Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

SCOTUS Denies Cert in Abortion Protest Case Leaving in Place Noise Restriction Law

Supreme Court Declines Appeal of Ruling Against Pastor Who Preaches Outside Planned Parenthood

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that overturned a lower court decision granting a preliminary injunction to a Maine minister who asserted that he was being unlawfully targeted by police outside of a Planned Parenthood facility for his pro-life preaching.

 

The high court declined certiorari in the case of March v. Mills, et. al. without comment on Monday, allowing a First Circuit ruling against the preacher’s public proclamations to stand.

 

However, as the courts ruled solely on the merits of the law and not how it was being applied specifically to Andrew March of Cell 53 Church, his attorneys will refile and continue the fight.

 
“The case is far from over,” Kate Oliveri of the Thomas More Law Center told the Bangor Daily News. “There are several challenges that we will go back to the District Court with.”...

 

In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, sided with March, opining that the “intent to interfere” portion of the law would pertain to the content of the speech, and would therefore only relate to pro-life speech, which would consequently be an unconstitutional content-based restriction.

 

“Continued enforcement of a content-based restriction on speech would result in irreparable harm to the Plaintiff,” Torreson ruled.

 

She said that there are other ways to keep order on the public sidewalk, as police “can further their interests of maintaining order and protecting individual patients through the criminal code, most obviously the disorderly conduct and harassment statutes.”

 

However, in August, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Torreson’s ruling, stating that they rather found the law to be content-neutral and that it does not ban abortion opponents from conversing with others, as opposed to lifting up one’s voice to preach—if in doing so the person’s voice can be heard inside the building.

 

“[T]he requirements laid out on the face of the noise provision do not indicate that the measure would apply to speech expressed at a normal, conversational tone—or even at a louder volume—absent the speaker’s intent to disrupt the provision or receipt of medical services,” it wrote.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals case is here, March v. Mills (2017)

April 18, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Leveling Down Gender Equality

My latest article thinking about gender and remedies.

Tracy A. Thomas, Leveling Down Gender Equality

Introduction

The Supreme Court resurrected its “leveling down” jurisprudence in 2017 when it remedied an equal protection violation of gender discrimination by denying, rather than extending, the requested benefit. This approach of nullifying the benefit for all had previously been confined to a handful of cases, over thirty years old; but with the decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana the Court brought new life and currency to this limitation of equality law. In Morales-Santana, a six-Justice majority of the Supreme Court led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, struck down a gender-based distinction in the federal immigration statute.  The statute had two different standards for mothers and fathers for determining derivative citizenship for children born abroad to unwed citizen parents. It seemed to be an easy case of facially unequal rules based on gender: one year prior U.S. residence for mothers, five years prior residence for fathers. However, the Court then refused to grant the plaintiff father the same benefit of the shorter time frame allotted mothers.  It instead equalized the gendered rules by denying the previous benefit of the shorter one year to mothers. While Justice Ginsburg’s decision in Morales-Santana purported to be a strong, historic decision on the merits of equality, the denial of meaningful relief actually weakened the meaning of equality with a reach far beyond the contours of this one case. 

This “leveling down” of the remedy – responding to inequality by reducing benefits to all rather than leveling up and extending benefits to the disadvantaged group -- is unusual, but not unheard of.  It has been judicially endorsed in a few cases, where the courts have ratified the voluntary actions of defendants.  In one example, the city of Jackson, Mississippi remedied its racially segregated swimming pools by closing down all pools.  In another, Congress redressed the disparity of Social Security benefits that gave extra benefit to women by reducing the women’s benefit to the lower level previously applicable to men.  And in yet another example, a high school found to have discriminated against a pregnant teen by denying her membership in the school’s National Honor Society, eliminated the honor society for all students.

Defendants seem to choose this remedy almost in defiance, refusing to grant a benefit to the petitioner with the audacity to challenge inequality.  This retrenching is deemed an acceptable organizational response, as seen for example, in the example of the BBC and its overseas editors.  When the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) was exposed in the media for paying its women overseas editors substantially less than its men editors, it responded by reducing the men’s pay. The women were thus not only denied equal pay for the past discrimination, but were exposed to potential peer retaliation for “rocking the boat” and making the men worse off.  But for the BBC, as with other wrongdoing defendants, leveling down seemed to be a quick and easy way to erase the inequality problem.    

