty, and fined $100 – which she refused to pay. Anti-abortion activists, who despite little evidence claim Anthony would have supported them, applauded Trump’s decision. However, historians have questioned whether Anthony would have wanted the pardon. “When you’re asking for a pardon, you’re saying I did something wrong,” stated Ann Gordon, a former professor who has edited a collection of Anthony’s papers. “She certainly knew how to get one [a pardon]. But she doesn’t think she did anything wrong and she firmly believes that all US citizens have the right to vote.”

Sources: Forbes 8/18/20; 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative; Vox 8/18/20; Fortune 8/18/20; USA Today 8/10/20; The Dallas Morning News 5/23/17; CNN 8/18/20

Trump Administration’s USPS Restructuring Leads to Fears of Mass Voter Disenfranchisement

The recent steps taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and Trump campaign mega-donor, have led to fears about the Postal Service’s (USPS’s) ability to handle mail-in ballots during the November elections. Following DeJoy’s appointment in June, he took drastic steps to cut the Postal Service’s costs, including stopping overtime work and removing many sorting machines and mailboxes without notice. This has led to mail delays in many states.

Following these changes, the USPS sent a letter to 46 states and the District of Columbia warning them that USPS would likely not be able to deliver ballots on time for the November election. These delays have raised fears about the mass disenfranchisement of voters who may have their ballots declared invalid if they do not reach their state’s elections office by November 3rd. These worries come as an unprecedented number of voters are expected to vote by mail this election cycle due to coronavirus.

President Trump often criticizes the post office and has consistently made false claims about mail-in voting, saying that it will lead to mass fraud. Trump’s critiques have been viewed as an attempt to stoke fear and distrust in the elections process. President Trump admitted to his goal of mass disenfranchisement during an interview when discussing why he did not support the $25 billion in funding Democrats have proposed for the USPS: “They [the Democrats] need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he stated. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting…”

More voters are expected to cast their ballot by mail this election cycle due to the pandemic, with one poll finding that 39% of registered voters preferred to vote by mail this November. In contrast, only 24% of voters utilized absentee ballots during the 2016 election.

Former President Obama has accused President Trump of “kneecapping” the Postal Service in order to limit voting. A joint investigation into DeJoy’s actions has been launched by Congressional Democrats and several states are considering suing the Trump administration to stop the changes. Pennsylvania has already altered its election laws in response to possible mail delays.

On Sunday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for an emergency vote on a bill which would force the USPS to roll back its changes until after the November elections. “Alarmingly, across the nation, we see the devastating effects of the President’s campaign to sabotage the election by manipulating the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters,” stated Speaker Pelosi in a letter to Democratic representatives. Pelosi’s decision to call the vote was unprecedented, as Congress rarely meets during the parties’ conventions.

Postal workers have also expressed frustration at the new changes. “This is forced. These are things that don’t have to happen,” stated one postal worker about the delays.

Sources: CNN 8/16/20; CNN 8/15/20; CNN 8/10/20; The Guardian 8/13/20; Washington Post 8/16/20; CNN 8/16/20; CNN 8/13/20; Speaker of the House Letter 8/16/20; Washington Post 7/30/20

Record Number of Women Running for Congress in 2020

More women are running for Congress than ever before. According to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, 583 women have filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. So far, 243 women have won their primary elections, another record high. While fewer female Democrats have won their primary elections this cycle than in 2018 – 169 compared to 182 – 74 Republican women have won their primary elections, shattering the previous record of 53. Additionally a record number of women of color, 267, are running for Congress this election cycle.

This increase in female candidates has been attributed to a rise in Republican women running for office. While 2018 was labeled the “Year of the Woman,” with a record number of Democratic women becoming representatives, the number of female Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives decreased. Following these election results, a number of political action committees (PACs) focused on electing Republican women were created or received an increase in requests for assistance. These organizations have focused on supporting female candidates in primary elections, as studies show this is where Republican women face the most difficulty due to “the ideological biases of voters” and a lack of party support.  Republican women running for Congress have cited the results of the 2018 elections, as well as their feelings that the party no longer has representatives who share their values, as their reasons for running.

The number of women of color running for Congress has also increased – with 276 women of color running in 2020 compared to 179 in 2018. Overall, 130 Black, 75 Latina, 41 Asian or Pacific Islander, 16 Middle Eastern or North African, and 18 Native American women are running as Congressional candidates for a major party. While the Democratic party still has a larger number of female candidates of color, both parties have seen the diversity of their candidates increase this election cycle. In total, 162 Democratic and 86 Republican women of color have filed to run for Congress this year.

However, these numbers do not guarantee that there will be more women in the U.S. House of Representatives next year. While a record number of Republican women have won their primary elections, many of these women will face tough general elections and many retiring female Republican representatives have seen white men win the nomination to take their place. Many Democratic female representatives face tough elections in battleground states. The numbers do indicate a promising trend in the number of women entering politics. The director of CAWP, Debbie Walsh, stated that “In 2020, we’re surpassing the records of just two years ago, an encouraging sign that we could be entering a new era of women’s political participation…But electoral progress for women should be the norm, not the exception, in a political system where women remain significantly underrepresented as officeholders.”

