Sunday, January 7, 2018

DeRailing the #MeToo Movement?

Is Matt Damon one of the celebs looking to derail the #MeToo movement?  For those of you who have the sense not to follow celebrity "news", Mr. Damon remarked during a recent interview that there is a big difference between patting someone on the rear and rape.   Well, I concede, there is a difference, but Mr. Damon should not diminish the serious psychological harm that comes to women who endure unwanted physical touching day after day. The behavior not only demeans their work, but their entire being, causing some severe psychic pain and loss of self-esteem.  Just ask the women at Ford.  Or ask the women who left the entertainment industry, forfeiting their chosen careers due to harassment.   Mr. Damon also suggested that men who grew up believing patting women's rears was ok should be treated differently.

Let's not get distracted as Joan Vennochi did.  Yes- there are degrees of behavior.  There are even differences on what an appropriate employer response should be to reports of current or past sexual harassment. 

Let's look at two unexplored aspects of Mr. Damon's chatter.  First is the timing.  Why interrupt a relatively nascent movement that is just beginning to see effects outside of the entertainment industry?  Mr. Damon's follow-up remarks saying that all of the unwanted behavior must be eradicated,  do not justify the timing of criticizing the movement when the impact of his remarks could slow, if not stop, the momentum.  Mr. Damon is defensive from criticism that he did not "know" about Harvey Weinstein's behavior .  That is possible.  But it is not plausible that Damon did not understand the consequences of creating diversion at a critical time in women's attempts to be heard.   

Second point, once again Mr. Damon removed men's responsibility for decision making and subtly put it on the women of the #MeToo movement.    Mr. Damon failed to mention that the men being fired from their positions were being fired by men.   Next time Mr. Damon decides to pontificate about men's behavior, perhaps he could make it clear that he is criticizing the male CEO's for their post-allegation responses.  The silence of not naming the problem shifts blame to the victims.

Equally unfortunate that the focus of recent firings  has been solely on physical behavior, including threats or demands for sex.  We risk making inappropriate physical behavior or threats involving sexual demands the bar for firing when non-physical displays of misogyny should be adequate. 

 

January 7, 2018 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hypocrisy at NBC

By Margaret Drew

NBC executives should be worried.  Their unwillingness to address sexual harassment is well documented.  Disrespect for women exhibits itself in many forms.  While the degrees of disrespect vary, they are interconnected.  Matt Lauer should have been fired thirty seconds after his "interview" with Hillary Clinton during the last presidential campaign ended.    During that interview, Lauer repeatedly interrupted Ms. Clinton.  He diverted her from the intended topic of the president's role as commander-in-chief by frequently raising the well worn e-mail issue.  When matters turned to issues of military leadership, Lauer reminded Clinton that time was short, attempting to prevent her from  giving a comprehensive answer.  And then Mr. Trump, on the other hand, was unchallenged, even when he made statements that could be easily disproved.  More details of the interview may be seen  here.  NBC failed to discipline Lauer for what most female viewers recognized as misogyny.  Hillary Clinton's turmoil during that interview and her split second decision-making on handling the dilemma is documented in her memoir What Happened.

And was NBC management not listening when Katie Couric revealed in 2012 that Lauer often pinched her on her rear "alot".  That behavior alone was sufficient to fire Lauer.  Then let's not forget that not only did NBC delay in reporting on the Trump/Bush sex videotape, NBC had it in its possession since 2005.

Either of the prior behaviors were adequate to alert NBC execs that there was likely more serious sexual misconduct going on.  But those with the power to stop the abuse refused to investigate. Other actions by NBC  were telling.  The network refused to run a well-documented expose of Harvey Weinstein's sexual offenses written by Ronan Farrow, despite the network's approval of the article as well-documented.  NBC's failure to honor its commitment to Farrow was puzzling, but consistent with the network's refusal to address mysoginy and sexual misconduct in any form.  NBC would have had the scoop on the Weinstein debacle.  The New Yorker ran the article instead.    A more recent New Yorker article refers to NBC's actions post-Lauer as the "Theater of Accountability."