The Court in Morales-Santana similarly believed it needed to defer to the defendant’s choice of remedy for the gender discrimination.  This was ironic given that the Court in that same case expressly rejected such deference to Congress in the merits part of the decision.  It departed from previous decisions upholding gender distinctions in the derivative citizenship statute based on deference to Congress’s plenary power over immigration; this time, the Court forcefully applied constitutional norms of equality to a different end.  Yet, in the same breath, the Court turned around and espoused the importance of deference to the defendant’s choice for the remedy.  It struggled to find such legislative intent, trying to second guess what Congress would have done had it known its derivative citizenship statute was unconstitutional.  The Court decided Congress would have stricken the second of two statutory clauses, rather than the first provision or instead of utilizing the gender neutral term “parent” instead of “mother.” It thus achieved equality by a simple formal textual exercise which resulted in the elimination of the shorter-time benefit to all unwed parents.   

This textualist analysis, however, depended upon the assumption that leveling down is an equally-valid remedial option for inequality.  But this is where the Court went wrong.  The Court failed to question the constitutionally legitimacy of this nullification in light of the constitutional mandates of due process and equal protection.  Had the Court engaged in an analysis of the remedy as much as it did of the right, it might have discovered that more was demanded than mere neutral formality and equivalency of benefit across the board.  Equality itself, as a constitutional right, dictates more than just empty formalism.  And due process, I have argued, requires that rights be granted meaningful remedies. Together, this means that where the operative substantive right is based on equal protection, as in Morales-Santana, a meaningful remedy is one that grants the “protection” promised.  For equal protection does not merely mandate a logical parallelism of genders, but normatively values equal opportunity and benefit. Examining the leveling down remedy in light of equality, beyond the strict mandates of a particular statutory benefit, reaches a different conclusion than the Court.  Asking the additional question of whether the plaintiff has received a meaningful remedy for the past inequality casts doubt on the validity of leveling down relief for gender discrimination.  

This Article first examines the Court’s decision in Morales-Santana and its justification for choosing the “mean remedy” of leveling down and denying a citizenship benefit to the child of both mothers and fathers.  Part II then explores the Court’s general, but unexplained, impression that ordinarily leveling up is the proper remedial course.  It provides a normative foundation for this remedial presumption grounded in the meaning of equal protection and in the due process right to a meaningful remedy.  Given these constitutional norms, the Article then argues that the remedial calculus should be changed.  Rather than accepting the Court’s assumption, renewed in Morales-Santana, that leveling down and leveling up are equally valid remedial choices, it argues for a strong presumption of leveling up in cases of gender discrimination, with only narrow exceptions permitted to rebut.  Part III of the article explains that these exceptions permitting leveling down would be rare, and would be grounded in equity, but only in concerns that would inflict undue burden on the defendant or third parties from the leveling up itself.  Such a deferential rule to the plaintiff’s rights better effectuates the meaning of equal protection and protects against judicial and voluntary action that by remedial formalism of leveling down could eviscerate the very meaning of equality.

 

April 10, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, Courts, Family, Gender, SCOTUS, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Denying Copyright Protection to Pornography to help Gender Inequality

Kayla Louis, Pornography and Gender Inequality: Using Copyright Law as a Step Forward, 24 William & Mary J. L. 267 (2018)

Introduction:

The pornography industry generates billions of dollars of revenue annually. The industry relies heavily on protection from copyright law in order to distribute its materials without them being freely taken by others. In other words, copyright law currently operates as an economic incentive to pornographers. Unfortunately, this lucrative industry has negative effects on gender equality. Pornography promotes harmful gender roles for both women and men. Women are portrayed as merely sexual objects who enjoy any type of penetration imaginable, even if it is rape. They are objectified and dehumanized. Men are shown as animalistic, performance-based, and without morals. As a whole, pornography can lead to behavioral, psychological, and social problems. Beyond the social harms to both men and women, the performers themselves suffer physical harms. As a form of prostitution, filmed pornography contributes to the demand for trafficking, and many women are coerced into the industry.

The government’s denial of copyright protection to speech based on content would potentially violate the First Amendment. However, the Supreme Court has made clear that not all content deserves free speech protections. Rather, “obscene” materials, as described in Miller v. California, are not protected under the First Amendment.

This Article argues that pornography is an actual problem that warrants denial of copyright protection as a method to disincentivize pornographers.

April 6, 2018 in Constitutional, Media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Constitutional Conflict Over Inherent Differences Between the Sexes

Cary Franklin, Biological Warfare: Constitutional Conflict Over 'Inherent Differences' Between the Sexes, Supreme Court Review (forthcoming)

Equal protection law no longer recognizes so-called “inherent differences” among the races as a justification for discrimination. The law takes a different view of sex. It continues to recognize “inherent differences” as a legitimate ground for treating men and women differently — as long as the differential treatment does not perpetuate women’s subordination or reinforce traditional sex stereotypes. This doctrine raises a host of difficult questions, most notably, what counts as an “inherent difference”?

