Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

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)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Justice Ginsburg and the Price of Equality

Linda Greenhouse, Justice Ginsburg and the Price of Equality, NYT, discussing Ginsburg's opinion in the recent case Sessions v. Morales-Santana finding a citizenship rule that treated unwed fathers differently than mothers to violate equal protection, but denying the remedy of extending the beneficial mother's rule to fathers.

And what about Justice Ginsburg? Can we assume she’s happy with the outcome of the case, or do we suppose she wrote the remedial section with gritted teeth? Twenty-four years ago, in July 1993, she was President Bill Clinton’s first Supreme Court nominee, and I covered her Senate confirmation hearing. I had met Judge Ginsburg several times, but didn’t know her well. I found her Judiciary Committee testimony enlightening, and I wrote an analysis that appeared under the headline “A Sense of Judicial Limits.” I described her as “something of a rare creature in the modern judicial lexicon: a judicial restraint liberal.” By that I meant that while her own commitments were to liberal outcomes, she displayed an equally strong commitment to letting Congress take the lead. “In her view, equality — or any other goal — is best achieved if all branches of government have a stake in achieving it.”

 

So I’m ready to assume that if the remedial portion of her opinion last week was a compromise, it was one she offered willingly. Her “over to you, Congress” handoff may seem naïve in the present political climate, but it conforms with her deepest beliefs about the appropriate judicial role.

 

And it’s worth remembering that from her earliest years as a nervous young lawyer standing before the nine men of the Supreme Court, Ruth Ginsburg has always played a long game, with the ultimate goal, equality of the sexes, constantly in view. As this case turned out, the price for equality was high. But I don’t doubt that for Justice Ginsburg, it was a price worth paying for being able to strike a blow against still another law based on a generalization about the way “men and women are.”

 

I have previously blogged about my thoughts on Ginsburg's decision leveling down the remedy for equal protection.  See SCOTUS Denial of Equal Protection Remedy Jeopardizes Equality Law: What was Justice Ginsburg Thinking?

 

June 22, 2017 in Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Extended Deadline CFP Constitutional Remedies

I invite you to participate in the Constitutional Remedies virtual symposium in November at the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron.  As a “virtual” symposium, there’s no need for travel – you can join from the comfort of your own computer via video conferencing.  Papers are short (10 pages max), designed to trigger discussion and inform debate.  The topic is broad, embracing issues of remedies and the Constitution appearing daily in the news.  Topics submitted thus far include leveling down remedies for equal protection, enforcement of religious liberty, Eleventh Amendment concerns with contempt for the government, and TROs in the immigration cases.

We’ve extended the deadline until August 15.  Full details below.  

Call for Proposals

VIRTUAL SYMPOSIUM: CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDIES

The Center for Constitutional Law at Akron

Friday, November 10, 2017

Constitutional Remedies.  The focus of this symposium is on the Constitution and Remedies, broadly defined.  Topics for discussion might include issues of remedies for constitutional harms, constitutional concerns with remedies, or comparative constitutional remedies across countries.  Such issues dominate the headlines—from immigration travel bans to religious liberty concerns to police force injunctions and national injunctions on executive power.  The symposium is designed to be an interactive roundtable, allowing for deeper discussion and questioning beyond mere presentation.

Virtual Symposium.  This symposium will be conducted virtually, that is by video web conferencing.  The idea is to make it easier for scholars to participate and share ideas, without the barriers of travel such as limited university travel budgets, family obligations, or the demands of teaching and administration.  Participants will just need a computer with a webcam and microphone to participate. 

Symposium Papers.  Proposals for the symposium should be related to the topic of constitutional remedies and intended to produce a short final essay of about 10 published pages.   Proposals should be submitted to Professor Tracy Thomas at thomast@uakron.edu by August 15, 2017.  Drafts of accepted papers for the symposium should then be completed by November 1 in time for circulation to and review by participants in advance of the symposium.  Finalized essays will then be published in a dedicated symposium issue in the Center for Constitutional Law’s online journal, ConLawNOW an open access journal available to interdisciplinary scholars, journalists, as well as legal scholars (also available on Westlaw).

June 19, 2017 in Call for Papers, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rational Basis Review as the Future of Sex Discrimination Challenges

Katie Eyer, Protected Class Rational Basis Review, 95 N.C. Law Rev. (2017)

It is commonplace today to associate rational basis review exclusively with groups that are not formally afforded heightened scrutiny under the Supreme Court’s equal protection precedents: groups like gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, and undocumented immigrants. Thus, discussions of the benefits of nurturing a jurisprudence of meaningful rational basis review typically focus exclusively on such “unprotected” groups. In contrast, rational basis review is rarely thought of as providing important protections for groups such as racial minorities and women, who have secured “protected class” status and therefore are subject to regular heightened review of group-burdening classifications.

Drawing on extensive original archival research, this Article challenges this common conception. Race and sex discrimination litigators have often historically relied on rational basis arguments as a complement to heightened scrutiny. And during eras when robust rational basis review was prevalent—such as the 1970s—these claims have often succeeded. Today, as a result of, inter alia, the LGBT rights cases (which have expanded judicial conceptions of the scope of rational basis review), we stand at a moment of increased possibility for meaningful rational basis review. Rational basis arguments thus ought to form a part of how we conceptualize the contemporary possibilities for race and gender justice claims.

