Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

McDonald's Moms v. Organic Moms: Regulating Motherhood

Kate Cairns, Josée Johnston & Merin Oleschuk, Calibrating Extremes: The Balancing Act of Maternal Foodwork

When it comes to feeding children, mothers today must avoid the appearance of caring too little, or too much. Either extreme garners social stigma, although the penalties are far from equal.

 

As mothers in our study distanced themselves from an unhealthy “Other” who made poor food choices, we were surprised how frequently McDonald’s entered the conversation. McDonald’s seemed to function as a trope symbolizing “easy” meals, “unhealthy” choices, and “bad” mothering more generally. Gail (white, acupuncturist) contrasted her vision of healthy home cooking with a “stereotypical image of someone stopping at McDonald’s to get food for their kids.” Marissa (Black, project manager) confessed that as “busy people we do need to do fast food,” but clarified that “my kids will tell you that does not mean McDonald’s.” Lucia (Latina, social worker) said she and her son “talk about what’s junk and you know, McDonald’s and all that kind of food” in an effort to teach him “what’s healthy, what’s not healthy.”

 

Again and again, mothers distanced themselves from the figure of the “McDonald’s Mom,” a stigmatized “Other” they used to defend their own feeding practices. While this defense may seem judgmental, we suggest mothers’ efforts to establish this distance reflect the intense pressures they experience feeding their children. These pressures are especially penalizing for poor women who struggle to feed kids on a limited budget and racialized women who face enduring racist stereotypes about parenting and food choices. Indeed, the assumption that poor mothers make inferior food choices is evident in recent calls to restrict what can be purchased on SNAP benefits, undermining the essential role of government assistance in mitigating the effects of poverty.

 

When distancing their own feeding practices from “bad” ones, some mothers described feeding their children an organic diet – a resource-intensive practice that has become a gold standard of middle-class motherhood. Mothers today face considerable pressure to purchase ‘pure’ foods that are free of harmful chemical additives; this “intensive feeding ideology” involves the added work of researching products, reading labels, and making baby food from scratch.***

 

Our point is not to equate these uneven penalties, but to draw attention to the multiple ways mothers are harshly judged for their foodwork. Notably, comparable figures of the “McDonald’s” or “Organic Dad” did not emerge in our broader study (which included men), revealing the continued gendered burden of feeding children and the more flexible standards fathers face when doing this work.

 

What became clear throughout our research is that mothers from diverse backgrounds face pressure to continually monitor their children’s eating in ways that are careful and responsible, yet don’t appear obsessive or controlling. We call this process calibration – the constant balancing act of striving for an elusive maternal ideal. Calibration is labor-intensive and emotionally taxing, part of the seemingly impossible task of performing the “good” mother. If you opt for affordability or convenience, you risk being seen as a McDonald’s Mom. If you take your job as health-protector tooseriously, you may be deemed an obsessive Organic Mom who deprives her kids of childhood joys like hotdogs. These gendered pressures not only contribute to mother-blame, but distract us from the larger harms perpetuated by an unhealthy, unsustainable, and unjust food system.

October 18, 2017 in Family, Gender, Pop Culture, Poverty | 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)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Women Judges in Pakistan

Livia Holden, Women Judges and Women's Rights in Pakistan, 7 Onati Socio-Legal Series (2017).

Abstract:

Although the first appointment of women judges in Pakistan dates back to 1974, the significant appointment of “lady judges” in the past decade has caused a jump in female representation in the judiciary to more than one third in family courts – a quiet move that sends a message of adherence to the principle of gender equality as per the international treaties to which Pakistan is signatory. By investigating the everyday interactions and preoccupations of women judges in their daily management of justice, this paper explores the socio-legal reception of the human rights discourse from the perspective of the female judges. The challenge in this scenario is whether this change will only be formal or whether it will also lead to substantial and accountable justice. The findings here additionally elucidate how the global agenda impacts local expectations and conceptualizations of rights within and beyond the state.

Introduction:

According to statistics from Pakistan’s Law and Justice Commission (2009-2013), women now represent at least 1/3 of the judiciary in family courts in Pakistan. This figure makes Pakistan the country with the greatest number of women-appointed judicial officers among common law legal systems in Muslim majority states.1 Given the overall scarcity of information—not only in Pakistan but throughout the world—regarding modalities of judicial appointments (especially as concerning social diversity), this figure should be taken with a certain degree of caution. Nevertheless, it seems to be a significant indicator of an increasing awareness regarding gender representation in the judiciary, which is not, however, the primary focus of this paper.2 On the basis of qualitative data positioned on a national level by including state law and relevant legal precedents, this paper addresses the main concerns of women judges in Pakistan in their daily professional lives. This data assists in understanding how the global agenda of women’s rights is received and implemented in Pakistan. * * * 

In June 2011, the Thomas Reuters Foundation’s poll of experts declared Pakistan among the three most dangerous countries for women “due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and ‘honor’ killings”. The same report also signaled that 90% of women in Pakistan are exposed to some form of domestic violence. Even though our fieldwork experiences suggest that such quantitative data require scrutiny, these should nevertheless be considered as components of the social framework in which female judges work in Pakistan.