The Court confronted that question twice in its 2016 Term. In Pavan v. Smith, the Court had to decide whether Arkansas could treat same-sex couples differently from different-sex couples with respect to their children’s birth certificates. In Sessions v. Morales-Santana, the question was whether the federal government, for purposes of assigning citizenship, could treat non-marital children born abroad to mixed-nationality couples differently depending on the sex of their U.S. citizen parent. In both cases, the Court rejected the government’s ostensibly biological justification for the differential treatment. But the new and important ways in which it reasoned about biology in these cases has not received much notice. Commentators treated Pavan as an obvious and relatively unimportant extension of the Court’s famous 2015 same-sex marriage decision. Meanwhile, so much was happening in the context of immigration when Morales-Santana came down that it did not attract much attention — and what attention it did attract tended to focus on the unusual remedy the Court adopted, not its reasoning about biology. 

This Article argues that Pavan and Morales-Santana, especially when read together, are surprisingly transformative and consequential decisions. In the past, the Court has declined to apply heightened scrutiny to biologically-justified sex classifications in contexts involving gay people and unmarried fathers. As a result, these contexts have become repositories of specious biological justifications for discrimination; pregnancy, in particular, has been understood to justify all manner of differential treatment in these areas. In Pavan and Morales-Santana, the Court broke with this tradition by genuinely scrutinizing the state’s pregnancy-based justifications for discriminating and finding them constitutionally inadequate. In so doing, it struck a serious blow against the most formidable barrier to equal protection where gay people, unmarried parents — and pregnant women — are concerned.

March 21, 2018 in Constitutional, Family, Gender, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Blocking Ohio Ban on Abortion in Down Syndrome Cases

Ohio Judge Blocks Legislation Preventing Abortion in Down Syndrome Cases

An Ohio federal district court judge blocked legislation that would have banned abortion in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law in December of last year, and it was scheduled to go into effect March 23. The legislation is now blocked until a final ruling is made in the lawsuit.
 
In a court order granting a preliminary injunction Wednesday, Southern District of Ohio Judge Timothy Black said that federal abortion law is "crystal clear" that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."...
 
The law prohibits abortions after prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome in a fetus, or if there's "any other reason to believe" the fetus has the genetic condition.
 
A person performing an abortion in such a case could face a fourth-degree felony charge, and physicians could lose their licenses. The woman seeking the abortion would not be held accountable, according to the legislation.
 
The ACLU filed a complaint in mid-February calling the legislation unconstitutional.....
 
Similar laws have passed in North Dakota and Indiana, though a federal judge blocked the Indiana law. The North Dakota law went into effect in 2013.

FYI, Judge Black was also the trial judge in the Obergefell case on same-sex marriage.

The decision in Pre-Term Cleveland, et al v. Himes is here:  Order Granting Preliminary Injunction (March 14, 2018)

March 16, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ninth Circuit Holds No Legal Right to Prostitution

No Right to Earn a Living Via Prostitution, Says Federal Court

A federal appeals court has sided against the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education, and Research Project (ESPLERP) in a case challenging the constitutionality of California's law criminalizing prostitution.

 

During oral arguments last October, judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit seemed somewhat sympathetic to ESPLERP's position, which relied on similar arguments to those used in Lawrence v. Texas, the case that destroyed the country's laws against gay sex.

 

But in an opinion released today, a three-judge panel wound up affirming the district court's decision to dismiss the lawsuit. The panel rejected the idea that Lawrence v. Texas "created a liberty interest that prohibits a state from criminalizing prostitution," ruling that "a relationship between a prostitute and a client is not protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."

 

The court also concludes that sex workers' rights to earn a living is not violated by the criminalization of prostitution because prostitution is illegal and "there is no constitutional rights to engage in illegal employment."

 

Read the whole disappointing decision here.

 Sex for Sale is Not a Constitutional Right

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling that declared a constitutional right to “intimate conduct” such as gay sex didn’t apply to sex for sale, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in upholding California’s 146-year-old ban on prostitution.

 

Three former prostitutes, a would-be client and the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Educational and Research Project had argued that the high court, in striking down state laws against gay or lesbian sexual activity, recognized an adult’s right to engage in consensual sex without state interference. They maintained that the ruling extended to adults who consent to sex for a price.

 

A panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco seemed receptive to that argument at a hearing in October, suggesting that the 1872 state ban might need closer scrutiny.

 

One panel member said prostitution had been historically subjected to the same sort of moral disapproval that had once condemned gay sex, and might be more acceptable under the Supreme Court’s current view of individual rights. Another asked why it should be “illegal to sell something that it’s legal to give away.”