Are NBC execs worried that the next people fired for sexual misconduct will be one of them?   

December 4, 2017 in Gender Violence, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

We Have Only Fifteen Minutes: Fears of a Second Wave Feminist

The celebrity men are falling.  Charlie Rose is the latest formerly venerated but large egoed man to fall under the weight of sexual harassment allegations.  The line of the dethroned is getting longer, but the time is getting shorter. 

During the 1980’s I was one of a handful of lawyers who tried divorce cases on grounds of abuse.  “No Fault” divorce had arrived in all but a few states.  Trying cases on any other grounds was considered distasteful.  But my clients wanted their truth heard in court.  The judgments my clients received would today be considered amazing.  In the 80’s the judgments were viewed as just compensation for the suffered abuse. 

Then came the 90’s.  Domestic abuse was discussed widely and openly. Those jurisdictions that had not yet enacted civil protection order statues, did so.  Slowly women, who were primarily if not exclusively the petitioners, came forward to demand protection.  Judges heard stories of abuse that shocked them. 

But then things changed.

So many women came forward seeking protection from abuse that judges assumed that not all of the women’s claims could be true.  Judges had difficulty accepting the prevalence of gender bias. By the end of the decade, the seeds had been sown in family court culture for women seeking divorce to be found not credible in that surely women were seeking protection orders only to gain a “leg up” in the divorce proceedings.  No mind that all of the data shows that seeking a protection order does not result in an advantage for the abused parent.  Quite the opposite. Raise abuse when children are involved, and the mother's presumed motive will be to "alienate" the children from their father.

So I am compelled to raise the alarm.  With so many women, and some men, coming forward alleging sexual harassment by celebrities what will be the tipping point where accusers are branded as liars?  Am I being an unnecessary alarmist? 

We have not scratched the surface of sexual harassment.  Rather than #MeToo, perhaps #NotMe would give a more accurate count of who has and has not been the victim of sexual harassment.  I am afraid that our non-celebrity sisters will be deprived of their opportunity to air their grievances and be believed.  That is where the work needs to be done.  Finding platforms for the most vulnerable to air their stories without retaliation has a short window. 

So if you have a plan – whether to provide legal services to those who tell their stories and are vulnerable to immediate discharge from work or other consequences – or if you hope to publicize how common sexual harassment is in all levels of our nation- do it soon. 

File legislation, record the stories of our unknown sisters, bring the powerful to the workplace to prevent firing when disclosures are made, Prepare for the backlash and have a plan to defeat it -  but do it within the next fifteen minutes.

November 21, 2017 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Women's Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

False Equivalency and Bias

Those of us litigating intimate partner abuse cases have been privy to the tactic of false equivalencies as a means of protecting male privilege.  One particularly vexing case I tried resulted in extensive findings of the husband's abuse of the wife.  The judge found also that the wife had been inhospitable to her mother-in-law.  The latter finding was justification for the judge to ignore the abuse in fashioning remedies.  Consequently, the husband's abusive behavior remained unconsidered when the judge gave unfettered access to the children.  This is not an isolated case.  In both petitions for civil protection orders and family law decisions, courts fail to protect partners and children if the abused partner failed to behave in the perfect, mythical manner embedded in the judge's stereotypes.  In these cases, false equivalency is used to protect white male privilege.  The faulty premise can also be used as a sword.

The same discriminatory technique plays out in race cases, as well.  A particularly shocking example happened this week in Virginia.  A magistrate issued a warrant for DeAndre Harris, a black man who had been viciously beaten by white supremacists following a  "Unite the Right" rally.  Mr. Harris suffered spinal injuries and a head wound requiring ten stitches.  Then a man who claims to be an attorney and a "Southern Nationalist" filed a police report and then a request for a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Harris alleges "unlawful wounding", a felony.  In Virginia a magistrate may issue the warrant, even where, as in this case, a police investigation is complete.   As in civil protection order hearings where abusers file retaliatory petitions for protection orders, the goal is to discredit the victim.  An additional benefit is the victim's reluctance to appear in court given that the victim could have adverse consequences.  Dropping the cross complaints is often the result, leaving the victim unprotected and reluctant to seek future help. 