Such an approach has the potential to revitalize what has long been a stalled constitutional jurisprudence around sex and race discrimination. As many scholars have acknowledged, it is extraordinarily rare for courts today to find that a government actor engaged in intentional discrimination against women or racial minorities—the contemporary standard for triggering heightened scrutiny. But as the history unearthed herein demonstrates, courts (especially lower courts) have, at times, been willing to find that racially and gender-impactful laws violate rational basis review. Moreover, such review has often had the capacity to undermine widely shared assumptions regarding the rationality of entrenched structures of race and gender oppression. As such, protected class rational basis review may present one of the few realistic alternatives for reviving a meaningful project of race- and gender-based constitutional change today.

 

 

June 15, 2017 in Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

And More on the SCOTUS Decision on Leveling Down Remedies for Sex Discrimination

A summary from SCOTUSblog:

At Dorf on Law, Michael Dorf focuses on “the Court’s remedy” in Morales-Santana – “leveling down” so that no one gets the previously unequally distributed benefit rather than “leveling up” so everyone does – “and how Justices Thomas and Alito approached the case”; he maintains that “[b]y mischaracterizing the Court’s holding they evade responsibility for judging the case on the merits.” At the Gender and the Law Prof Blog, Tracy Thomas also looks at the remedy, criticizing the decision as a “literal roadmap for future courts to deny the ‘extension’ remedy and instead order the ‘withdrawal’ of benefit in cases of sex discrimination” and calling it “one giant step backwards.” In a two-part post on the Human Rights at Home blog, here and here, Deborah Brake explains that “[a]lthough the remedial issue in Morales-Santana is admittedly a thorny one, the Court’s analysis, limited to a determination of what the legislature would have wanted, fails to do justice to the full scope of equality rights and what is required to remedy violations of such rights”; she argues that the court “short-circuited the analysis, leaving leveling down remedies unchecked and with the potential to undermine equality rights.”

Here's more from Debbie Brake, Remedial Grief

The remedy that the Court ordered – nullification rather extension of the more favored treatment – is a classic example of leveling down in response to a violation of equality rights.  The problem of leveling down – that everyone can be made worse off from the successful invocation of equality rights – is endemic to equality law, whether its source is constitutional or statutory.  One of the most famous examples of leveling down occurred when Jackson, Mississippi, after losing a case challenging the city’s operation of racially segregated swimming pools, decided to close the pools rather than integrate them.  The disappointed African American residents of Jackson sued, challenging the pool closure as a violation of the equal protection clause.  The Court disagreed, finding the city’s response, closing the pools for everyone, was racially neutral and ended differential treatment.

 

This tried and true tactic is not merely a remnant of segregation.  Leveling down surfaces periodically as a response to equality claims.  In Title IX litigation challenging unequal opportunities for girls and women in sports, schools often threaten that such claims will only result in their taking opportunities from male athletes, ending the discrimination with no benefit to female athletes, and leaving them holding the blame for making male athletes worse off.  In an example from another case, a pregnant girl who was kicked out of the school’s National Honor’s Society for becoming pregnant successfully sued her school for sex discrimination.  Instead of responding by letting the girl participate, the school ended its participation in the National Honor Society altogether – it leveled down.  Left unchecked, leveling down can be an effective strategy for de-railing equality claims altogether Worse yet, in some cases (though not all), the leveling down can exacerbate the stereotypes and injuries from the original discrimination. ***

 

Leveling down is a thorny and under-analyzed response to discrimination, and one that courts often fail to give sufficient attention.  The Morales-Santana decision is no exception.  Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court discerns two principles for deciding between nullification and extension.  One the one hand, the Court identifies a general preference for extension.  On the other hand, the Court confidently asserts that the choice between nullification and extension turns on legislative intent, and how the legislature, had it known that the offending provision would be found unconstitutional, would cure the violation.  The Court’s invocation of these two principles is somewhat mystifying.  The Court does not identify any source from which a preference for extension derives, other than to cite its own cases blithely asserting that such a preference exists (again, without identifying its source).  Nor does the Court attempt to square the preference for extension with the decisive role it gives to legislative intent.  If legislatures are more likely to favor extension over nullification in their intent, there is no attempt to prove this as an empirical matter.  In the end, the preference for extension seems to drop out of the picture in the face of the Court’s discernment of a legislative intent to nullify rather than extend the favored treatment.

 

By retreating to congressional intent and abandoning the general preference for extension, the Court does a disservice to the development of equality law, leaving no discernible check on leveling down where the entity that discriminated (in this case, the Congress) desires to remedy the violation by removing the benefit from all rather than extending it to the disfavored group.  Because the Court viewed Congressional intent as dispositive, the Court treated the remedy as a closed issue, having discerned a congressional preference for nullification.

And Brake, Remedial Grief, Part 2:

The analysis advocated here often eludes easy answers and this case is no exception. My disagreement with the Court is not necessarily that it reached the wrong result, but that it short-circuited the analysis, leaving leveling down remedies unchecked and with the potential to undermine equality rights. The touchstone should not be the remedial preference of the discriminator, but an analysis of whether nullification fully remedies the injury of the discrimination and whether it functions to punish the assertion of equality rights. The Court should have considered whether reverting to the stricter residency requirements for all parents fully eradicates the underlying gender stereotypes about the strength of maternal bonds and the low expectations for paternal influence on children’s values. Given that Congress was willing to ease up on the residency requirements for citizen mothers, does its abandonment of the more lenient rule if it had to include fathers reflect a deep-seated resistance to viewing unwed fathers as legitimate parents, regarding them as insufficiently bonded to their children to deserve citizenship-conferral rights? Or would it reflect a judgment, free from gender stereotypes, that the longer residency is appropriate for all parents in order to ensure the transmission of American values? The relationship between the constitutional injury and the remedy may be difficult to parse, but it is not determined merely by asking the question of what the legislature would have wanted.