January 18, 2018 in Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Books: 100 Years of the 19th Amendment

Holly J. McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszak, eds., 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women's Political Activism (Oxford 2018)

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment giving many women in the United States the right to vote. ***

Looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, this collection of original essays takes a long view of the past century of women's political engagement to gauge how much women have achieved in the political arena. The volume looks back at the decades since women won the right to vote to analyze the changes, developments, and even continuities in women's roles in the broad political sphere. Ultimately, the book asks two important questions about the last 100 years of women's suffrage: 1) How did the Nineteenth Amendment alter the American political system? and 2) How has women's engagement in politics changed over the last 100 years? 

As the chapters reveal, while women have made substantial strides in the political realm--voting at higher rates than men and gaining prominent leadership roles--barriers to gender equality remain. Women continue to be underrepresented in political office and to confront gender bias in a myriad of political settings. The contributors also remind us of the important understanding to be gained from an intersectional perspective to women's political engagement. In particular, several chapters discuss the failure of the Nineteenth Amendment to provide full political rights and representation to African American, Latina, and poorer women. The work also considers women's extra-institutional activism in a wide variety of settings, including in the feminist, civil rights, environmental, and far-right movements. As the volume traces women's forceful presence and limitations in politics over the past century, it also helps us look forward to consider the next 100 years: what additional victories might be won and what new defeats will need women's response?

Including my chapter with TJ Boisseau, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step

January 16, 2018 in Books, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Symposium on the Jurisprudential Legacy of Judge Constance Baker Motley, the First Black Woman Federal Judge

Monday, November 13, 2017

SCOTUS Grants Cert in Case Challenging Disclosures Required by CAL Reproductive FACT Act

Today the US Supreme Court granted cert in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted and limited to the following question: “Whether the disclosures required by the California Reproductive FACT Act violate the protections set forth in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment."

For a prior post on the case see Petition for Cert on Required CAL Disclosures for Pregnancy Crisis Centers as Violating Free Speech

See also USA Today, Abortion, Contraception Return to Supreme Court in Free Speech Case

The Ninth Circuit's decision below upholding the law and disclosures is here.

November 13, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The True Man and His Gun: A Masculinities Theory of the Second Amendment

C.D. Christensen, The "True Man" and His Gun: On the Masculine Mystique of Second Amendment Jurisprudence, 23 William & Mary J. Women & Law (2017)

The Supreme Court’s recent Second Amendment jurisprudence raises serious normative questions for the use of self-defense with a firearm. This jurisprudence also implicates our prevailing social norms with respect to socially constructed and structurally pervasive gender roles. I argue that a peculiarly American conception of masculinity underpins the judicial construction of the Second Amendment’s core purpose as guaranteeing the right to armed defense of one’s self and one’s home. The Court’s recent Second Amendment rulings create an individual protection for gun ownership and incorporate the same against the States. But the Court’s reasoning entangles this protection with an implicit valuation of manhood that reifies the notion that “true men” do not retreat in the face of danger. In so entangling, the Court establishes a right to gun ownership that is politically free but legally male. This Article explores the socio-legal structures that underpin the Court’s reasoning to explain (a) how the right to keep and bear arms arises from a dubious ideal of the American “man,” and thus how (b) the purposes for which one may keep and bear arms galvanizes a particular masculine type within our Second Amendment jurisprudence. That type establishes a problematic cultural narrative of and ethos for manhood in America; consequently, this jurisprudence establishes a dominant masculinity predicated upon firearm ownership. That masculinity complicates, and may even impede, the social evolution of subordinated masculinities and shifts the social hierarchy of masculinities to empower and privilege gun-owning males.

November 7, 2017 in Constitutional, Masculinities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Using the Captive Audience Doctrine to Redress Street and Cyber-Harassment

JoAnne Sweeney,  Trapped in Public: The Regulation of Street Harassment and Cyber-Harassment Under the Captive Audience Doctrine, 17 Nev. L.J. 651 (2017)  

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, public intimidation of women, particularly women of color, seems to be on the rise. Even before the election, however, a woman's presence on a public street or public website has routinely made her a target for unwanted and often threatening male attention, also known as street harassment or cyber-harassment. Scholars and journalists have called for laws that would penalize street and cyber-harassment. However, this type of legislative effort will be met with several difficulties, including logistical problems due to the high prevalence and anonymity of street and cyberharassment, as well as cultural opposition to what is perceived by many to be a nonexistent or minor issue with little actual consequences. Another major argument against regulation of street and cyber-harassment is that any laws prohibiting such speech would violate the First Amendment. In response to the latter argument, this Article argues that laws regulating street or cyber-harassment should be protected from First Amendment scrutiny under the captive audience doctrine. As this Article demonstrates, by using the captive audience doctrine, 652 legislators can attack the problem of street and cyber-harassment without running afoul of the First Amendment.