My sense is that this is the goal of the white supremacist.  While three men have been arrested for beating Mr. Harris, cross charges will adversely impact any jury.  Confusion and reluctance to convict will result.

This is the time for courageous prosecutors and police to step up and request dismissal of the charges for lack of evidence and because the allegations are retaliatory.  

 

 

October 12, 2017 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

PRIDE


Image1June was filled with international Pride events. Let's not lose perspective and forget that public Pride demonstrations still require courage of the LGBTI community.  Marriage equality success can present sexual identity freedom and acceptance as a false norm.  

Being anything but "straight" remains unsafe.  

The criminalization of  HIV-AIDS exists in the majority of US jurisdictions, with many of those making it a crime for an individual living with HIV to have sex with another  without disclosure of the HIV status and that person's informed consent.  These statutes often do not require proof of intent to transmit the disease; and actual inability to transmit the disease due to effective medical intervention presents no defense.  The enforcement of these laws primarily against people of color is not unnoticed. 

Members of the LGBT community are more likely to be the targets of US hate crimes than any other minority.

Leigh Goodmark has written on the extraordinarily high rates of abuse against trans women.

While we celebrate the expansion of legal equality, let's remember that the specific "equalities" recognized are more along the path of joining heterosexual norms, rather than a celebration of sexual minorities as respected individuals who may equally participate in our society upon their terms.  Those "equalities" remain, in fact, narrow.  We must exlore whether what our culture encourages is more than demanding conformity with heterosexually based cultural institutions.

Let's try to correct and avoid heterosexuality as the norm.  Whiteness as the norm in fashioning race based remedies has resulted in the endurance of bias, implicit and explicit.  We are early in the journey of ensuring effective remedies for members of the LGBTI community.  Will we avoid the mistakes of the past in forcing alignment with false norms?   We will have some indication from SCOTUS next term.

 

 

 

July 2, 2017 in Gender, Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, LGBT, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Forced Marriage of Minors in the US - A Human Rights Issue

During a recent Boston demonstration against forced marriage of minors, word came that Image1Governor Christie vetoed a bill overwhelmingly passed by the New Jersey legislature that would restrict marriage to those who are age 18 and older - no exceptions.  Among the reasons Christie cited for his veto was that the bill was contrary to some "religious customs".  Those religious customs are part of the silencing of females and undermining their autonomy. 

Forced marriage is something Americans associate with foreign countries.  And when the topic is raised in the US, citizens associate the practice with some immigrant cultures.  While the practice may be more common with certain cultural and religious groups, forced marriage of children is not limited to those born outside of the United States.  "Shotgun" weddings have a long history in US Christian tradition and  resulted in no fewer forced marriages than other religions and cultures.

Unchained At Last was founded by Fraidy Reiss, herself a survivor of forced marriage.  Hers  Image1
was arranged in a conservative religious community and, like the majority of teen marriages, was to an older man who abused her.   After several years, Fraidy was able to escape the abusive marriage with her children.  She attended Rutgers University against her husband's demands and became an investigative journalist.   Fraidy graduated first in her class.  She recognizes that most women are limited in their ability to escape abusive forced marriages due to lack of "finances,  religious law and social customs."  She founded Unchained at Last to assist women in escaping from and resisting forced marriages.  Unchained is leading forced marriage prevention legislation demonstrations across the county

Representative Kay Khan and Senator Harriet Chandler filed a Massachusetts bill that would restrict marriage to those age 18 and older, without exception.  Parents would no longer have the ability to assent to a minor's marriage, judges would have no ability to waive the age requirement and pregnancy would no longer provide justification for underage marriage.  Currently in Massachusetts, there is no minimum age for children to marry with judicial and parental consent.  

May 21, 2017 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Women's Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Advocacy Resurgence

Every new president flounders a bit during the first two years.  This is not dissimilar to what most of us experience in new positions.  The more complex the duties, the longer the adjustment.  Some argue that we should give breathing room to Mr. Trump as he assumes the presidency.  There may not be time to do so as he pledges to move quickly on issues such as health care and immigration. We will need to judge his performance when we see how and whether he actually attempts to implement the agenda promoted during his campaign.  With a Republican congress, whose leaders are now ready to please Trump, some actions could be swift. 