Sources: Vox 8/14/20; Vox 5/27/20; Forbes 8/6/20; CAWP 8/7/20; WUSA9 7/29/20

Kamala Harris Becomes Historic Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate

On Tuesday presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his running mate – Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). In doing so, Sen. Harris has become the first Black woman and first South Asian American woman to be the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party. If elected, Sen. Harris would become the first female, first Black, and first Asian American vice president in the history of the United States. Sen. Harris stands on the shoulders of many groundbreaking women who came before her including Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination from a major political party, and Charlotta Bass, the first Black woman to run for vice president.

Sen. Harris grew up in Oakland, California as the daughter of an Indian cancer researcher and a Jamaican economics professor. Growing up, she embraced both sides of her heritage – attending both a Hindu temple and a Black Baptist church. As a first grader, Sen. Harris was bussed from her majority-Black neighborhood to a majority-white elementary school during its second year of integration. After attending middle and high school in Montreal, Harris attended Howard University – the prestigious historically Black university in Washington, D.C. – because her hero, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, had attended. Following graduation, she attended law school at the University of California, Hastings.

Her historic role as a vice presidential candidate continues Sen. Harris’ long career of breaking down barriers. After working in both the Alameda County prosecutor’s office and the San Francisco district attorney’s office, she ran for District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003. When she won, Sen. Harris became the first black female district attorney in California. In 2010, Harris ran for California Attorney General and won by 0.8%, becoming the first female, first Black, and first Asian-American attorney general in California’s history. In achieving this victory she also became the first South Asian American attorney general in the United States.

As attorney general, Sen. Harris negotiated a $25 billion settlement deal with the 5 largest mortgage companies in the United States. The settlement came after Sen. Harris turned down a smaller settlement deal, arguing that it was not big enough. This decision was initially widely criticized, but her gamble paid off- affording Californians $18.4 billion in mortgage relief.

In 2016, Sen. Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate; becoming only the second black female senator, and the first South-Asian-American senator, in the US’s history. It was also the first time California had elected a black female senator. In 2020 Sen. Harris ran for president but dropped out during the Democratic primary due to funding shortages. Sen. Harris’ career is full of accomplishments, and the announcement on Tuesday further solidifies her role as a trailblazer for women, especially women of color.

Sources: New York Times 8/11/20; National Women’s History Museum 2015; Washington Post 8/12/20; CNN 8/12/20; New York Times 8/12/20; Politico 8/11/20; Politico Magazine 1/24/19; Vox 6/16/17; CNN 8/11/20

Georgia Teen Who Posted Pictures of School Reopening Has Suspension Revoked

A teenager who was suspended after posting pictures on social media criticizing her high school’s reopening has had her suspension lifted.

Hannah Watters posted pictures of her high school’s reopening which depicted scenes of crowded hallways with little social distancing and few students wearing masks. The pictures quickly went viral. Soon after posting them, Watters was suspended from North Paulding High School (NPHS) in Dallas, Georgia, for violating the school code of conduct which prohibits students from posting on social media during school hours or recording videos of minors. Her suspension was later revoked following her family’s complaints.

“Not only did they open, but they have not been safe,” stated Watters about her school’s reopening plans. While Watters says she understands why she was punished, she does not regret her actions. “I’d like to say this is some good and necessary trouble,” commented Watters, utilizing a phrase from representative and civil rights icon John Lewis.

Following the incident, the principal of NPHS warned students over the school intercom not to copy Watters’ behavior. The Superintendent of Paulding County School District, Brian Otott, wrote a letter to the community stating that the pictures were taken out of context. He defended the school’s actions, noting that all staff members were issued masks and that the school was taking precautions in compliance with the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH).

However, Otott maintained that “wearing a mask is a personal choice and there is no practical way to enforce a mandate to wear them.” He additionally cited evidence from the GDPH that it takes 15 minutes to transmit COVID-19 between people less than 6-feet apart; arguing that in light of this evidence, hallways presented a limited risk. However, according to one source, Otott omitted information indicating that COVID-19 could be spread at a faster rate through coughing.

Although Paulding County offered an online-only option for students, more than 20,000 of the district’s 31,000 students opted for in-person instruction. However, many students cited a lack of computer access and missing the deadline to sign up for remote-instruction as their reasons for doing so. These students were told that if they remained at home without access to online classes, they could face expulsion.

The decision of how to reopen has been left to Georgia’s individual school districts, which have already faced challenges in doing so. Teachers have protested against reopening plans, citing safety concerns, and football players at NPHS tested positive for the virus one day before the school reopened.

In Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest school district in Georgia, over 260 employees tested positive or were exposed to the virus while meeting to plan for the school year. Georgia reported 3,182 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, with 42 deaths and 214 hospitalizations.