October 31, 2017 in Constitutional, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

DC Circuit en banc Allows Immigrant Teen's Abortion to Proceed

The DC Circuit sitting en banc overruled a panel decision from late last week delaying an immigrant teen's abortion, granted by a state court. 

Garza, as GAL to J.D. v. Hargan, No. 17-5236 (D.C. Cir. en banc, Oct. 24, 2017), overruling the panel decision in Garza v. Hargan (D.C. Cir. Oct. 20, 2017)

Concurring Opinion to the Order by Judge Millett (the dissent in the panel decision).

Abortion on demand? Hardly. Here is what this case holds: a pregnant minor who (i) has an unquestioned constitutional right to choose a pre-viability abortion, and (ii) has satisfied every requirement of state law to obtain an abortion, need not wait additional weeks just because she—in the government’s inimitably ironic phrasing—“refuses to leave” its custody, Appellants’ Opp’n to Reh’g Pet. 11. That sure does not sound like “on demand” to me. Unless Judge Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion means the demands of the Constitution and Texas law. With that I would agree.

Dissenting Opinion by Judge Kavanaugh (majority opinion in the panel decision).

The en banc majority has badly erred in this case.

The three-judge panel held that the U.S. Government, when holding a pregnant unlawful immigrant minor in custody, may seek to expeditiously transfer the minor to an immigration sponsor before the minor makes the decision to obtain an abortion. That ruling followed from the Supreme Court’s many precedents holding that the Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.

Today’s majority decision, by contrast, “substantially” adopts the panel dissent and is ultimately based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. Government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand, thereby barring any Government efforts to expeditiously transfer the minors to their immigration sponsors before they make that momentous life decision. The majority’s decision represents a radical extension of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.

Judge Karen Henderson also dissent in a separate opinion.

October 24, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Court Upholds Denial of Parole to Pregnant Woman to Protect Unborn Child

Commonwealth v. Becker, (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 10, 2017)

P & P opposed Becker's parole because of the risk that she may use heroin while pregnant. The trial court shared similar concerns, among others, and denied Becker's petition for parole. 

Becker first claims that the denial of her parole was manifestly unreasonable, as she had incurred no misconducts during her incarceration, attended treatment and counseling, and had a stable address and family support. Becker's claim is without avail.

“Parole is nothing more than a possibility, and, when granted, it is nothing more than a favor granted upon a prisoner by the state as a matter of grace and mercy shown by the Commonwealth to a convict who has demonstrated a probability of his ability to function as a law-abiding citizen in society.”

 Here, the record does not support Becker's assertion that the denial of her parole was manifestly unreasonable. First, we note, Becker's gender and concomitant pregnancy are incidental to her well-chronicled heroin addiction. As such, the basis of the Becker's parole denial, as stated by the trial court, was the substantial risk that she would use heroin, not her unique status. In coming to its decision, the trial court expressed concern for the health of Becker's unborn child. However, the trial court did not discuss prisoner access to women's healthcare, prenatal care, child welfare resources or other associated services that might indicate its decision was motivated entirely by Becker's status. Rather, it focused on Becker's prior use of heroin and the dangers it posed to her and others. Specifically, the trial court reiterated its concern with “[Becker] using drugs and ․ harming herself” and the potential for relapse. N.T. Parole Hearing, 8/22/16, at 7, 15–17, 69 (“[S]he has a bad history [of heroin abuse][,] and history dictates when she gets out [of prison], she uses”).

 The trial court's concerns are well founded.

 Becker next claims that the trial court violated her substantive due process rights when it denied her parole based solely on her pregnancy. Becker concedes that in Pennsylvania, “a prisoner has no absolute right to be released from prison on parole upon the expiration of the prisoner's minimum term.” However, citing Block v. Potter, 631 F.2d 233, 235 (3rd Cir. 1980), Becker argues that the trial court based its denial of parole on factors she avers are unconstitutional and/or arbitrary, including gender, pregnancy and the safety of the unborn child.

 Here, Becker asks us to determine whether the trial court's consideration of her gender, pregnancy and the health of the unborn child was, like in Block, an unconstitutional arbitrary government action. We decline to conduct such an analysis.

 Under the Administrative Agency Law, a court can only review an action of a Commonwealth agency where its decision constitutes an adjudication. The Supreme Court found that the act unambiguously defines adjudication to exclude parole decisions. The Court also addressed the theory that parole decisions would be applicable for review under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court rejected this argument, as there was no precedent to support it.