October 12, 2017 in Courts, Family, International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gendered Impact of Family Reunification Immigration Rules under International Law

Wojciech Burek, Family Reunification Regulations and Women: The Perspective of International Law,  36 Polish Yearbook of International Law 83 (2016)

The concept of family reunification is well established in contemporary migration laws, at both the national and international levels. Focusing on international and EU law, in this article I argue that while existing provisions on family reunification are formulated in neutral language, from the gender point of view the enforcement of these substantively neutral rules may, in certain situations, result in discrimination, or at least bring about negative consequences, with respect to women in cases both when they are the sponsors of migration or the bearers of consequences of male migration. Following presentation of the international legal framework on family reunification and the relevant international jurisprudence, I deal with some rather common aspects relating to the personal scope of family reunification regulations, covering only the issues of who can, and who cannot, join their family member(s)/sponsor(s) in a foreign country (i.e. the unmarried minor rule, excluded forms of marriages – polygamous and forced marriages - and age limits). Some procedural aspects of family reunification are then dealt with (waiting periods, delays in proceedings, and end of a relationship as a cause for termination of residence rights.). These issues are examined with respect to concerns that they may cause indirect, or even direct, gender discrimination in some cases, while in others they may affect women more negatively than men.

September 26, 2017 in Family, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Study of Gender Bias in Teaching Evaluations

Friederike Mengel, Jan Sauermann, Ulf Zolitz, Gender Bias in Teaching Evaluations

Abstract

 

This paper provides new evidence on gender bias in teaching evaluations. We exploit
a quasi-experimental dataset of 19,952 student evaluations of university faculty [in the Netherlands] in a context where students are randomly allocated to female or male instructors. Despite the fact that neither students’ grades nor self-study hours are affected by the instructor’s gender, we find that women receive systematically lower teaching evaluations than their male colleagues. This bias is driven by male students’ evaluations, is larger for mathematical courses and particularly pronounced for junior women. The gender bias in teaching evaluations we document may have direct as well as indirect effects on the career progression of women by affecting junior women’s confidence and through the reallocation of instructor resources away from research and towards teaching.

From the paper: 

Our results show that female faculty receive systematically lower teaching evaluations than their male colleagues despite the fact that neither students’ current or future grades nor their study hours are affected by the gender of the instructor. The lower teaching evaluations of female faculty stem mostly from male students, who evaluate their female instructors 21% of a standard deviation worse than their male instructors. While female students were found to rate female instructors about 8% of a standard deviation lower than male instructors.

 

When testing whether results differ by seniority, we find the effects to be driven by junior instructors, particularly PhD students, who receive 28% of a standard deviation lower teaching evaluations than their male colleagues. Interestingly, we do not observe this gender bias for more senior female instructors like lecturers or professors. We do find, however, that the gender bias is substantially larger for courses with math-related content. Within each of these subgroups, we confirm that the bias cannot be explained by objective differences in grades or student effort. Furthermore, we find that the gender bias is independent of whether the majority of instructors within a course is female or male. Importantly, this suggests that the bias works against female instructors in general and not only against minority faculty in gender-incongruent areas, e.g., teaching in more math intensive courses.

 

The gender bias against women is not only present in evaluation questions relating to the individual instructor, but also when students are asked to evaluate learning materials, such as text books, research articles and the online learning platform. Strikingly, despite the fact that learning materials are identical for all students within a course and are independent of the gender of the section instructor, male students evaluate these worse when their instructor is female. One possible mechanism to explain this spillover effect is that students anchor their response to material-related questions based on their previous responses to instructor-related questions.  

September 12, 2017 in Education, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Second Federal Court of Appeals Holds Breastfeeding is Covered under Title VII

Patrick Dorrian, Breast-Feeding Alabama Police Officer Proved Sex, Leave Bias

An Alabama police officer was within her rights to quit when she was denied a desk job so she wouldn’t have to wear a ballistic vest that may have rendered her unable to breast-feed, a federal appeals court ruled.