June 15, 2017 in Constitutional, Gender, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

More on Equal Protection and Leveling Down as a Remedy

I blogged yesterday about the Supreme Court's decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana and its remedying of sex discrimination by leveling down, or withdrawing a benefit from one sex, rather than leveling up and extending the benefit to both.

Here is more on the leveling down remedy.

Michael Dorf, Equal Protection and Leveling Down as Schadenfreude

My Verdict column this week explores Monday's Supreme Court ruling in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, in which the Court invalidated a federal statutory provision that confers citizenship on children born outside the U.S. to unwed U.S.-citizen mothers in some circumstances in which such citizenship is denied to children born outside the U.S. to unwed U.S.-citizen fathers.

As I note in my column, an equal protection violation can be remedied either by leveling up (everyone gets the benefit) or leveling down (no one does). The leading case is Heckler v. Mathews. Justice Ginsburg's majority opinion in Morales-Santana parses what I call Congress's "fallback" intent to conclude that the right remedy (absent further congressional intervention) is leveling down. On Take Care, Ian Samuel argues that this "mean remedy" could harm people who thought they were U.S. citizens. Yet the Court says that its holding applies only "prospectively." Not good enough, Samuel complains, because, he says, the Court does not explain what "prospectively" means. I agree that Justice Ginsburg's opinion could have been clearer but she approvingly cites the Solicitor General's merits brief and reply brief on this point. The SG's argument at the relevant pages really only makes sense on the assumption that "prospective" application means application to children born abroad to U.S.-citizen mothers after the date of the Court's opinion--unless and until Congress changes the law.

Because Samuel reads the opinion as harsher than I believe it is, he ends up preferring the approach--at least in practical effect--of Justices Thomas and Alito. Yet, as I shall explain, I do not think that their approach is possible without overruling Heckler v. Mathews.

To see why, we need a brief recap of Heckler v. Mathews. The Social Security Act contained a provision that conferred certain benefits on women but not men. In what Congress no doubt thought was a fiendishly clever poison pill, the statute also provided that in the event that the courts struck down the sex-based preference, no one would get the benefit, i.e., the fallback was leveling down. Then, when a man challenged the law as sex discrimination, the government argued that he lacked standing, invoking the poison pill: Even if the male challenger prevailed on his equal protection claim, the government said, he wouldn't get any benefit; thus his injury was not redressable by a favorable ruling.

The SCOTUS disagreed. Although validating Congress's right to level down via a fallback provision, the Court said that the plaintiff's injury was nonetheless redressable by a favorable ruling. Sure, he wouldn't receive the financial benefit but he would get something else of value, namely, equal treatment. ***

Leveling down as a remedy for an equal protection violation has an element of schadenfreude about it. But it nonetheless comports with our notions of what equality is about.

Perhaps that is what formal equality is about.  But feminists talk about equity as a concept broader than pure parallelism and providing equal opportunity for all.  Thus, I would argue, formalism and leveling down is not an adequately meaningful remedy for a constitutional violation.

June 14, 2017 in Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SCOTUS Denial of Equal Protection Remedy Jeopardizes Equality Law: What was Justice Ginsburg Thinking?

I've spent much of the last 20 years writing about remedies. Specifically, I have written a lot about the right to a meaningful remedy required by due process.  (For more, see here, here, here, here.) The Supreme Court’s decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana violates this general command of the law and more concerningly, jeopardizes equal protection law. For a right without a remedy has little value.

In Morales-Santana, a six-justice majority of the Supreme Court led by Justice Ginsburg and including Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, found that the US law of citizenship for a child born abroad to one American parent discriminated on the basis of the gender.  The law required an unwed father to have five years physical presence in the US before going abroad, while an unwed mother needed only one year. Ginsburg in the majority opinion waxes eloquently about the dangers of formal sex classifications and the reliance on “stunningly anachronistic” stereotypes of gender and parenting roles.

The Court, however, refused to grant the remedy requested of applying the one year rule to men.  Instead, it applied the five year rule to everyone. Ginsburg acknowledges that the usual equal protection remedy is to extend protection and benefit to the class denied, rather than withdrawing the benefit for both classes.  She says, however, and unconvincingly, that the statutory language here requires the withdrawal and application of the stricter standard until Congress weighs in. 

I have to agree with Ian Samuel that this remedial decision is a “contender for the worst thing Justice Ginsburg has ever written for the Court.” It seriously jeopardizes equal protection law, and the availability of practical, meaningful relief for discrimination. The equality principle becomes normative rather than operative.  It emasculates the equality law by denying the meaningful relief sought of equal application of the benefit.  Practically, if discriminatory treatment results in merely a formal reprimand, and actually takes away benefit, there will be little incentive for plaintiffs to sue.  Discriminatory treatment will go unchallenged, or will require only “mean” plaintiffs seeking to deny others benefit if they can’t have the benefit too.

I’ve been trying to figure out then, why Ginsburg would write this, and why some of the other Justices would go along.   

    1.  Failure to Consider the Precedent: If there had been a will to award the remedy requested, there was a way to do so. For the remedial holding is in stark contrast to Ginsburg’s demand for a remedy if extension and inclusion in US v. Virginia.  There, after the Court held that the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) discrimination against women by not admitting them to the full military education, Ginsburg strongly rejected remedies of anything other than full inclusion and admission to the program.  She rejected the creation of a separate military school for women, and reiterated that the remedy required was inclusion and opportunity in the program provided to men. Certainly the VMI case gave her the solid precedent to demand a remedy of inclusion in Morales-Santana.