What we do not have to wait to see is the unleashing of the post-election vitriol by some of the Trump supporters. 

Schools are reporting a rise in racist incidents.

As reported here earlier, the damage has been done. Disturbing reports are surfacing and many involve young students.  One woman reports an African American female student being told by her white high school peers that "blacks will be the first ones sent back."  While the statement is absurd, the threat is not. A spike in racial incidents has been reported on college campuses.

Middle and high school age students report misogynistic remarks directed at Secretary Clinton on social media.  One young female student reported boys "Trumping" (grabbing) girls.

President Clinton influenced a generation of young men to believe that anything short of  intercourse is not sex. That position became the mantra of many teens.  President-elect Trump has taken anti-female actions to a new level. Mr. Trump's admitted sexual assaults demonstrate to young boys that similar assaults on their female peers are acceptable, hijacking any hope of ending misogyny.  The disservice to young men is layered.  Living in hate is an uncomfortable and unproductive place to be. Young men are particularly vulnerable to influences promoting their power and prowess. Those young men, however, are now more likely to end up on a sex offender registry for engaging in the very same actions normalized by their president.  

Men and women have taken to protesting in numbers unheard of in recent political history.   There is a new population of human rights advocates willing to take to the streets.  Our challenge is to support those who are willing to publicly voice their opposition and keep the human rights discussion in play.

 

 

November 14, 2016 in Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Misogyny Nation

I am neither surprised nor outraged at the latest disclosed remarks on Trumps physical assaults on women.  I never expected anything other than Mr. Trump's hatred for and abuse of women.  I am sad that as a nation America disrespects women.  

The signs were all there.  A history of calling women pigs, dogs and slobs; two lawsuits against him that allege either rape or attempted rape; assigning wives to traditional roles; disparaging one reporter's disability and another's menstruation, and more.  Combine that with other behavior and comments offending almost every group that is not white, rich and Christian and we Image1have all the indicia of misogyny and racism.  

Why wasn't the previously exposed behavior sufficient to cause the outrage we are now observing?  Because Americans minimize the impact of disrespectful behavior.  I thank the Washington Post for the latest disclosures.  Apparently hateful behavior will be challenged only if extreme.  If Trump is elected president, we could be a long way toward fascism before the populace even considers taking action.   To say nothing of women being exponentially more unsafe from physical assault than they are today. (For a humorous response to this failure to respond  to Trumps earlier disrespectful comments see John Oliver's comments.)


Image1This climate of tolerance and refusal to demand consequences for disrespectful behavior is fertile ground for the elimination of access to basic human rights.  We have traveled a good way down the disrespect road already.   I am not convinced that we will avoid human rights horrors in our future.

Responses to the latest revelations have been universally condemning. This may give us a reprieve from total devolution, but until the country is willing to protect each of us from the indignities of misogyny and dismissiveness, I fear that our travel toward the hateful nation may have slowed, but not stopped.  

 

 

 

October 11, 2016 in Gender Oppression, Gender Violence, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2016

In-Home Made Terrorism

The connection between domestic violence and mass public killings has not been overlooked.  The New York Times published an article on the topic which opened the conversation.  While the article could be read to say that the link is casual and not correlative, the connection is supported by FBI data that 57% of mass killings involved a current or former intimate partner or other family member.  

Nashville saw a near elimination of domestic violence murders, when, under the leadership of Officer Mark Wynn, every domestic violence call was addressed through a SWAT team response.  From the bottom up, our culture needs to shift its focus to take domestic violence as seriously Nashville did.  But that is not our culture.  For example, not every state requires the surrender of firearms when a restraining order enters against a defendant.  Yet federal law makes it a crime for someone subject to a restraining order to be in possession of firearms.  When federal gun laws go unenforced, the state is empowering violent men to do further harm.  Violence prevention is not a valued path in the U.S.