 

Stephanie Hicks can keep her jury win on her constructive discharge claim because lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy under federal sex discrimination law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held on an issue of first impression for the court ( Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa , 2017 BL 314674, 11th Cir., No. 16-13003, 9/7/17 ). Hicks is a former employee of the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

 

The Sept. 7 ruling is “very significant” because with it the Atlanta-based Eleventh Circuit became the second federal appeals court to recognize that “breastfeeding is covered under Title VII” of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Galen L. Sherwin said Sept. 8. The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit previously reached the same conclusion in 2013, she said.

 

Sherwin is a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, which supported Hicks as an amicus in the case. The New York-based lawyer said the Eleventh Circuit’s holding is also novel in two other important ways.

 

The court recognized that employers may be required to provide work accommodations to breast-feeding employees if they provide such accommodations to similarly situated non-breast-feeding workers, she told Bloomberg BNA. In other words, employers must treat accommodation requests from breast-feeding or lactating workers on the same terms as they treat other similar accommodation requests.

September 11, 2017 in Courts, Equal Employment, Family | 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)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Studies Why Mothers Opt Out of the Workplace

New Book Podcast, Liana Christin Landivar, Mothers at Work: Who Opts Out?

A big question in Sociology regarding work and gender is: which mothers opt out of the labor force to take care of children? Popularly known as “opting out,” this trend is often seen as a mother’s personal choice rather than a decision made within a set of cultural and structural constraints in women’s everyday lives. Building upon previous work, Liana Christin Landivar‘s new book Mothers at Work: Who Opts Out? (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2017) uses nationally representative data to inquire into who exactly is opting out and who is staying in the labor force. Most media coverage on the topic focuses on women who work in management or other professional level occupations, but Landivar’s book looks at a wide spectrum of occupations and finds that the question of who opts out is much more nuanced. She finds that investigating occupation is key for answering who is opting out. She also delves into the categorizations of work hours, giving consideration not only to part-time work and how that varies by occupation, but also women who scale back, or reduce work hours but not to part-time levels. Additionally, age of the mother, as well as the child, alongside race and educational attainment all help to better understand which mothers are opting out. Landivar gives careful consideration to the structural factors across and between occupations and how they may influence mothers opting out. Finally, this book provides some important methodological insights for the reader, including emphasizing the variations within work hours and the key importance of reference groups used to answer research questions.

This book will be enjoyed by Sociologists broadly, but is key reading for work/family and gender scholars. Folks in gender studies as well as business leaders might enjoy this book and find important insights into which mothers opt out of the labor force. This book would be useful in a gender/work/family class as well as a graduate level methods course, with its careful explanation of modeling and fantastic graphics.

August 25, 2017 in Books, Family, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Feminist Legacy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Thanks to Paula Monopoli for her great (and thorough) review of my book Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law in the Journal of Legal Education.

 

Mother. Author. Orator. Woman Suffrage Leader: The Feminist Legacy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

Tracy Thomas’s new book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law, provides extensive support for the claim that Stanton was “the intellectual giant of the [women’s rights] movement.” In this eminently readable yet deeply substantive work, Professor Thomas argues that Stanton was a foundational theorist for modern feminism. Until recently, Stanton’s intellectual contributions have not been widely explored, and Thomas aims to rectify that oversight. She situates Stanton in her rightful place by focusing on Stanton’s writings and advocacy in the area of family law. Thomas does a persuasive job, using Stanton’s views on marital property law, divorce, voluntary and involuntary maternity, and the custody of children as a lens through which to examine broader themes about women’s status as equal citizens in our republic. She also documents Stanton’s intellectual contributions in a way that informs current debates about gender equality.


While Stanton’s writings ranged broadly on the subordination and emancipation of women, Thomas narrows in on Stanton’s views on the subjugation of women within marriage. She also reveals Stanton’s extensive, if de facto, training in law through her father’s practice, law library and clerks. “As a young woman, Stanton had read widely in her father’s law library and discussed cases with him . . . . [H]er legal training allowed Stanton to bring to the early women’s rights movement a keen sense of the role of law in creating inequality between the sexes.” Thomas argues that this understanding of the common law itself and her understanding of how to construct legal arguments were central to Stanton’s efficacy as a theorist and an advocate.