Interestingly, the Court does not cite one of its closest prior cases where it found an equal protection violation but denied a remedy.  In Dep't of Power v. Manhart, 435 U.S. 702 (1978), the Court held that requiring women employees to pay more for retirement benefits than men (because of their average longer longevity) was discrimination.  The practice was stopped going forward due to a change in state law, but the Court denied the reimbursement remedy sought by the plaintiffs. The Court created a framework to consider the equities of the impact on the defendant (how would the government get all that money) and potentially on third parties of other retirees. (I’ve written about Manhart here and here).

This equitable standard and framework of Manhart could have been useful to Justice Ginsburg in weighing the equities of the impact of a change in the citizenship rule.  It provided a mechanism to evaluate the potential harms to third parties like the children effected, and would have given support for a remedy extending the one-year rule to men.

    2. Vote Getting: Perhaps Ginsburg agreed on the remedy to gain votes for the substantive decision on equality. That is certainly a common judicial approach to compromise to get the votes. And remedies are often easy ways for judges to gain these votes without appearing to compromise on the merits.  Who were the questionable Justices?  Roberts?  Kennedy?  She only need one of these.  Kennedy’s decision in Obergefell and Troxel both evidence strong concern with the impact of unconstitutional state action on children.  Children here will be denied citizenship based on the actions of their parents, something Kennedy is usually concerned about.  And Obergefell also shows his strong acceptance of the evolving nature of social constructions.    

Thus it is possible that she need one vote to get the merits decision.  Except, that frankly, there doesn’t seem to be much new in this decision on the substantive of gender and equal protection.  The opinion provides a nice summary of the law, citing all of the prior precedents.  But it doesn’t add any new ground. Ginsburg does repeat her “exceedingly persuasive justification” language from VMI, which has been read to suggest strict scrutiny is required for gender classifications.  Except that she immediately goes on to cite the accepted standard of intermediate scrutiny for gender.  So if anything, she has undermined her opinion in VMI that was trying to create precedent for a higher standard of scrutiny.

The majority opinion also arguably adds a new angle from Obergefell about the need to interpret gender discrimination claims against an evolving nature of societal expectations.  However, that understanding of antiquated sex stereotypes already exists in the precedent in Hoyt, Frontiero, and Hibbs.  The new decision makes it a little stronger, and perhaps that will prove useful in future cases.  Except that if you win on this nice academic language, you still lose any meaningful remedy or change.

    3. Retroactivity. One judicial strategy for making a decision on the merits palatable is to deny an immediate remedy. The idea is to have legal change dictated, but not applied until the future.  This might explain the compromise on the remedy that brought in Roberts.  Except, retroactivity usually allows for meaningful relief in the future, which this decision does not.     

    4.  The Mean Remedy: This opinion now provides current, modern precedent for the dangers of equal protection challenges—the denial of benefit to all.  What Samuel calls the "the mean remedy" denies benefit to both men and women, rather than extending the benefit one group had previously enjoined. This is the fear all litigators have in brining equal protection challenges, that you will win the battle but lose the war.  This was a big concern we had decades ago when litigating a civil rights case on behalf of women prisoners,  that the equality claims to equal education and employment (critical to good time credit, income, and rehabilitation) would not be extended equally, but would be denied to all.  (That didn’t happen). It is also what VMI tried to do privately after the case – close down the school to deny public military education to both men and women, with the alumni then opening a private school for men only (assumed to be immune from the state action requirement).

Now we have confirmation of that fear – and precedent for denial. We have a new decision, with six votes of liberal and conservative Justices, providing the literal roadmap for future courts to deny the “extension” remedy and instead order the “withdrawal” of benefit in cases of sex discrimination. That to me is one giant step backwards.

June 13, 2017 in Constitutional, Gender, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

SCOTUS Holds Citizenship Law for Unwed Fathers Violates Equal Protection But Denies Remedy Extending Equal Treatment

Justice Ginsburg (6-2) writing for the Court in Sessions v. Morales-Santana holds unconstitutional a federal citizenship law requiring unwed fathers of children born abroad to have previously lived in the US for 10 years, while an exception for unwed mothers required only 1 year of physical presence.  In classic Ginsburg voice, the Justice attacks facial classifications based on gender as based on outdated, and illegal, stereotypes.  Her opinion provides a good treatise summary of the law of equal protection, citing her opinion in US v. Virginia, Reed, Frontiero, Hibbs, and newly-integrating Obergefell.

However, the Court, refused to extend the one-year exception to unwed fathers, instead, requiring that both men and women be held to the 10-year standard.  Which is the danger of an equal protection analysis -- that the treatment sought will be denied or retracted rather than extended equality.

Here are the highlights of the equal protection analysis:

III
Sections 1401 and 1409, we note, date from an era when the lawbooks of our Nation were rife with overbroad generalizations about the way men and women are. See, e.g., Hoyt v. Florida (1961) (women are the“center of home and family life,” therefore they can be “relieved from the civic duty of jury service”); Goesaert v. Cleary, (1948) (States may draw “a sharp line between the sexes”). Today, laws of this kind are subject to review under the heightened scrutiny that now attends “all gender-based classifications.” J. E. B. v. Alabama (1994); see, e.g. United States v. Virginia (1996) (state-maintained military academy may not deny admission to qualified women). Laws granting or denying benefits “on the basis of the sex of the qualifying parent,” our post-1970 decisions affirm, differentiate on the basis of gender, and therefore attract heightened review under the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. Califano v. Westcott, (1979) (holding unconstitutional provision of unemployed-parent benefits exclusively to fathers). Accord Califano v. Goldfarb, (1977) (plurality opinion) (holding unconstitutional a Social Security classification that denied widowers survivors’ benefits available to widows); Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1975) (holding unconstitutional a Social Security classification that excluded fathers from receipt of child-in-care benefits available to mothers); Frontiero v. Richardson, (1973) (plurality opinion) (holding unconstitutional exclusion of married female officers in the military from benefits automatically accorded married male officers); cf. Reed v. Reed (1971) (holding unconstitutional a probate-code preference for a father over a mother as administrator of a deceased child’s estate).