Sources: The Washington Post 8/7/20; CNN 8/7/20; Paulding County School District, MSN  8/6/20; WSBTV 8/2/20; BuzzFeed News 8/5/20; CNN 8/7/20; New York Post 8/6/20; Georgia Department of Public Health 8/6/20

New Podcast Encourages Iranian Women to Share Stories of Domestic Violence

A new podcast in Iran helps women share stories of domestic violence and raises awareness about the lack of support systems in place for Iranian victims. The podcast is run by an Iranian woman who was herself a victim of domestic violence. In Iran, domestic violence is seen as a private issue, and victims are given little assistance. The creator of the podcast hopes it will help eradicate the stigma around victims voicing their stories of domestic violence publically.

The precise prevalence of domestic violence in Iran is currently unknown. The government has not released statistics on domestic violence since 2004 when it found that 2/3 of women in Iran had experienced it. Recent studies have estimated that this rate has remained steady, with between 66% and 70% of women in Iran having experienced domestic violence. According to the General Director of Counseling and Psychological Affairs at the Welfare Organization of Iran, the prevalence of domestic violence has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Director of U.N Women has called the global increase in violence against women during the pandemic a “shadow pandemic.”

Experts attribute this surge in cases to the fact that family members are living in close proximity for the majority of the day due to pandemic restrictions. The massive job losses caused by the pandemic have made many Iranian women more financially dependent on their husbands and have caused an economic strain in the household, leading to further violence. An increase in anxiety and fear due to COVID-19 has also been linked to the uptick in incidents.

Iran has taken some steps to combat domestic violence during COVID-19. The government sent a text message to all Iranians to raise awareness of domestic violence hotlines. Following the message, the number of calls to these hotlines doubled. However, Iran still has many laws that restrict women and prevent victims from gaining assistance.

Women have described being ignored by police when they report instances of domestic violence or being told by police to return to their abuser. Outrage over the murder of a 14-year-old girl by her father after she ran away from home with her boyfriend has sparked new interest in passing a bill protecting women from violence. However, the bill has not been seriously considered by the government since it was written almost 10 years ago and must pass a conservative parliament before being enacted.

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, criticized the government’s meager response to domestic violence. “The Iranian authorities can take three months to arrest, sentence and execute an individual, but after seven years they still cannot pass legislation to protect women’s lives,” he stated.

Sources: BBC 8/4/20; Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 5/17/18; Global Citizen 8/4/20; UN Women 4/6/20; Voice of America 5/1/20; Women’s Committee of Iran NCRI 4/12/20; Center for Human Rights in Iran 11/23/18; BBC 5/27/20

Reports Reveal China’s Campaign to Forcibly Sterilize Uyghur Women

Reports Reveal China’s Campaign to Forcibly Sterilize Uyghur Women

Reports and victim testimonies have brought to light a mass forced-sterilization campaign undertaken by the Chinese government against the Uyghur people.

Many Uyghur women have recounted having their fallopian tubes forcibly cut or having IUDs inserted against their will. Others, after being taken to one of China’s “re-education camps” for the Uyghur people, have described being raped or injected with an unknown substance that stopped their periods.

Reports have also surfaced of the Chinese government forcibly aborting the fetuses of many Uyghur women. After seeking asylum in other countries, many of these women have been told that some of these measures have left them sterilized. Critics argue that the Chinese government’s actions are not only human rights violations, but meet the United Nation’s definition of genocide.

The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority, 11 million of whom reside in Xinjian, a northwestern region of China. Uyghurs are ethnically separate from Han Chinese, which makes up the majority of the Chinese population. They speak their own language and practice a variation of Sunni Islam. In recent years, the Chinese government has cracked down on the Uyghur population, forcibly placing many in “re-education camps” and instituting restrictive laws and surveillance procedures.

Since April 2017, the U.S. State Department believes more than 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others who practice Islam have been detained in these “re-education camps.” A number of women have been explicitly placed in these camps for having too many children, and recount harrowing stories of abuse while inside. The Chinese government justifies these actions by claiming that they have been undertaken in order to prevent terrorism.

While these practices began in 2015, recent reports by the Associated Press and German researcher Adrian Zenze have revealed that the extent of the Chinese government’s forced birth-control measures against Uyghur women is much larger than was previously believed. The number of IUDs being inserted in Xinjian has increased by over 60% from 2014 –2018, with almost 330,000 women having had an IUD inserted in 2018. The rates of IUD insertion in the rest of China have dropped significantly over this same period.

Birth rates in the region have also dropped by 24% in the last year, compared to the 4.2% decrease in birth rate nationwide. While only 3,214 sterilizations were performed in Xinjian in 2014, 60,440 were performed in 2018. All of these metrics point to a mass-campaign on the part of the Chinese government to forcibly decrease the Uyghur population.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly denied the reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented that the acts “demonstrate an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and basic human dignity.” He asked other countries to join the United States in “demanding an end to these dehumanizing abuses.” In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Zhao Lijian, called Secretary Pompeo “a brazen liar.”

Sources: CNN 7/31/20; the Independent 10/6/19; Vox 7/28/20; CBS News 11/27/18; Associated Press 6/29/20; CBS News 6/30/20

Trump Administration Places Further Limitations on DACA in Defiance of Court Order

On Tuesday the Trump administration took further action to limit the scope of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced in a memo that the Trump administration would not accept new applications for DACA and would force those currently enrolled in the program to apply for a renewal of their DACA status every year instead of every two years as previously stipulated. The DHS will also begin blocking most DACA participants from working outside of the United States.