 

Thomas begins by examining Stanton’s personal story. Stanton was a harried mother of three children under the age of ten when she convened the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. In the decade that followed, she went on to have four more children and to advocate tirelessly for women’s equality. Thomas points out how much the adage “the personal is the political” applied to Stanton, as she wrote to her partner in advocacy, Susan B. Anthony, for help:


Can you get any acute lawyer . . . sufficiently interested in our movement
to look up just eight laws concerning us—the very worst in all the code? I
can generalize and philosophize easily enough myself; but the details of the
particular law I need, I have not time to look up. You see, while I am about
the house, surrounded by my children, washing dishes, baking, sewing, etc.,
I can think up many points, but I cannot search books, for my hands as well
as my brains would be necessary for that work . . . . Men who can, when they
wish to write a document, shut themselves up for days with their thoughts
and their books, know little of what difficulties a woman must surmount.

 

These words would resonate with many female scholars today. After this first letter, Stanton again wrote to Anthony to tell her that the legislative testimony she was trying to finish was not nearly done and that her deadline was rapidly approaching. Anthony responded by coming to babysit while Stanton finished the address. Having a public voice requires time and energy. But bearing a disproportionate share of family caregiving makes such public participation difficult and remains a structural barrier to gender equality today.

 

Thomas integrates these and similar examples of the connection between the nineteenth-century Stanton and modern-day feminists. She begins her book with an introduction that gives the reader a thumbnail sketch of modern feminist theory. Thomas outlines the distinctions among liberal feminism, with its focus on formal equality; difference feminism, with its focus on resolving subordination by recognizing women’s biological, relational, and cultural differences; and radical or dominance feminism, which situates subordination in the victimization of women as sexual objects and emphasizes the need for structural reforms. Thomas argues that Stanton’s views on family law reform informed modern feminist theory. 

 

***

 

As Thomas notes, many of the reforms that Stanton wrote about and advocated for in terms of property, marriage, divorce, and custody have become the legal status quo. But in these turbulent times, Thomas’s book reminds us how fragile those gains are and how radical they still seem to many in our society. As Stanton lamented, after “years of untiring effort” to obtain guarantees of property and custody, those statutes were “repealed in States where we supposed all was safe.”Her cautionary note to be vigilant rings as loudly in 2017 as it did in 1876, and we would do well to heed it. Professor Thomas’s excellent new book has given us additional intellectual tools to do just that.

August 18, 2017 in Books, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: Gendered Law in American History

Janet Halley, Book Review: Richard Chused & Wendy Williams, Gendered Law in American History (2016), JOTWELL

Every major dimension of contemporary American family law underwent transformation in the 19th Century. Indeed, I have argued at considerable length that American family law was invented in the 19th Century. Many of the most difficult and intractable legal issues in the field carry 19th Century legal rules, doctrines, ideologies, debates, and practices forward to the present. Some of these vestigial aspects of 19th Century family law emerge in a slurry of semi-congealed elements that took shape then and have stayed in play despite major transformations in the field since; others persist in their 19th Century form, albeit with more contemporary contents. It’s impossible to work in contemporary American family law without asking oneself, again and again, what didhappen with this issue or that in the transformative-yet-reactionary 19th Century?

 

But for those of us who are not legal historians, answering that question is very hard work. There are plenty of classics to turn to, from Michael Grossberg’s Governing the Hearth to Hendrik Hartog’s Some Day All This Will Be Yours.  But a new resource offers a comprehensive, elegantly curated collection of primary documents that shed light on a range of the most important themes: Gendered Law in American History by Richard Chused and Wendy Williams. This rich resource—more than 1200 pages—is ideal summer reading for family law enthusiasts!

 

The book has the look and the price of a casebook, but in lieu of “cases and materials” it presents primary documents in chronological sequence and in ample excerpts. The topics are all chosen and framed with care. We find a review of women’s frustrated claims to full citizenship and suffrage in the Revolutionary period and early Republic, followed by successive major efforts of organized feminists to engage public debate and demand suffrage. The tumultuous conflicts over feminist demands for female suffrage and their relationship to emancipation of enslaved blacks after the Civil War unfold in painful detail. Indeed, the authors’ carefull attention to the connections that may be drawn between seemingly disparate events is one of the volume’s core strengths.

*** 

One of the achievements of this monumental book is its constant probing of the relationship between the private law and the public law dimensions of gender rules and debates in 19th Century America. Sometimes these links seem pretty attenuated, but they are always worth asking about, in part because the law school curriculum divides the public law and private law dimensions of the family into separate topics, courses, and bodies of law. The unique collaboration of Chused and Williams, over twenty years of teaching a seminar on Gender and American Legal History at Georgetown together, doubtless made this inquiry possible. We are all the richer for the massive labor they and their students have put into this highly valuable contribution.