The failure of civil society to aggressively and effectively address intimate partner violence does, not coincidentally, lead to broader societal violence.  Failure to curb gender violence empowers those who are violent.  Violent men often hate women, gays, those of different races and others who do not match their limited sex and identity characteristics.  Confusion over what it means to be a "man" is a common thread for those who harm both women and those who are gender different.  Think Orlando. Religion can be the disguise these men use to execute their hate.  Think ISIS and its culture of sexual violence.  

As a culture we do very little to intervene when we see concerning behaviors developing in our young men.   Ending violence is directly related to how we raise our boys.  Traumatized boys are at risk of becoming violent men.  Traumatized men who are not given the medical, psycho-therapeutic and other supports they need become dangerous to themselves and many others. Think police killings.  We need to rethink our notions of privacy when it comes to children.  What is now considered intrusive will later be fundamental as preventative.

What if we organized the restorative and therapeutic equivalent of a SWAT team?  Imagine how effective intervention might be if children were diverted from thoughts and conditions that lead to violence by a team of loving, skilled professionals  and community members focused only on providing the specific needs of an at-risk child and the child's caregivers.  This may sound Utopian, but until we alter our present system of crisis only intervention for children, we should expect violence to continue in more and more dangerous forms.

 

 

 

July 18, 2016 in Children, Domestic Violence, Gender, Gender Violence, Global Human Rights, Guns, Health, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Orlando - A New Perspective on the Anniversary of Obergefell

By Jeremiah Ho

Image1

For the LGBTQ community, this weekend and the coming week will mark the one-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the pro-gay marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court.  What’s interesting about this moment one year later is not the focus on same-sex marriage controversy.  Such “controversy” is hopefully becoming more and more of a non-starter in terms of legality, but not, on the other hand, in terms of its evolving meaning. 

In a year’s time, we have seen county clerks protesting against issuing marriage licenses; we have seen judges refuse to obey the SCOTUS ruling.  But those dissident voices toward same-sex marriages are gradually quelling.  The rights movement for LGBTQ individuals then shifted toward antidiscrimination and more notably restroom accommodations for transgender people.       

The Orlando gay nightclub shooting—as interpreted by many—takes the moment past discrimination and into the realm of hate.  Because of this shift, it is also a moment to add nuance to the existing sense of what dignity means for the LGBTQ community.  Among other purposes, Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell and Windsor used dignity for drawing a sense of similarity to opposite-sex relationships. In that way, as I’ve written before in other HRAH posts, using dignity to draw similarities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ relationships had a side effect of subordinating LGBTQ identities and diversity in order to achieve the legal argument that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was an act of inequality.     

But post-Obergefell and post-Orlando, the examination of LGBTQ lives can take on dignity in a different way that should affect the next time dignity is used in legal argumentation within a forum to push forward for antidiscrimination.  This carries insight for furthering the notion that gay rights equals human rights.

Recently, whenever a terrorist incident has occurred, the ultimate response beyond the vigils and the symbolic tributes has been to return to normal and persevere with our daily lives as quickly as possible:  to ignite courage and fly on an airplane, to walk past fear and ride to our jobs on the subway, to rally at extraordinary feats of human athleticism at national sporting events.  But what does “return to normal” mean to the community that was attacked two weekends ago, a community that has historically and intrinsically called itself “queer”?  A lot can be said about living normally:  LGBTQ people too take the subway.  They fly on airplanes as well.  They can be known to tailgate.  “Normal” means something deeper here.  “Normal” is gay, queer, straight, and everything in between.  “Normal,” in effect here, means dignity. 

Indeed, this act of terrorism targeted people, in part, because of who they were.  In the middle of Pride month, this gunman held up and silenced his victims in an act of terror—perhaps intending to bully us all—LGBTQ or not—collectively into a closet, where we hold ourselves hostage so no one sees us, where we trade who we are for the false sense of safety, where we can’t dance openly on a Saturday night.