Acting Secretary Wolf explained that the measures would be implemented while the DHS reviews DACA’s legality. “I have concluded that the DACA policy, at a minimum, presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission. At the same time, I have concluded that fully rescinding the policy would be a significant administration decision that warrants additional careful consideration,” he stated.

The announcement comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month 5-4 that the Trump administration’s previous attempts to dismantle DACA were unlawful. However, the Supreme Court only ruled that the procedure the Trump administration used to eliminate the program was illegal, not that dismantling the program itself was unlawful. Based on this ruling, Judge Paul W. Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ordered the Trump administration to accept new DACA applicants. The Trump administration refused to comply and released the Wolf memo in response.

The Trump administration began working to dismantle DACA in 2017 when it first started rejecting all new applicants to the program. Many viewed the Supreme Court’s ruling as an indication that the administration had to temporarily halt this practice until they had a new legal basis for eliminating the program. DACA itself was first created via executive order by President Obama in 2012. It allows immigrants who were brought to the country illegally at a young age to apply for protection from deportation. More than 640,000 people are currently participating in DACA. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that a further 66,000 people have become eligible for the program since 2017 but have been barred from participation. DACA is popular among voters, with one poll finding that 3 out of 4 registered voters believe DACA recipients should be allowed to remain in the United States.

The new DACA restrictions have received criticism from a number of prominent immigration advocacy organizations. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) wrote a joint letter to the DHS stating that its actions were an “illegal usurpation of authority in violation of the separation of powers” and “effectively an act of tyranny.” It is expected that the restrictions will be challenged in court.

Sources: Vox 7/28/20; U.S. Department of Homeland Security Memo 7/28/20; CNN 6/18/20; Pittsburg Post Gazette 7/18/20; Politico 7/28/20; CBS News 7/17/20; Migration Policy Institute, Politico 6/17/20; House Committee on the Judiciary Press Release 7/24/20

Anti-Abortion Democrats Press Democratic National Committee to Change Party Platform

Over 100 anti-abortion Democrats have signed a  letter calling for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to adopt a party platform less supportive of abortion. The letter was written by Democrats for Life, an organization of pro-life Democrats. It was signed by a number of prominent Christian pastors, anti-abortion organizers, and professors of religion.

The letter calls for the DNC to repeal its support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from being used for abortion. In the letter, the group urges the DNC to “reject a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party” and to “recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth.”

The DNC included in its platform the goal of repealing the Hyde Amendment for the first time in 2016. This decision was seen as a further step toward making the party pro-abortion, a topic which has furthered the divide between the two parties as Democrats begin to support more pro-abortion policies and Republicans increasingly enact anti-abortion measures. This divide, however, did not always exist. In the early 2000s, over 40 members of Congress were included in Democrats for Life’s coalition. Now, there are no more than two Democratic Senators who vote against pro-abortion bills.

Some prominent Democrats have attempted to toe the line between supporting abortion and ensuring anti-abortion Democrats, a group that is viewed as influential in deciding the outcome of Midwestern elections, feel included in the party. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi replied “of course” when asked if it was possible to be both pro-life and a Democrat. However, others in the party argue that support for anti-abortion policies can no longer be tolerated by those who identify themselves as Democrats. The Chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, has stated that “every Democrat … should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a Christian who for decades maintained a moderate stance on abortion. Less than 30 years ago, Biden defended his support of the Hyde Amendment by stating that “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.” However, facing pressure during the Democratic primaries, Biden reversed his position and announced his support for the abolition of the Hyde Amendment. “Just as I’ve never attempted to impose my views on anyone else as to when life beings, I have never attempted to impose my view on who should pay for it,” stated Biden. Biden has additionally supported the codification of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The Executive Director of Democrats for Life, Kristen Day, stated that the DNC’s decision to support pro-abortion policies would “massively damage relationships with religious voters.” She warned that the voting decisions of pro-life Democrats “shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

Sources: ABC News 7/24/20; Christian Science Monitor 2/4/20; the Atlantic 4/27/17; National Affairs Winter 2020; Associated Press 9/17/19

PSA Targets Increase in Asian-American Harassment Linked to Fears of COVID-19

A new public service announcement (PSA), released by the Advertising Council (Ad Council) and created by Emmy-award winning writer Alan Yang, aims to combat the increase in harassment against Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last three months, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, along with Chinese for Affirmative Action, have collected reports of over 2,100 incidents of harassment against Asian-Americans, including the use of racial slurs and threats, as well as instances of assault. The PSA was released as part of the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” series, which has received awards and millions of views since its launch 5 years ago. It features a number of Asian-Americans discussing the racism they have experienced during COVID-19 and has been released along with an augmented reality (AR) filter to help viewers show their solidarity with the PSA’s message. Resources for combating racism have been uploaded to the Love Has No Labels website.

The PSA was created to counter what has been criticized as inaction by the federal government in response to the surge in harassment against Asian-Americans. After both the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the outbreak of SARS in 2003, the federal government quickly worked to combat discrimination against a number of communities who were wrongfully blamed for the events.