July 31, 2017 in Books, Family, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guest Blog: MothersEsquire: A Professional Community for Lawyer Moms

We welcome Professor Jamie Abrams to the Gender & Law Prof Blog for the month of July. She is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law where she teaches Torts, Family Law, Legislation, and Women and the Law. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered citizenship, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy. Professor Abrams' most recent work includes Debunking the Myth of Universal Male Privilege, in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and The Feminist Case for Acknowledging Women’s Acts of Violence in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism

 Photo

MothersEsquire:  An Introduction to a Supportive Community

As a member of the academic community, I often find myself stuck in something of an outsider status with the practicing legal profession.  I am not a practicing lawyer, so my role in the local bar associations, CLEs, and practitioner-related groups often is a bit awkward and strained.  I attend as many events as I can, but they are downtown and my campus communities have historically not been conveniently located to these groups.  The kinds of conversations – particularly those related to gender dimensions of the profession – are often a powerful and painful reminder of the obstacles faced during my six years of private practice, but they do not quite reflect the day-to-day obstacles that I face in academic life.  The same outsider phenomenon can also describe the role of students attending these events.  I often recommend that students attend bar events and CLE programs, but likewise the relevance and applicability for them might not always translate smoothly to students to justify the commute downtown in the middle of their academic day.  

This blog entry is an opportunity to highlight a new organization that I think has ably bridged communities for moms in the legal profession:  MothersEsquire.  This year has been an important one for the organization of women’s groups.  From the D.C. Women’s March to Pant Suit Nation to Law Mamas, there is no shortage of outlets for women and women lawyers to come together this year.  The MothersEsquire organization stands out in a couple of key ways. 

First, it is not limited to geographical boundaries or bar licensure borders.  For example, I am a member of the Maryland Bar, but not a member of the Kentucky Bar where I currently reside.  This is an obstacle, or at least a deterrent, to my participation in local bar events.   The same is true for many law students who might be studying in Kentucky or Virginia or California, but may not necessary call that community their home later as a practitioner. 

Second, MothersEsquire has followed a “participatory action model” of modern governance. Many long-established bar organizations and affinity groups have signature events that fill the calendar like annual dinners, annual fundraisers, annual awards, golf tournaments, etc.  As a new group, MothersEsquire has organically responded and adapted to changing conditions faced in communities.  For example, when student members last Fall were attending a state bar ethics program and some questionable and inappropriate comments regarding women in the profession were made by a prominent speaker, the group quickly mobilized via social media and local organizers at the event who were also present on social media responded and addressed the concerns effectively and promptly in real time.  The organization is also working on breastfeeding accommodations.  It was able to effectively advocate for a law student denied bar exam nursing accommodations and it established an advocacy group to work on courtroom accommodations.

Third, the group has played a role and provided a focus that fills a gap in traditional women’s bar associations.  Certainly, not all women lawyers are mothers or identify as mothers.  Further, not all women lawyers are interested in or need to have an outlet to think about unique issues of parenting and the profession.   For those that do, however, this group provides an outlet, an information source, a networking portal, and more.  Its website explains:

“We are Moms.  We are Lawyers. We are Master-Negotiators and Multi-Taskers -- at work and at home. We are the Equity Partners at the office and the Team Coach at school.  We drive mini-vans to depositions and to carpool line. We read briefs by day and Goodnight Moon by night.   And we are bringing women together to Disrupt the "Motherhood Penalty" in our profession.”

Finally, this group is unique for its founding in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky by practicing attorney Michelle Coughlin.  Historically, countless influential women’s groups and professional change-agents have originated in large coastal cities, or at least perceptively so.  This group is distinctively inclusive.  It originated in a so-called “red state” or a so-called “flyover state,” but includes members from far beyond that.  Its members include SAH mother attorneys, practicing mother attorneys, prospective mother attorneys, and attorney prospective mothers. 

For more information about MothersEsquire join the Facebook group or check out its website:  I highlight it here on the Gender & Law Blog as a great example of leadership in the profession that bridges academia and practice, crosses geographical boundaries, and fosters organic professional connections.     

July 6, 2017 in Family, Guest Bloggers, Women lawyers, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Call for Papers: Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Family Law Opinions

Call for Authors – Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Family Law Opinions

DEADLINE:  FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

The U.S. Feminist Judgments Project seeks contributors of rewritten judicial opinions and commentaries for an edited collection tentatively titled, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Family Law Opinions.  This edited volume is part of a collaborative project among law professors and others to rewrite, from a feminist perspective, key judicial decisions in the United States.  The initial volume, Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court, edited by Kathryn M. Stanchi, Linda L. Berger, and Bridget J. Crawford, was published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press.  Subsequent volumes in the series will focus on different areas of law and will be under review by Cambridge.