 Becker's next claim on appeal is that the trial court violated her equal protection rights by denying her petition for parole. Equal protection requires that “all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). Legislative classifications based on gender call for a heightened standard of review. See Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 295 (1993). However, the Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly held that we cannot reasonably presume opposition to abortion reflects an animus against women and/or pregnant women as a class. See Id. at 269–70;  see also Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983) (finding that discrimination based on pregnancy was discrimination based on gender only because Congress specifically intended it to be when it amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e). “Where the challenged governmental action does not burden ‘fundamental’ or ‘important’ rights, and does not make a suspect classification or a quasi-suspect classification, it does not offend the Equal Protection Clause as long as it is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest.” Small v. Horn, 722 A.2d 664, 672 (Pa. 1998) (citations omitted). Furthermore, drug users are not a suspect or a quasi-suspect class. New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer, 440 U.S. 568, 592–93 (1979). This argument affords Becker no relief.

 The trial court based its decision denying Becker's petition for parole on her status as an incarcerated, pregnant heroin addict. The court's action does not burden a fundamental or important right, nor is Becker's status a suspect or quasi-suspect classification. Therefore, the trial court's action need only pass a rational basis test. Small, 772 A.2d at 672. Our Supreme Court has defined the rational basis test as examining a law to find if it is “unreasonable, unduly oppressive or patently beyond the necessities of the case, and the means which it employs must have a real and substantial relation to the objects sought to be attained.” Nixon, 839 A.2d at 286–87 (citation omitted). If it is not, then the discrimination is permissible under the Equal Protection Clause. Id. at 286. Here, we find protecting Becker's unborn child was a legitimate governmental interest. Planned Parenthood, 505 U.S. at 846. By denying Becker parole, the trial court ensured Becker could not use heroin and harm her unborn child. Denying parole until going into labor was reasonable, as the only other alternative was releasing Becker on parole. Therefore, there was no equal protection violation.

October 16, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

An Originalist Defense of the Privileges or Immunities Clause for Gender Nondiscrimination in Bradwell v. Illinois

M. Frances Rooney, Note, The Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and an Originalist Defense of Gender Nondiscrimination, Geo. J. Law & Public Policy (forthcoming).

The Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides a constitutional right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender. Original public meaning originalism provides the structure to find that the clause includes a right to practice a lawful profession that extends to all citizens, irrespective of gender. The clause is a guarantee of rights to every “citizen of the United States,” not every male citizen; because of that, the clause is a positive grant of rights to all citizens in the United States. 

The central thesis of this Note is that women who are citizens of the United States have rights guaranteed by the Privileges or Immunities Clause, specifically the right to practice a profession. This right cannot be denied on the basis of gender, because adult women have the same capacity as men to practice law. Had this been recognized in 1873, the time The Slaughter-House Cases and Bradwell v. Illinois were decided, and had the erroneous interpretation of the clause in Slaughter-House not prevailed, Bradwell would have recognized this right. Given the contemporary knowledge of the capacities of women and an originalist approach to constitutional interpretation and construction, the decision in Bradwell should be overruled. Taking this step would lead to the development of an originalist gender equality jurisprudence.

Feminist pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton made a similar argument against Bradwell (and Minor v. Happersettat the time using the P&I Clause.  Although her arguments were more textualist than originalist per se.  I discuss these early equality interpretations of the Privileges or Immunities Clause in my recent book Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law.  A blog post summarizing the relevant part, chapter 2, is here, at  What do You Women Want?: The 19th Century Demand for Reform of Marital Property.

October 3, 2017 in Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Maintaining the Constitutional Theory of the Private Choice of Abortion

Erwin Chemerinsky & Michele Goodwin, Abortion: A Woman's Private Choice, 95 Tex. L. Rev. 1189 (2017)

The uncertainty about abortion rights makes it especially important to provide a strong constitutional foundation and the best possible constitutional defense for their protection. That is our purpose in this Article, because abortion rights in the United States are in serious jeopardy. Despite the fact that a legal abortion is medically safer than carrying a pregnancy to term in the United States, that right may soon be more illusory than real. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, lessons from the era preceding that landmark decision underscore the broad harms women will encounter, particularly because 49% of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. In traditionally conservative states, the rates of unintended pregnancies are even higher: 54% in Texas, 55% in Alabama and Arkansas, 60% in Louisiana, and 62% in Mississippi, among others. Yet these states also have some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developing world: Texas ranks worst in the developing world on maternal mortality.