Prescribing one rule for mothers, another for fathers, §1409 is of the same genre as the classifications we declared unconstitutional in Reed, Frontiero, Wiesenfeld, Goldfarb, and Westcott. As in those cases, heightened scrutiny is in order. Successful defense of legislation that differentiates on the basis of gender, we have reiterated, requires an “exceedingly persuasive justification.” Virginia; Kirchberg v. Feenstra (1981).

A
The defender of legislation that differentiates on the basis of gender must show “at least that the [challenged] classification serves important governmental objectives and that the discriminatory means employed are substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.” Virginia, 518 U. S., at 533 (quoting Mississippi Univ. for Women v. Hogan, 458 U. S. 718, 724 (1982); alteration in original); see Tuan Anh Nguyen v. INS, 533 U. S. 53, 60, 70 (2001). Moreover, the classification must substantially serve an important governmental interest today, for “in interpreting the [e]qual [p]rotection [guarantee], [we have] recognized that new insights and societal understandings can reveal unjustified inequality . . . that once passed unnoticed and unchallenged.” Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. ___, ___ (2015) (slip op., at 20). Here, the Government has supplied no “exceedingly persuasive justification,” Virginia, 518 U. S., at 531 (internal quotation marks omitted), for §1409(a) and (c)’s “gender-based” and “gender biased” disparity, Westcott. 

1
History reveals what lurks behind §1409 [enacted in 1940] . . . During this era, two once habitual, but now untenable, assumptions pervaded our Nation’s citizenship laws and underpinned judicial and administrative rulings: In marriage, husband is dominant, wife subordinate; unwed mother is the natural and sole guardian of a nonmarital child. Under the once entrenched principle of male dominance in marriage, the husband controlled both wife and child. “[D]ominance [of] the husband,” this Court observed in 1915, “is an ancient principle of our jurisprudence.” Mackenzie v. Hare, 239 U. S. 299, 311 (1915). See generally Brief for Professors of History et al. as Amici Curiae 4–15. Through the early 20th century, a male citizen automatically conferred U. S. citizenship on his alien wife. C. Bredbenner, A Nationality of Her Own:Women, Marriage, and the Law of Citizenship 15–16, 20–21 (1998). A female citizen, however, was incapable of conferring citizenship on her husband; indeed, she was subject to expatriation if she married an alien. . . . And from 1790 until 1934, the foreign-born child of a married couple gained U. S. citizenship only through the father....

For close to a half century, as earlier observed, this Court has viewed with suspicion laws that rely on “overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females.” Virginia; Wiesenfeld. In particular, we have recognized that if a “statutory objective is to exclude or ‘protect’ members of one gender” in reliance on “fixed notions concerning [that gender’s] roles and abilities,” the “objective itself is illegitimate.” Mississippi Univ. for Women, 458 U. S., at 725. In accord with this eventual understanding, the Court has held that no “important [governmental] interest” is served by laws grounded, as §1409(a) and (c) are, in the obsolescing view that “unwed fathers [are] invariably less qualified and entitled than mothers” to take responsibility for nonmarital children. Caban v. Mohammed. Overbroad generalizations of that order, the Court has come to comprehend, have a constraining impact, descriptive though they may be of the way many people still order their lives. Laws according or denying benefits in reliance on “[s]tereotypes about women’s domestic roles,” the Court has observed, may “creat[e] a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination that force[s] women to continue to assume the role of primary family caregiver.” Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, 538 U. S. 721, 736 (2003). Correspondingly, such laws may disserve men who exercise responsibility for raising their children. In light of the equal protection jurisprudence this Court has developed since 1971, §1409(a) and (c)’s discrete duration-of-residence requirements for unwed mothers and fathers who have accepted parental responsibility is stunningly anachronistic.

FN 13 Even if stereotypes frozen into legislation have “statistical support,” our decisions reject measures that classify unnecessarily and overbroadly by gender when more accurate and impartial lines can be drawn. J. E. B. v. Alabama; see, e.g., Craig v. Boren, (1976); Weinberger.

 

June 12, 2017 in Constitutional, Family, International, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Program: Mothers and the Constitution

The Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce another seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty:

 Mothers and the Constitution

Program Content:

The seminar will explore the relationship between the changing practice of motherhood and the law.  Using Supreme Court cases, important state cases, and supplementary historical and statutory materials we will study the many ways that constitutional interpretation and government policy have regulated the lives of different kinds of mothers and occasionally of fathers too. We will organize our discussions around four key issues: Custody and Care, Reproduction, Work, and State Support, focusing on the twentieth century; and taking into account the influence of such factors as race, religion, migration, and sexuality on developing constitutional interpretation. 

 

Logistics:

The dates the seminar will meet are:  October 6, October 13, November 3, and November 10; Fridays from 2-5 p.m.  The seminar will be held at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York City.

Instructors:

Alice Kessler-Harris is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History, Emerita, at Columbia University where she was also Professor in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and held a faculty affiliate appointment in the Columbia University School of Law.  Kessler-Harris specializes in the history of American labor and twentieth century social policy.  Her books include In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America (2001), which won the Bancroft, Taft, Joan Kelly and Herbert Hoover prizes; Gendering Labor History (2007), which contains her essays on women, work and social policy, and A Woman’s Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences (1990). She is perhaps best known for the now classic, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (1982, 2001). She is co-editor, among other books of Protecting Women: Labor Legislation in Europe, Australia, and the United States, 1880-1920 (1995); Democracy and Social Rights in the ‘Two Wests’; and Democracy and the Welfare State, which explores the impact of expanding citizenship rights in Western Europe and the U.S.