Volume editor Rachel Rebouché seeks prospective authors for twelve to fifteen rewritten family law opinions covering a range of topics.  With the assistance of an advisory panel of distinguished family law scholars, the editor has selected decisions that have not appeared in other Feminist Judgment volumes.  Potential authors are welcome to suggest other opinions, but given certain constraints, the list of cases will likely remain the same.  A description of the process of selecting decisions, as well as a list of cases considered but not included, can be found on the application website (link below).     

Proposals must be to either 1. rewrite an opinion (subject to a 10,000-word limit) or 2. comment on a rewritten opinion (4,000-word limit).  Rewritten decisions may be majority opinions, dissents, or concurrences.  Authors of rewritten opinions should abide by the law and precedent in effect at the time of the original decision. Commentators should explain the original court decision, how the feminist judgment differs from the original judgment, and what difference a feminist judgment might have made.  The volume editor conceives of feminism broadly and invites applications that seek to advance, complicate, or critique feminist ideas and advocacy.

Those who are interested in rewriting an opinion or providing commentary should complete the form found here: 

https://goo.gl/forms/9JYv7GtR2gJMDVbY2

Applications are due no later than Friday, July 21, 2017.  The editor will notify accepted authors and commentators by Monday, July 31, 2017.

First drafts of rewritten opinions will be due on Friday, February 2, 2018.  First drafts of commentaries will be due on Friday, March 9, 2018.

If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Rebouché at rebouche@temple.edu

June 29, 2017 in Call for Papers, Courts, Family | 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

Can an Employer Provide Fathers with Less Paid Paternity Leave than Mothers

Jon Hecht, The Surprising Sexism of Maternity Leave

Many Americans still think of parental leave as a "woman's issue," but Derek Rotondo, a employee at JPMorgan Chase, is determined to change that. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Rotondo, alleging that JPMorgan Chase is engaging in gender discrimination by providing 16 weeks of maternity leave but only two weeks of comparable paternity leave.

“JPMorgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminates against both moms and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner,” Galen Sherwin, the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project's senior staff attorney, said in a statement.

"I'm frankly surprised that a company as large as JPMorgan would have a policy like this in this day and age," Vicki Schultz, Ford Foundation Professor of Law and Social Science at Yale Law School, tells Bustle.

"Providing equal parental leave to men and women is an important step in trying to get at a lot of cultural stereotypes and starting to chip away at the assumption that women do and should bear the primary responsibility for caregiving," Maya Raghu, Director of Workplace Equality and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, tells Bustle

The paternity fight may even be a sign of larger societal change. "Legal and cultural change often go hand in hand. One pushes the other," Raghu says.

The effect of more men involved as primary caregivers for raising children could have powerful effects not just for those men, but for the women who would no longer be expected to put their careers on hold to take care of children. Research has suggested time and again that the breaks in work from caregiving — usually experienced more by women than men — contribute to the gender wage gap. Some experts hope that equalizing how workplaces and culture treat men as caregivers could have impact on minimizing that gap.

"Feminist theorists believe that this is really kind of the crux," says Tracy Thomas, John F. Seiberling Chair of Constitutional Law at the University of Akron School of Law and Editor of the Gender and Law Professors Blog. "Right now, a lot of the formal inequalities between men and women since the 1970s have sort of been eliminated in the workplace — as far as different rules, different hours, different wages."

However, the reality is often more complicated than the workplace laws on the book. "A lot of the cases really pushing the theory of gender discrimination right now are at this question of family and parenting and maternity leave," says Thomas. "So if we were to extend it across the board, I think that could be potentially very big in changing [the situation]. Because that's where we've identified we're culturally stuck. We're still stuck on women taking care of kids."

However, as I blogged about last week in Are Men Entitled to Equal Paid Paternity Leave?, the current EEOC guidelines on pregnancy discrimination allow a different leave period for men and women by giving additional time for women based on physical recovery time.  It is only the time for caregiving and bonding that must be the same.  Thus, it is permissible as the law is currently interpreted to give 16 weeks of paid leave to women, and 6 weeks of paid leave to men.

June 22, 2017 in Equal Employment, Family, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Are Men Entitled to Equal Paid Paternity Leave?

Fathers Denied Paid Parental Leave by JP Morgan Chase File Sex Discrimination Complaint with EEOC

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio and the employment law firm Outten & Golden LLP today filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a J.P. Morgan Chase employee who claims the company discriminated against him and other fathers by denying fathers paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers.