The Article proceeds in three parts. First, it explains the flawed foundation for the protection of reproductive rights under the Constitution, noting that the problem began in Griswold v. Connecticut, the first case to protect reproductive freedom. Second, it seeks to reconceptualize abortion rights and underscore the value and relevance of a reproductive justice framework, including taking serious account of women’s lived lives. Finally, in Part III we discuss what it would mean for abortion to be regarded as a private choice. In this Part, we identify three implications: a) restoring strict scrutiny to examining laws regulating abortions, which would mean that the government must be neutral between childbirth and abortion; b) preventing the government from denying funding for abortions when it pays for childbirth; and c) invalidating the countless types of restrictions on abortion — often referred to as “targeted restrictions of abortion providers” — that have the purpose and effect of limiting women’s access to abortion rather than promoting safety and health. We especially focus on “informed consent” and waiting period laws and show that they are inconsistent with regarding abortion as a private choice for each woman.

and the response:

Aziza Ahmed, Abortion in a Post-Truth Moment: A Response to Erwin Chemerinsky and Michele Goodwin, 95 Tex. L. Rev. See Also 198  (2017)

In Abortion: A Woman’s Private Choice, Erwin Chemerinsky and Michele Goodwin respond to the crisis of abortion rights in our current political moment. While preserving the right to abortion is an ongoing challenge for reproductive-justice advocates and lawyers, the arrival of a new Republican administration led by Donald Trump and a Republican majority in the House and Senate heightens these concerns. In the face of ongoing and new threats to abortion access, Chemerinsky and Goodwin argue that abortion should be treated as a woman’s private choice. I agree with Chemerinsky and Goodwin, as all supporters of abortion rights should. This response to their insightful essay situates their argument in a set of debates and discussions that undergird many of the logics utilized by the court to justify their choice of standard: medical, psychological, and scientific evidence on abortion.

September 26, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sex Segregation in Sports as a Public Health Issue

Nancy Leong & Emily Bartlett, Sex Segregation in Sports as a Public Health Issue

This Article adds a critical yet previously unaddressed dimension to the growing debate about the merits of sex segregation in sports by approaching sex segregation in sports as a public health issue. Participation in sports has consequences for women’s health, ranging from physical fitness to disease prevention to self-esteem to mental wellness to eating disorders. Critically, sex segregation in sports both reduces women’s participation in sports and changes the nature of the sports in which women participate, both of which have implications for the myriad health issues we discuss. The Article argues that analysis under the Equal Protection clause of governmentally-imposed sex-segregation must incorporate these consequences. Even where the government has plausible reasons for segregating sports by sex, those reasons may not be sufficient to survive intermediate scrutiny when the health issues are taken into account. The Article does not argue that sports should never be segregated by sex. Rather, it argues that the correct analysis must take into account all the relevant considerations, including those affecting health.

See also a prior post The Case Against Segregated Women's Sports

September 7, 2017 in Constitutional, Healthcare, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Autonomy Hierarchy

Meghan Boone, The Autonomy Hierarchy, 22 Tex. J. Civ. Liberties & Civ. Rgts 1 (2016)

The Supreme Court decided two cases in Spring 2015 – Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. and EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. – under Title VII. The plaintiffs in both cases believed that they had been discriminated against by their employers because they were members of a protected class – pregnant women in the former and religious believers in the latter. Both plaintiffs were seeking minor modifications to workplace policies as an accommodation. And in both opinions, handed down within a few months of each other, the Court used the language of favoritism to discuss whether the plaintiffs should prevail and what analysis should be employed. The manner in which the Court used the language of favoritism, however, could not have been more different. In the case of pregnancy, the Court soundly rejected that pregnant employees were entitled to any favored treatment, bending over backwards to avoid a ruling that pregnant employees were part of a “most favored” class. In the case of religion, the Court took the exact opposite approach, declaring that religious plaintiffs enjoyed “favored treatment.” This is despite the fact that Title VII provides no explicit textual support for such a distinction. In the absence of such a statutory explanation, what is really behind this difference in approach? This paper explores one potential answer to this question – that these decisions reflect the Court’s underlying belief in the paramount importance of the right to spiritual autonomy over and above the importance of a right to physical autonomy. Further, it explores how allowing such a hierarchy between a right to spiritual autonomy on the one hand and a right to physical autonomy on the other, to animate judicial decisions is both inherently gendered and has the effect of disproportionately harming women. It concludes by analyzing whether such a hierarchy of rights is reflective of lived experience and discussing possible alternative frameworks for analyzing such claims.

September 1, 2017 in Constitutional, Equal Employment, Pregnancy, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Podcast on the Constitution and Gender

Episode 5 of the Constitutional Podcast: "Gender"

The fifth episode of The Washington Post's "Constitutional" podcast explores the challenging path toward gender equality in America, highlighting figures from the Revolutionary period through today who have shaped the country's evolution on such rights.

Episode guests include Smeal and Julie Miller, a historian in the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress.

Listen to the episode here.

August 29, 2017 in Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Prof Julie Suk to Speak on Constitution Day on "The Constitution of Mothers" and a New ERA

The Center for Constitutional Law at the University of Akron School of Law will host Professor Julie Suk as the featured Constitution Day speaker on September 18, 2017.