 

Carol Sanger is the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School where she teaches Contracts, Family Law, and research seminars  on “Meanings of Motherhood: Legal and Historical Perspectives” (with Alice Kessler-Harris) and “Abortion: Law in Context.”  Prof. Sanger’s scholarship focuses on how law influences family formation in such areas as immigration, custody, and adoption, and particularly regarding relationships between mothers and children.  Her  book  About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America (Harvard University Press, 2017) concerns the role of abortion in American culture, politics, and in women’s lives.  Sanger’s 2012 article, The Birth of Death: Stillborn Birth Certificates and the Problem for Law won a prize for “exemplary legal writing” from the journal Green Bag. Sanger is also the senior editor of a leading law school casebook, Contracts: Cases and Materials (8th ed., 2013).

Application Process:

The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines.  All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions.  Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar.  Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities.  Space is limited, so applicants should send a copy of their c.v. and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, or professional development.  Materials will be accepted only by email at MMarcus@nyhistory.org until May 22, 2017 Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.  For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or send an email to MMarcus@nyhistory.org.

 

Additional Information:

There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.

 

About ICH:

The Institute for Constitutional History (ICH) is the nation’s premier institute dedicated to ensuring that future generations of Americans understand the substance and historical development of the U.S. Constitution. Located at the New York Historical Society and the George Washington University Law School, the Institute is co-sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Political Science Association.  The Association of American Law Schools is a cooperating entity.  ICH prepares junior scholars and college instructors to convey to their readers and students the important role the Constitution has played in shaping American society.  ICH also provides a national forum for the preparation and dissemination of humanistic, interdisciplinary scholarship on American constitutional history.

May 16, 2017 in Conferences, Constitutional, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 12, 2017

CFP Constitutional Remedies

The Center for Con Law at Akron announces Call for Papers its fall Virtual Symposium on "Constitutional Remedies."

The Center for Constitutional Law at Akron seeks proposals from those interested in participating in its Fall Virtual Symposium on Constitutional Remedies.

Constitutional Remedies. The focus of this symposium is on the Constitution and Remedies, broadly defined. Topics for discussion might include issues of remedies for constitutional harms, constitutional concerns with remedies, or comparative constitutional remedies across countries. Such issues dominate the headlines—from immigration travel bans to religious liberty concerns to police force injunctions and national injunctions on executive power. The symposium is designed to be an interactive roundtable, allowing for deeper discussion and questioning beyond mere presentation.

Virtual Symposium. This symposium will be conducted virtually, that is by video web conferencing. The idea is to make it easier for scholars to participate and share ideas, without the barriers of travel such as limited university travel budgets, family obligations, or the demands of teaching and administration. Participants will just need a computer with a webcam and microphone to participate.

Symposium Papers. Proposals for the symposium should be related to the topic of constitutional remedies and intended to produce a final essay of about 15 published pages (@10,000 words). Proposals including an abstract and CV should be submitted to Professor Tracy Thomas, director of the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron at thomast@uakron.edu by June 16, 2017. Accepted papers for the symposium should then be completed by October 27th in time for circulation to and review by participants in advance of the symposium. Finalized essays will then be published in a dedicated symposium issue in the Center for Constitutional Law’s online journal, ConLawNOW, an open access journal available to interdisciplinary scholars, journalists, as well as legal scholars (also available on Westlaw).

 

May 12, 2017 in Call for Papers, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Montana Legislature Rejects ABA Ethics Rule Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment

Montana Legislature Says ABA Model Rule on Discrimination and Harassment Violates First Amendment

A joint resolution passed Wednesday by the Montana state legislature condemns the ABA’s Model Rule 8.4(g) as a violation of Montanans’ First Amendment rights.

 

The model rule, passed by the House of Delegates at the 2016 Annual Meeting, makes it a violation of professional responsibility to discriminate or harass on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. The rule was controversial both within and outside the ABA, although the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility worked to address concerns raised by other ABA sections.

 

Those changes may not have been enough for the Montana legislature, whose Joint Resolution No. 15 says the model rule infringes on the First Amendment rights of people licensed to practice law in Montana, and “seeks to destroy the bedrock foundations and traditions of American independent thought, speech, and action.”

 

The resolution is also critical of the Montana Supreme Court, which invited public comment on the model rule in October. The resolution says public comment was overwhelmingly opposed, but the court “relentlessly pursues adoption” of the rule by extending the time to consider it. This, the legislature said, overreaches the high court’s authority to regulate the conduct of attorneys—it says “the word ‘conduct’ clearly does not include the concept of ‘speech’”—and usurps the legislature’s power to make laws.

 

“Contrary to the ABA’s world view, there is no need in a free civil society, such as exists in Montana, for the cultural shift forced by the proposed rule, and even if such a need did exist, the Supreme Court has no constitutional power to enact legislation of any sort, particularly legislation forcing cultural shift,” the resolution says.

 

The resolution is at least the second statement of opposition to Model Rule 8.4(g) from a state government. In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion saying the rule violates attorneys’ right to free speech and would not hold up in court. That opinion was submitted to the Montana Supreme Court for consideration.

 

The model rule has also been criticized by First Amendment scholar and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. He reiterated Wednesday at the Volokh Conspiracy that he believes the rule is so broad that it captures protected political speech, and that harassment and discrimination is better dealt with through employment law.