 

Derek Rotondo, who filed the class action charge, is a fraud investigator who has worked at J.P. Morgan since 2010. He asserts that J.P. Morgan discriminates against men by designating biological mothers as the default primary caregivers, eligible for 16 weeks of paid parental leave, while presumptively considering fathers to be non-primary caretakers, who are eligible for just two weeks of paid parental leave. Rotondo is the father of two young children, including a two-year old and a newborn just nine days old.

 

“When I found out how J.P. Morgan’s parental leave policy was actually implemented, I was shocked,” said Rotondo. “It was like something out of the 1950s. Just because I’m a father, not a mother, it shouldn’t prevent me from being the primary caregiver for my baby. I hope that J.P. Morgan will change this policy and show its support for all parents who work for the company.”

 

Rotondo’s charge — which he filed on behalf of all fathers who were or will be subjected to the same discriminatory policy — alleges that J.P. Morgan’s parental leave policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act, and other state and local laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on sex or sex-based stereotypes.

 

“J.P. Morgan’s parental leave policy is outdated and discriminates against both moms and dads by reinforcing the stereotype that raising children is women’s work, and that men’s work is to be the breadwinner,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “J.P. Morgan needs to make its family leave policy reflect the realities of modern families working in America today.”

Before the birth of his second child, Rotondo sought approval to take parental leave as the primary caregiver. But J.P. Morgan’s human resources told Rotondo that mothers are considered to be primary caregivers, and that fathers can only be treated as primary caregivers (and receive 16 weeks of paid parental leave) if they can demonstrate that their spouse or partner has returned to work, or that “the mother” is medically incapable of caring for the child. Rotondo does not qualify under either of these exceptions, as his wife is a special education teacher on summer break and unable to return to work, and she is in good health.

Here are the EEOC Guidelines on Parental Leave:

For purposes of determining Title VII's requirements, employers should carefully distinguish between leave related to any physical limitations imposed by pregnancy or childbirth (described in this document as pregnancy-related medical leave) and leave for purposes of bonding with a child and/or providing care for a child (described in this document as parental leave).

Leave related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions can be limited to women affected by those conditions. However, parental leave must be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms. If, for example, an employer extends leave to new mothers beyond the period of recuperation from childbirth (e.g. to provide the mothers time to bond with and/or care for the baby), it cannot lawfully fail to provide an equivalent amount of leave to new fathers for the same purpose.

EXAMPLE 14: Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave and Parental Leave Policy - No Disparate Treatment

An employer offers pregnant employees up to 10 weeks of paid pregnancy-related medical leave for pregnancy and childbirth as part of its short-term disability insurance. The employer also offers new parents, whether male or female, six weeks of parental leave. A male employee alleges that this policy is discriminatory as it gives up to 16 weeks of leave to women and only six weeks of leave to men. The employer's policy does not violate Title VII. Women and men both receive six weeks of parental leave, and women who give birth receive up to an additional 10 weeks of leave for recovery from pregnancy and childbirth under the short-term disability plan.

EXAMPLE 15: Discriminatory Parental Leave Policy

In addition to providing medical leave for women with pregnancy-related conditions and for new mothers to recover from childbirth, an employer provides six additional months of paid leave for new mothers to bond with and care for their new baby. The employer does not provide any paid parental leave for fathers. The employer's policy violates Title VII because it does not provide paid parental leave on equal terms to women and men.

JP Morgan has explained its policy as applying to primary caregivers, who are presumably women.  And it has precluded consideration of equal caregiving between parents.  That is expressly discriminatory under the guidelines. See Jessica Lee, Congratulations on the Birth of Your Baby! Now Get Back to Work

Many employers now offer longer amounts of leave to “primary caregivers” and less to “secondary caregivers,” rather than to “mothers” and “fathers.” Does changing the labels actually change whether this is sex discrimination? Hardly. Despite their outward appearance of neutrality, these policies often still discriminate against men, and result in men getting less leave than women. Employers may say “primary/secondary caregiver” but they really mean “mom and dad.” Some employers even discriminate against fathers by automatically assuming that mothers are primary caregivers and fathers are not, requiring dads to provide various types of proof that they truly are a caregiver. One employer advised a new father that could not be considered a primary caregiver unless his wife was “in a coma or dead.”

The Supreme Court's recent decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana lends additional strong support for a finding of discrimination.

 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, [the citizenship laws for children born abroad differentiating] for unwed mothers and fathers who have accepted parental responsibility is stunningly anachronistic.

 

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. 

However, the plaintiff is unlikely to get the exact remedy he seeks of 16 paid weeks.  

