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.”