No such action has been taken in response to the anti-Asian harassment brought about by COVID-19. While the FBI has released a memorandum to local law enforcement agencies, warning them that “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States” due to COVID-19, they do not seem to have taken further steps to stop this harassment.

Many blame President Trump for the increase in anti-Asian rhetoric and harassment. President Trump has continuously referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and has called the virus “kung flu.” Although President Trump has since told reporters that the virus is not the fault of Asian-Americans in “any way, shape, or form,” as recently as yesterday he has continued to utilize the term “China virus” in his tweets.

Meanwhile, Asian-Americans face increasing levels of harassment. A Pew Research Survey found that 58% of Asian-Americans surveyed believed that the expression of racist and insensitive views about Asian people had increased since the pandemic began. A further 30% of respondents stated that they had experienced increased instances of racist jokes or slurs and 26% of respondents said that they feared being threatened or physically attacked because of their race.

Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman stated that “At a time when hateful rhetoric and racially-fueled discrimination are plaguing the API community, it’s critical that we all play a role in dispelling the racist misconceptions and actions pervading our country….We hope this film will inspire Americans to rethink their biases and help put an end to the wave of racism facing the API community.”

Sources: New York Times 7/21/20; CBS News 7/2/20; NBC News 4/28/20; ABC News 3/27/20; Pew Research Center 7/1/20; Ad-Council 7/21/20

Unidentified Federal Agents Detain Portland Protesters

Since July 14, unidentified federal agents dressed in camouflage have been detaining protesters in Portland, Oregon, placing them in unmarked vans, and driving away. According to protesters and video footage of the events, the agents refuse to disclose their names or the organizations they are affiliated with. When demanding to know why they are being arrested, the protesters have received no response.

One protester, Mark Pettibone, described being detained in this manner, searched, and taken to a federal courthouse, where he was read his Miranda rights. Pettibone was then released without explanation and seemingly no record of his arrest. The U.S. Marshals Service has denied arresting Pettibone and has not commented on the usage of unmarked vans.

The actions seem to be a new tactic utilized by federal agents to dispel the Portland protests, which have been ongoing since May 29 in response to the death of George Floyd. The protests have remained relatively peaceful. However, in response, President Trump has sent agents from the U.S. Marshals, the Federal Protective Service, U. S. Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations in order to “quell” the protests. These agents are authorized to use crowd-control techniques, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, which Portland police cannot use unless the lives of people are in danger. President Trump had called the city “totally out of control” and commended the agents for doing “a great job in Portland.”

“I guess we have many people right now in jail, and we very much quelled it. And if it starts again we’ll quell it again very easily. It’s not hard to do if you know what you’re doing,” Trump stated at a news conference. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has called the protesters “lawless anarchists” and a “violent mob.”

The presence of these agents has been criticized by Oregon leaders, especially after agents fired a less-than-lethal munition at a protester, fracturing his skull. Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D) has called the federal agents’ actions “political theater from President Trump” which has “nothing to do with public safety.” She called the agents’ deployment “a blatant abuse of power by the federal government” and argued that Acting Secretary Wolf was “on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes.” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) tweeted “we do not need or want their help,” in response to the agents’ arrival.

The interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Jann Carson, commented that the agents’ actions are “flat-out unconstitutional.” “Usually when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the street, we call it kidnapping,” stated Carson. “Protesters in Portland have been shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, and repeatedly tear-gassed by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents. We won’t rest until they are gone.”

Sources: Daily Beast 7/17/20; USA Today 7/17/20; KGW, KGW 7/13/20; Department of Homeland Security 7/16/20; Washington Post 7/13/20; KATU 7/16/20; the Oregonian 7/16/20; Washington Post 7/17/20

Three-Fourths of Detainees in ICE Detention Center Test Positive for COVID-19

COVID-19 outbreaks in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers have continued to grow with alarming speed. In Farmville, a Virginia ICE detention center, all those held at the facility were tested for COVID-19 after a number of new detainees tested positive for the virus. Of the 366 people being held at Farmville, only 19 tested negative for COVID-19, while 276 people tested positive for the virus. A further 80 detainees are still awaiting their results and 22 employees have also tested positive.

The outbreak in Farmville seems to have originated when ICE moved 74 detainees from Florida and Arizona to Farmville without first quarantining them due to lack of space. Of those new detainees, 51 tested positive for COVID-19, and one person required hospitalization.

The full-facility test was not conducted until July 2, although the new COVID-19 positive detainees arrived at the facility a month earlier. Those being held at the facility began holding what they described as peaceful protests to demand further protection from COVID-19, such as more social distancing measures and further medical care for those experiencing symptoms.

However, their protests were met with a violent response, with employees on two occasions utilizing pepper spray and firing a “noise-distracting round” in order to dispel them. Some of those involved in the protests were confined to cells in groups of three, even though the cells were only designed for two detainees. This made social distancing impossible to maintain.