    1.  JP Morgan could revise its policy in accordance with the EEOC guidelines and distinguish that the longer time for women is based on physical medical recovery for women, or make slight adjustments as in the example to provide women 16 paid weeks and men 6 paid weeks.

    2.  The company could level down and provide no paid leave to anyone.  That was also the result of the Supreme Court's Morales-Santana decision.  See discussion here. The question will go to whether the company wants to continue to provide paid leave to recruit and retain valued women employees in competition with other firms, or whether it believes that the economics of extending paid leave to more men will be too costly.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act requires only that certain employers provide both women and men 12 weeks of unpaid leave for caring for a new child.  

June 16, 2017 in Equal Employment, Family, Pregnancy | 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 30, 2017

Court Rejects Father's Attempt to Turn Custody Hearing Into "a Witch Hunt" With Sexting Photos

J.S. v. M.M, (Ontario Superior Ct. of Justice, Mar. 31, 2016) (denying father's motion for temporary custody change) (Justice Alex Pazaratz)  

        1.    Do nude pictures of parents help judges decide who should get custody?

        2.    A silly question?

        3.    Why then, on this motion for temporary custody, has the Applicant father attached to his affidavit a series of sexually explicit “selfies” of the mother, retrieved from her discarded cell phone? 

        4.    And why did he attach dozens of screen shots of the mother “sexting” with another man, describing her sexual preferences in graphic detail?

        5.    If the objective was to humiliate the mother, undoubtedly the father succeeded

        6.    But how does humiliation help in family court?

        7.    How does irrelevant and scandalous information help a judge determine the best interests of the child?

        8.    More importantly -- from the child’s perspective -- what is the long-term impact of this needlessly hurtful approach to litigation? 

       12. Sometimes, an embarrassing post from the past can assist the court in determining a contentious issue:

          Facebook entries have been known to confirm drug or alcohol abuse, where it was otherwise denied.  

          Intimidating and threatening behaviour often becomes self-evident in texts. 

          A parent’s resistant attitude toward timesharing frequently comes through loud and clear in e-mails. 

        It’s quite amazing the incriminating things people will type and photograph.  Too bad if it comes back to haunt them.

    13. But where behaviour is neither unusual, illegal nor disputed, there’s no need to inflame tensions by attaching texts and pictures that tell us nothing we need to know.

    14. In this case, a fundamental evidentiary issue relates to the father’s unauthorized use of the mother’s discarded cell phone. 

    15. But more to the point, the nude photographs and salacious texts submitted by the father merely confirm what I would suspect of most other adults on this planet:  The mother has a sex life.

    29g. The Applicant has tried to turn this custody motion into a bit of a witch hunt:  She’s done bad things.  Maybe she’s a bad mother.

        32d.  All of this smacks of a puritanical double standard.  The obvious inference is that a woman who likes sex is somehow immoral or unworthy as a parent.  That kind of hypocrisy is a thing of the past.

 

[h/t Sonia Lawrence]

 

 

May 30, 2017 in Family, Judges | 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)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Essays on Women, Gender, and Law in Medieval Studies

Women, Gender and Law: Essays from the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, 43 Historical Reflections (2017)

In the last 30 years the focus of medieval scholars has turned increasingly to nontraditional subjects, especially to women, children, and marginalized others in medieval society. . . . In examining formerly invisible “Others,” medievalists have changed the discourse of the past to one that is both more inclusive and more equivocal: no longer can the certainties that shaped, for example, the nineteenth century’s view of the past as populated by public males and private females, and energized by the confident triumphalism of Western Christianity, be maintained.

 

Linda E. Mitchell, Introduction: Women, Gender, and Law and Remembering Shona Kelly Wray 

Ecaterina Lung, Depictions of Women in the Works of Early Byzantine Historians and Chroniclers: Stereotype and Reality 

Niki Megalommati, Women and Family Law in Byzantium: Some Notes

Nina Verbanaz, Envisaging Eternity: Salian Women's Religious Patronage

Amy Livingstone, Pious Women in a "Den of Scorpions": The Piety and Patronage of the Eleventh-Century Countesses of Brittany

Teresa Phipps, Misbehaving Women: Trespass and Honor in Late Medieval English Towns

Miriam Shadis, The Personal and the Political in Testaments of the Portuguese Royal Family (12th & 13 c)

Mireia Comas-Via, Widowhood and Economic Difficulties in Medieval Barcelona

Stanley Chojnacki, Wives and Goods in the Venetian Palazzo

May 3, 2017 in Family, International, Legal History | 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)