Professor Suk's talk is entitled "The Constitution of Mothers:  Gender Equality and Social Reproduction in the United States and the World."  

One of the largest mobilizations in recent American history was the Women’s March of 2017, with  millions of participants in U.S. cities and in concurrent events throughout the world.  Despite diverse backgrounds and agendas, the marchers unified around the general theme of equality for women.   It was a constitutional moment:  The unity principles included a call for a new Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and in March 2017, Nevada became the first state to ratify the ERA 35 years after the 1982 deadline had lapsed.  Nevada’s ratification raises questions about the legitimacy of post-deadline ratification of a Congressionally adopted constitutional amendment, as well as deeper normative questions about the desirability and  meaning of constitutionalizing equal rights for women in the 21st century.   If Nevada’s ratification is valid or can be made valid by Congressional action, two additional states’ ratifications will put the ERA in the U.S. Constitution.  Would such an amendment change what the law does, or would it be merely symbolic? 

This lecture will argue that an ERA is needed in the twenty-first century, but for reasons different from those that motivated the 1972 adopters.  Meanwhile, most constitutions around the world explicitly guarantee sex equality, and many of these constitutions also guarantee special protections for mothers.  Drawing on global constitutionalism, this lecture argues that constitutional equality for women must go beyond prohibiting sex distinctions in the law, and reach the disadvantages faced by largely by women due to the burdens of raising the next generation of citizens.  The challenge of making the constitution regulate social reproduction, however, is illustrated by the history of women’s participation in advocating for the Prohibition Amendment and its repeal, both of which engaged the politics of the home and child-rearing.  The legacy of women’s past struggles to change the Constitution, in light of contrasting narratives outside the United States, should inform our present gender equality efforts. 

Full details here:  Download ConLawSpeakerSukF2017

Julie Suk is a Professor of Law at the Cardozo School of Law – Yeshiva University in New York, where she has taught since 2005.  She is a leading scholar of comparative equality law. Her research brings a transnational perspective to equality and antidiscrimination law in the United States, drawing on primary legal materials in multiple languages from multiple jurisdictions.  Professor Suk's articles compare European and American approaches to a broad range of issues in law and public policy, such as the enforcement of antidiscrimination norms in various legal systems around the world, holocaust denial, maternity leave, and women’s equal representation in political and corporate leadership positions.   Professor Suk’s current research projects focus on women, work, and family in comparative constitutional law, as well as education rights in the context of socioeconomic inequality.  Representative publications include: An Equal Rights Amendment for the Twenty-First Century: Bringing Global Constitutionalism Home (Yale Journal of Law and Feminism), Are Gender Stereotypes Bad for Women?  Rethinking Antidiscrimination Law and Work-Family Conflict (Columbia Law Review), Discrimination at Will: Job Security Protections and Equal Employment Opportunity in Conflict (Stanford Law Review), Gender Parity and State Legitimacy: From Public Office to Corporate Boards (International Journal of Constitutional Law). 

 

August 28, 2017 in Conferences, Constitutional, Family, Gender, International, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Breaking the Gendered Nature of Parenthood

Douglas NeJaime, The Nature of Parenthood, 12 Yale L.J. 2260 (2017)

In the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges, courts and legislatures claim in principle to have repudiated the privileging of different-sex over same-sex couples and men over women in the legal regulation of the family. But as struggles over assisted reproductive technologies (ART) demonstrate, in the law of parental recognition such privileging remains. Those who break from traditional norms of gender and sexuality — women who separate motherhood from biological ties (for instance, through surrogacy), and women and men who form families with a same-sex partner — often find their parent-child relationships discounted.

This Article explores what it means to fully vindicate gender and sexual-orientation equality in the law of parental recognition. It does so by situating the treatment of families formed through ART within a longer history of parentage. Inequalities that persist in contemporary law are traceable to earlier eras. In initially defining parentage through marriage, the common law embedded parenthood within a gender-hierarchical, heterosexual order. Eventually, courts and legislatures repudiated the common-law regime and protected biological parent-child relationships formed outside marriage. While this effort to derive parental recognition from biological connection was animated by egalitarian impulses, it too operated within a gender-differentiated, heterosexual paradigm.***

To protect the parental interests of women and of gays and lesbians, this Article urges greater emphasis on parenthood’s social dimensions. Of course, as our common law origins demonstrate, the law has long recognized parental relationships on social and not simply biological grounds. But today, commitments to equality require reorienting family law in ways that ground parental recognition more fully and evenhandedly in social contributions. While this Article focuses primarily on reform of family law at the state level, it also contemplates eventual constitutional oversight.

June 28, 2017 in Constitutional, Family, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)