Although ICE claims that “the health, welfare and safety of … detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities,” those detained at the facility have described conditions in which social distancing has become almost impossible and those with COVID-19 symptoms are only given Tylenol. A report on ICE facilities by the Inspector General found that “facilities reported concerns with their inability to practice social distancing among detainees, and to isolate or quarantine individuals who may be infected with COVID-19.”

Three people detained by ICE have died from COVID-19 and ICE reports a total of 3,496 cases across their facilities. The deteriorating conditions caused a federal judge to order ICE to release all children held in their custody in order to protect them from the virus.

ICE has defended its actions, stating that “the agency has taken steps to protect detainees in its custody and promote social distancing whenever possible.” The agency reports that “medical checks are done twice daily, including a temperature screening and medication disbursement. Every detainee who needs medical attention is being seen. ”

However, those held at the facility tell a different story and describe fearing for their lives. When asked about the conditions he was experiencing, one detainee, using the pseudonym Bobby, called them “inhumane. You don’t treat humans like this. You don’t treat dogs like this. They don’t care if you die.”

 

Sources: Daily Beast 7/14/20; Daily Beast 6/30/20; CNN 6/27/20; Center for American Progress 6/16/20; CNN 6/27/20; DCist 6/29/20

Indiana Law Requiring Medical Providers Report Abortion Complications Struck Down

Yesterday a federal judge deemed an Indiana law that required medical providers to report to the state complications their patients experienced after an abortion unconstitutional. The lawsuit was brought against Indiana by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

Judge Richard Young stated in his opinion that the law was “unconstitutionally vague” and did not specify how medical providers would be able to determine the complications their patients were experiencing resulted from their abortions. Judge Young upheld another portion of the law which requires all abortion clinics to be inspected annually by the state.

The original 2018 law required medical providers to report “any adverse physical or psychological condition arising from the induction or performance of an abortion.” Those who did not comply faced up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. After a judge ruled the initial law was too vague, it was amended to include a list of 26 complications that were required to be reported. These included sleep disorders, anxiety, and rare complications such as cardiac arrest.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU argued that the new law included complications that were rare and “more likely to occur after other medical procedures.” They also argued that the new law was too vague, as it remained unclear “the extent to which a complication must be caused by the abortion itself” in order for it to necessitate reporting, as well as required “a degree of certainty as to causation that does not exist.”

Indiana’s Attorney General defended the law by arguing that mandated reporting “serves the public interest by collecting comprehensive data on the complications that may result from abortion and the frequency of those complications.”

Judge Young struck down the mandated reporting portion of the law and wrote that “the statue simply lacks any standard to guide physicians in determining whether a condition qualifies as an abortion complication for the purposes of reporting…The result, of course, is that physicians and other providers may overreport the enumerated complications, making abortion appear less safe than it really is.”

Judge Young did uphold the portion of the law which requires abortion clinics to be inspected annually, even though these inspections are not required for hospitals and surgery centers that perform abortions. Judge Young wrote that the “requirement furthers the State’s compelling interest in protecting women’s health and fetal life.”

In a statement, the chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Hannah Brass Greer, argued that the mandated reporting requirements were “another attempt by Indiana politicians to shame and stigmatize people seeking abortion services and … spread the myth that abortion is dangerous.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, over 20 states have similar laws that mandate abortion complication reporting. It is unclear how these laws will be affected by the ruling.

Sources: Indianapolis Star 7/9/20; Associated Press 6/28/18; ABC News 7/9/20; United States District Court Southern District of Indiana 7/8/20; ACLU Indiana 7/8/20; Associated Press 3/7/18

Supreme Court Upholds Religious and Moral Exemptions for ACA Birth Control Coverage

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a Trump Administration rule which expands the types of organizations that can claim religious or moral exemptions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule allows these organizations to refuse to cover birth control under their health insurance plans. Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. Justices Kagan and Breyer filed concurring opinions, while Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented. The decision is projected to lead to millions of women losing access to birth control through their health insurance plans and is seen as a major victory for the Trump administration.

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court is a devastating blow to millions of women, transgender, and nonbinary people who rely on their employer-provided healthcare to cover the high costs of contraceptives. This move gives their employers the power to make decisions about their employee’s healthcare without their consent,” said the Feminist Majority Foundation in a statement. “This decision hurts most those who can least afford birth control including young women, poor women, and disproportionately women of color. Today’s ruling emphasizes the urgent need  for Congress to codify the coverage of contraceptives as part of the preventative healthcare package included in the ACA.”

In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would begin rolling back the Obama-era contraceptive mandate which required employers to cover all birth control expenses for employees as part of the ACA. The mandate included exemptions for places of worship, but not for organizations owned by them, such as Catholic schools. Nonprofit religious groups could opt-out of the mandate, but had to notify the government as well as their health insurance company, which would then provide the birth control coverage themselves.  In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that “closely-held for-profit entities” could also opt-out of birth control coverage.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue commented that “these reckless attacks on birth control access are nothing more than another shameless effort by the radical right to advance their agenda of power and control, no matter the cost to women and families.”