 

 

 

April 28, 2017 in Constitutional, Legislation, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MD Legislature Fails to Terminate Law Allowing Custodial Rights for Rapists

I remember when this issue first came to my attention years ago.  A student in my Family Law class wrote his thesis paper on the topic.  I couldn't believe this was the state of the law and asked him to check and recheck his research on the laws and cases.  He just kept finding more evidence.  

It seemed implausible to me that this was the state of the law given that biological fathers have a difficult time normally getting custodial rights when their only crime is being in a non-marital relationship.  Biology is not the only factor for parental rights under the Constitution, the Supreme Court has said, but requires "biology plus."  Biology plus the proper social relationship with the child and the mother in a unitary family status.  It is hard to argue that rape is a "unitary family status."

All-Male Panel Fails to End Maryland Law that Forces Women to Share Custody with their Rapists

Five Maryland legislators could have ended a policy that forces women to share child custody with their rapists. Instead the five legislators, all men, buried the bill.

 

Maryland is one of seven states without a law allowing women to terminate parental rights for their rapists, if their child was conceived as a result of sexual assault, according to reproductive rights organization NARAL. The state’s current policy forces survivors to negotiate child custody and adoption issues with their attacker. In a bid to update the draconian policy, Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced legislation that would allow a woman to cut her rapist’s parental rights. 

 

But while the bill passed both Maryland’s House and Senate, the bill’s text varied between the two legislative bodies. On Monday, the last day of legislative session, a five-person negotiating group was set to decide on the bill’s final text, the Baltimore Sun reported. Instead, the five-man group let the bill fall by the wayside, running out the legislative session’s clock without finalizing the bill’s text. ***

 

“For those who choose to carry to term, a woman who becomes pregnant through rape runs the risk that the rapist will assert his parental rights,” NARAL’s Maryland branch wrote in a statement of support for Dumais’s bill. “If she chooses to raise the child herself, it could mean her rapist inserting himself into her life for the next 18 years. The perpetrator may also hinder efforts to place the child up for adoption. In some extreme cases, rapists have only agreed to allow an adoption to go forward if the victim promised not to testify against him at Trial.

Here's some of the legal research on the subject:

Kara Bitar, The Parental Rights of Rapists, 19 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 275 (2012)

 

Katherine Wendt, How States Reward Rape: An Agenda to Protect the Rape-Conceived Child Through the Termination of Parental Rights, 2013 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1763 [Westlaw link]

 

Jihye Yoo, Xiaohan Mei, Craig Hemmens, and Mary K. Stohr, Rapists' Parental Rights: Adding Insult to Injury, 52 Crim. L. Bull. (2016) [Westlaw link]

April 18, 2017 in Constitutional, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Books: The Public Law of Gender--From the Local to the Global

Kim Rubenstein & Katharine G. Young, eds. The Public Law of Gender: From the Local to the Global (Cambridge Univ. Press 2016)

With the worldwide sweep of gender-neutral, gender-equal or gender-sensitive public laws in international treaties, national constitutions and statutes, it is timely to document the raft of legal reform and to critically analyse its effectiveness. In demarcating the academic study of the public law of gender, this book brings together leading lawyers, political scientists, historians and philosophers to examine law's structuring of politics, governing and gender in a new global frame. Of interest to constitutional and statutory designers, advocates, adjudicators and scholars, the contributions explore how concepts such as equality, accountability, representation, participation and rights, depend on, challenge or enlist gendered roles and/or categories. These enquiries suggest that the new public law of gender must confront the lapses in enforcement, sincerity and coverage that are common in both national and international law and governance, and critically and pluralistically recast the public/private distinction in family, community, religion, customary and market domains.

The Table of Contents is here.

March 28, 2017 in Books, Constitutional, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Would Gorsuch Follow Supreme Court Precedent on Pregnancy Discrimination

Gillian Thomas, Would Gorsuch Follow Supreme Court Precedent Rejecting Discrimination?

A former law student’s allegations that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch last year told a University of Colorado Law School class that women often “use” their employers for maternity coverage, only to quit after giving birth—and accordingly, that female applicants should be questioned about their pregnancy plans—are jaw-dropping, if true. As Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center wrote this week in U.S. News & World Report, such opinions contravene a body of sex-discrimination law going back nearly 50 years.

 

Judge Gorsuch was questioned briefly at a confirmation hearing Tuesday about the alleged statements, and not surprisingly, he denied making them. The statements have been corroborated by a second student in the class and contemporaneous documents produced by the original complaining student, but they also have been disputed by other students.

 

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should be alarmed by Gorsuch’s refusal to go beyond merely defending his classroom statements and give a full-throated repudiation of pregnancy discrimination, which remains one of the most pervasive barriers to working women nearly 40 years after enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

 

There is an even more fundamental legal principle at stake, though, about which Gorsuch remained silent. Gorsuch allegedly told his students that employers not only can rely on stereotypes in making employment decisions—that is, by assuming that a woman will quit once she becomes a mother—but that they should (so that they can “protect themselves”). But the Supreme Court has found, time and again, that it is illegal to rely on a stereotype about a group in making a decision about an individual employee. Does Gorsuch agree? We still don’t know.

 

In the 1978 case City of Los Angeles v. Manhart, the Supreme Court found illegal an employer’s pension plan that required female workers to contribute more to the plan than their male colleagues because actuarial calculations showed that women generally lived longer than men. The plan violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—the federal law outlawing employment discrimination because of race, national origin, color, religion, and sex—because, the Court explained, the law “precludes treatment of individuals as simply components of a racial, religious, sexual, or national class. If height is required for a job, a tall woman may not be refused employment merely because, on the average, women are too short.” Admonished the Court: “Even a true generalization about the class is an insufficient reason for disqualifying an individual to whom the generalization does not apply.”

 

A decade later, the Court ruled that a Big Eight accounting firm’s rejection of a female candidate for partner because she was “macho” and needed “a course at charm school” had violated Title VII: “[W]e are beyond the day when an employer could evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they matched the stereotype associated with their group.” Soon after, the Court invalidated a battery manufacturer’s policy that prohibited women of childbearing age from holding any job involving contact with lead, which could be toxic to fetuses. (Those risky jobs also, not surprisingly, paid more than others at the company.) That policy, the Court ruled, assumed that any fertile woman was a potential mother, regardless of whether she was sexually active, used birth control, or wanted children. Again, ascribing group characteristics to the detriment of an individual employee—even for allegedly benevolent reasons—was found to violate anti-discrimination principles.

 

In the five decades since Title VII was enacted, myriad other stereotypes have been recognized by courts as motivating illegal discrimination.

For elaboration on the point about Manhart and generalized stereotypes that are true, see my chapter on the case in US Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the Supreme Court (Kathy Stanchi, Linda Berger, & Bridget Crawford, eds) (Cambridge Univ. Press 2016). 

March 24, 2017 in Constitutional, Judges, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Books: Sex and the Constitution

Geoffrey Stone, Sex & the Constitution (2017)

From the publisher:

 

Beginning his volume in the ancient and medieval worlds, Geoffrey R. Stone demonstrates how the Founding Fathers, deeply influenced by their philosophical forebears, saw traditional Christianity as an impediment to the pursuit of happiness and to the quest for human progress. Acutely aware of the need to separate politics from the divisive forces of religion, the Founding Fathers crafted a constitution that expressed the fundamental values of the Enlightenment.

 

Although the Second Great Awakening later came to define America through the lens of evangelical Christianity, nineteenth-century Americans continued to view sex as a matter of private concern, so much so that sexual expression and information about contraception circulated freely, abortions before “quickening” remained legal, and prosecutions for sodomy were almost nonexistent.

 

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reversed such tolerance, however, as charismatic spiritual leaders and barnstorming politicians rejected the values of our nation’s founders. Spurred on by Anthony Comstock, America’s most feared enforcer of morality, new laws were enacted banning pornography, contraception, and abortion, with Comstock proposing that the word “unclean” be branded on the foreheads of homosexuals. Women increasingly lost control of their bodies, and birth control advocates, like Margaret Sanger, were imprisoned for advocating their beliefs. In this new world, abortions were for the first time relegated to dank and dangerous back rooms.

 

The twentieth century gradually saw the emergence of bitter divisions over issues of sexual “morality” and sexual freedom. Fiercely determined organizations and individuals on both the right and the left wrestled in the domains of politics, religion, public opinion, and the courts to win over the soul of the nation. With its stirring portrayals of Supreme Court justices, Sex and the Constitution reads like a dramatic gazette of the critical cases they decided, ranging from Griswold v. Connecticut (contraception), to Roe v. Wade (abortion), to Obergefell v. Hodges (gay marriage), with Stone providing vivid historical context to the decisions that have come to define who we are as a nation.

Also of related interest might be Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (Oxford 2012).

March 24, 2017 in Books, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Following the Changes in the Supreme Court's Abortion Law

Mary Ziegler,  The New Negative Rights: Abortion Funding and Constitutional Law after Whole Woman's Health:

The Hyde Amendment, a ban on the Medicaid funding of abortion, is once again at the center of the abortion wars. For the most part, critics of the Hyde Amendment argue that it authorizes discrimination against poor women. Using original archival research, this Article show that the amendment has had a far greater impact.

In popular debate, proponents of the Hyde Amendment helped to forge an idea of complicity-based conscience that has recently transformed fights about everything from same-sex marriage to contraceptive access. Constitutionally, the fight for the Hyde Amendment also revolutionized the rights-privilege distinction in constitutional law. In abortion-funding cases, the Court held that there was no constitutional problem with laws that created practical obstacles to abortion access so long as the obstacles themselves were not controlled or created by the state. This approach has resonated outside the context of abortion law.

The Court’s recent decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt makes a challenge to the Hyde Amendment realistic and compelling. The cases upholding the Hyde Amendment regard as constitutional any burden on a woman’s right to choose that is neither created nor controlled by the government. Whole Woman’s Health explicitly rejected this approach, looking instead at how the formal terms of law interact with forces beyond the government’s control. For this reason, the Article shows that Whole Woman’s Health undermines the core premises of the Hyde Amendment and creates an opening for those seeking to revisit the distinction between negative and positive rights.

Mary Ziegler, Liberty and the Politics of Balance: The Undue Burden Test after Casey/Hellerstedt:

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt represents the Supreme Court’s most important intervention in the constitutional politics of abortion. However, as this Article shows, Hellerstedt does not represent the clean break some commentators identify. Instead, the decision comes at the end of a decades-long movement-countermovement conflict about the meaning of an unconstitutional undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Positioning Hellerstedt in historical context matters because doing so underscores the Court’s ongoing responsiveness to popular views of what the Constitution says about abortion. The history studied in the Article also reveals what should happen in the next front of the abortion wars, when the Court considers fetal-protective, rather than woman-protective, antiabortion laws. To maintain the delicate balance created by Casey, the Court should require evidence that both fetal-protective and woman-protective abortion regulations are substantially related to their stated goal.

 

March 21, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legal History, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)