The new Trump administration regulations expand these exemptions to allow any nonprofit or for-profit employer to claim a religious exemption under the ACA. This includes religious universities as well as publically-traded companies. Nonprofit organizations with a “moral” objection to providing birth control as part of their health insurance can also seek an exemption. The regulations no longer require organizations to provide employees with alternative options for birth control coverage, as the Obama-era regulations did. Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued the Trump Administration over the new rule and a lower court had previously blocked its enforcement.

Justice Ginsberg, in the dissenting opinion, stated that “in accommodating claims of religious freedom, this court has taken a balanced approach, one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs. Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights…”

Sources: NBC News 7/8/20; ABC News 7/8/20; CBS News 7/8/20; NPR 7/8/20; The Atlantic 10/6/17; The Associated Press 7/8/20; NARAL Pro-Choice America 5/5/20; Feminist Newswire 10/6/17

Supreme Court Ruling Ends Religious Schools’ Exclusion From School Choice Programs

In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting religious schools from receiving state funding in school choice programs violates the First Amendment right to freely exercise religion. The court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue was split along ideological lines, with Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Alito and Kavanaugh comprising the majority, while Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor dissented. The ruling is seen as a victory for those in favor of school choice, which the Trump Administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been avid proponents of.

The case centered around a 2015 Montana program that provided tax credits for those who donated to scholarships for Montana private schools – 70% of which are religious. As the Montana Constitution contains a “Blaine Amendment” or “no-aid” provision which bans state funds from being used for  religious institutions, the Montana Department of Revenue stopped the program from applying to scholarships for religious schools. Three parents using the program filed a lawsuit against the state. In 2018, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the entire program was unconstitutional and required it to be dismantled. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned that of the Montana Supreme Court, arguing that the state was violating the First Amendment right to freely exercise religion by barring only religious schools from participating in the program.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that “a State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” The opinion was based in part off of the argument by religious-freedom proponents that Blaine Amendments are grounded in the desire to discriminate against Catholics.

Justice Breyer, in a dissenting opinion, expressed worry that the ruling would blur the separation between church and state, while Justice Sotomayor went as far as to call the ruling “perverse.”

“We celebrate today’s Supreme Court decision,” stated the White House. “States may no longer hide behind rules motivated by insidious bias against Catholics, known as Blaine Amendments, to exclude religious schools from public benefits.” Secretary DeVos similarly praised the ruling, calling the decision a “turning point in the sad and static history of American education” and arguing “it will spark a new beginning of education that focuses first on students and their needs.”

Supporters of public education criticized the ruling, arguing that it will divert badly-needed funds away from public schools. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, exclaimed that “never in more than two centuries of American history has the free exercise clause of the First Amendment been wielded as a weapon to defund and dismantle public education.” President of the National Education Association Lily Eskelsen García stated that “the detrimental impact this decision will have on students through this country is shameful and unacceptable.”

Currently, 18 states utilize programs similar to the one struck down in Montana, and 8 states have Blaine Amendments. These programs and amendments will likely be dismantled or altered following the ruling.

Sources: U.S. News 6/30/20; SCOTUSblog; CNN 6/30/20; SCOTUSblog 6/30/20; White House Press Release 6/30/20; USA Today 6/30/20; National Education Association Press Release 6/30/20

Department of Education Issues Rule Increasing CARES Act Funding For K-12 Private Schools

A rule issued by the Department of Education (DOE) will grant K-12 private schools a large share of the $13 billion of federal coronavirus aid provided by the CARES Act. The rule requires school districts to utilize one of two plans to distribute the funds. Districts must either only utilize the funds for low-income students, or distribute them equally among public and private schools according to the student population. The rule was enacted without public comment and is immediately legally binding due to its time-sensitive nature. Educators and lawmakers have criticized the rule, claiming that it diverts funds from the low-income students the funding was meant to support.

Under the new rule, if districts decide to utilize the aid solely to assist low-income students, they must allocate the funds based on the number of low-income students, as calculated by Title 1, in each public and private school. If schools decide to utilize this allocation scheme, the types of services they can use the money for could be drastically reduced. For example, schools may be unable to use the money for disinfecting purposes, since this would not only benefit low-income students. If districts instead want to utilize the money to help all students, they must provide “equitable services” for private schools in their district. It is projected that if districts apply this distribution model, the amount of aid private schools will receive will increase from $127 million to $1.35 billion.

The rule was released two months after the DOE published non-binding guidance on how districts should allocate their CARES Act funds. The guidance was similar to the rule, although it did not provide an option for solely utilizing the money to help low-income students. The guidance received a large amount of criticism, with the Indiana Education Chief vowing to not comply with it. The final rule continues Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ history of advocating for private schools. She has been a long-time supporter of school voucher programs and has partnered with Vice President Pence to create tax credits for scholarships to private universities.

Lawmakers have commented that the rule goes against the intention of Congress when they wrote the CARES Act. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) argued that the rule “seeks to repurpose hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars intended for public school students to provide services for private school students, in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress.”

Educators have criticized the rule, with the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers commenting that it “could significantly harm the vulnerable students.” Daniel Domenech, Executive Director of AASA (the School Superintendents Association) accused DeVos of “using the pandemic environment to advance the privatization agenda” and called the rule an “opportunistic money grab.”

Sources: National Public Radio 6/25/20; U.S. Department of Education 6/25/20; Learning Policy Institute 6/10/20; ABC News 6/25/20; USA Today 6/25/20; Congressional Letter 5/20/20; CCSSO Letter 5/5/20; AASA 6/25/20

Pro-Choice Groups File Lawsuit Against Iowa’s 24-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a lawsuit asserting that an amendment passed by the Iowa legislature requiring a 24-hour abortion waiting period violates due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

The amendment requires that all those seeking an abortion wait at least 24-hours after their initial appointment with an abortion provider before receiving one. It also mandates that abortion providers distribute adoption information to their patients and conduct an ultrasound before performing an abortion. The requirements were passed at 5:40am on June 14 as part of an amendment attached to an unrelated bill. The amendment was passed on the last day of the legislative session, without public hearings or extensive debate. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who has a history of opposing abortion.

The amendment is similar to an Iowa law passed in 2018 which would have mandated a 72-hour abortion waiting period. The law was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court. Since this ruling, Gov. Reynolds has appointed 4 new justices to the court – replacing 4 of the 5 who ruled against the 2018 law. Republican lawmakers hope that this shift in the court will lead to the new amendment being upheld.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood claim that “by imposing a delay on abortion – a delay that the legislature does not impose on any other medical procedure – the amendment conveys that the legislature believes women are not competent to make considered, appropriate medical decisions for themselves and their families…”

Erin Davidson-Rippey, the Iowa Executive Director of Planned Parenthood for North Central States, criticized the amendment and commented that although it “is billed as a 24-hour waiting period law… in many cases it will delay a person’s ability to get an abortion by weeks.” Davidson-Rippey cited the fact that many of those seeking an abortion have to drive hours in order to reach an abortion provider, and called the amendment a “political ploy to create barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in Iowa.”

Rep. Jo Oldson, the Iowa House Democratic Whip, criticized the procedure used to pass the amendment, declaring that “they’ve [Republican lawmakers] kept this plan secret for weeks and released it on a Saturday night, so they didn’t have to hear from Iowans.”

“The Iowa Supreme Court only two years ago ruled that a law precisely like this one violated the fundamental rights of Iowans to seek an abortion,” the Legal Director of the ACLU of Iowa, Rita Bettis Austen, stated. “It recognized in that decision that mandatory delays and additional trips to the clinic don’t change people’s minds – they only serve to try to shame women and put obstacles in their way.” Austen went on to claim that, “precedent requires that this law be struck down.”

Sources: KKCI Des Moines 6/23/20; Iowa Public Radio 6/23/20; The Gazette 6/23/20; Courthouse News Service 6/24/20; Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa 6/23/20

Lawmakers Denounce Title IX Decision on Transgender Athletes

28 lawmakers, including six of the seven members of Connecticut’s delegation, signed a joint letter condemning the U.S. Department of Education’s May 15 decision regarding transgender athletes. The lawmakers request that the Department of Education (DOE) reconsider its decision, as well as other rulings that “roll back” the rights of transgender students. They have tasked the DOE with answering a series of questions about the decision by July 1.

In the decision, the DOE found that a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) rule which allowed transgender student-athletes to compete with others who share their gender identity violated Title IX. In explaining the decision the Department miss-gendered transgender females and stated that CIAC “by permitting the participation of certain male [transgender female] student-athletes in girls’ interscholastic track in the state of Connecticut … denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities” The decision required CIAC, as well as other Connecticut school districts utilizing the policy, to alter it or face the loss of federal funding.

In the letter, lawmakers assert that the Department’s decision “represents a disregard of the Department of Education’s duty to prevent discrimination and denial of benefits in federally funded education programs for every American student.” It goes on to state that in making the decision “the Department continues a discriminatory and blatantly illegal pattern by this administration to enshrine discrimination against transgender people in all levels of society…”

The letter specifically addresses the dangerous myth the initial Title IX complaint was based on – that transgender women are really men and therefore have an unfair advantage in competitions against cisgender women which allows them to win more frequently. The letter refutes this claim and cites the fact that cisgender females have beaten the two transgender athletes mentioned in the complaint– Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood – in at least 10 track meets.

It goes on to argue that the DOE’s decision serves to “solely punish women-identified students with physical attributes incongruent with stereotypical expectations for students assigned female at birth for the purposes of sports participation.” It asserts that “using Title IX to target a group of students who fail to meet your [the DOE’s] expectations of female or male is not in the spirit or the letter of the law.”

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), the leader of the letter’s signatories, commented that “The decision of the Department of Education to issue a determination targeting transgender student-athletes on the eve of Pride Month is not coincidental. It is a transparent example of their campaign against the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ children. Title IX was created so that all young women—no matter their sex assigned at birth—are protected from discrimination…It was not meant to target children who do not identify as cisgender or create a space in which transgender kids must choose between living truthfully or having access to opportunities.”

Sources: Hartford Courant 6/19/20; The New York Times 5/29/20; Hartford Courant 5/29/20; Hayes Press Release 6/17/20

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