But since the tragedy, the opposite of fear has been the massive response for recognizing gay people and what it means to have this shooting take place at a gay nightclub—a historically safe place for LGBTQ people to be “normal,” to be who they are.  Going forth, this moment should reveal that while people were targeted for their differences, the result was that their humanity and dignity—what we all intrinsically share—was ultimately placed on assault.  Somehow, this side of dignity must be retained in our legal minds and infuse the cases that rely on dignity to further articulate the rights of LGBTQ people.          

For the LGBTQ community, this weekend and the coming week will mark the one-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the pro-gay marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court.  What’s interesting about this moment one year later is not the focus on same-sex marriage controversy.  Such “controversy” is hopefully becoming more and more of a non-starter in terms of legality, but not, on the other hand, in terms of its evolving meaning. 

In a year’s time, we have seen county clerks protesting against issuing marriage licenses; we have seen judges refuse to obey the SCOTUS ruling.  But those dissident voices toward same-sex marriages are gradually quelling.  The rights movement for LGBTQ individuals then shifted toward antidiscrimination and more notably restroom accommodations for transgender people.       

The Orlando gay nightclub shooting—as interpreted by many—takes the moment past discrimination and into the realm of hate.  Because of this shift, it is also a moment to add nuance to the existing sense of what dignity means for the LGBTQ community.  Among other purposes, Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell and Windsor used dignity for drawing a sense of similarity to opposite-sex relationships. In that way, as I’ve written before in other HRAH posts, using dignity to draw similarities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ relationships had a side effect of subordinating LGBTQ identities and diversity in order to achieve the legal argument that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was an act of inequality.     

But post-Obergefell and post-Orlando, the examination of LGBTQ lives can take on dignity in a different way that should affect the next time dignity is used in legal argumentation within a forum to push forward for antidiscrimination.  This carries insight for furthering the notion that gay rights equals human rights.

Recently, whenever a terrorist incident has occurred, the ultimate response beyond the vigils and the symbolic tributes has been to return to normal and persevere with our daily lives as quickly as possible:  to ignite courage and fly on an airplane, to walk past fear and ride to our jobs on the subway, to rally at extraordinary feats of human athleticism at national sporting events.  But what does “return to normal” mean to the community that was attacked two weekends ago, a community that has historically and intrinsically called itself “queer”?  A lot can be said about living normally:  LGBTQ people too take the subway.  They fly on airplanes as well.  They can be known to tailgate.  “Normal” means something deeper here.  “Normal” is gay, queer, straight, and everything in between.  “Normal,” in effect here, means dignity. 

Indeed, this act of terrorism targeted people, in part, because of who they were.  In the middle of Pride month, this gunman held up and silenced his victims in an act of terror—perhaps intending to bully us all—LGBTQ or not—collectively into a closet, where we hold ourselves hostage so no one sees us, where we trade who we are for the false sense of safety, where we can’t dance openly on a Saturday night.

But since the tragedy, the opposite of fear has been the massive response for recognizing gay people and what it means to have this shooting take place at a gay nightclub—a historically safe place for LGBTQ people to be “normal,” to be who they are.  Going forth, this moment should reveal that while people were targeted for their differences, the result was that their humanity and dignity—what we all intrinsically share—was ultimately placed on assault.  Somehow, this side of dignity must be retained in our legal minds and infuse the cases that rely on dignity to further articulate the rights of LGBTQ people.          

For the LGBTQ community, this weekend and the coming week will mark the one-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the pro-gay marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court.  What’s interesting about this moment one year later is not the focus on same-sex marriage controversy.  Such “controversy” is hopefully becoming more and more of a non-starter in terms of legality, but not, on the other hand, in terms of its evolving meaning. 

In a year’s time, we have seen county clerks protesting against issuing marriage licenses; we have seen judges refuse to obey the SCOTUS ruling.  But those dissident voices toward same-sex marriages are gradually quelling.  The rights movement for LGBTQ individuals then shifted toward antidiscrimination and more notably restroom accommodations for transgender people.       

The Orlando gay nightclub shooting—as interpreted by many—takes the moment past discrimination and into the realm of hate.  Because of this shift, it is also a moment to add nuance to the existing sense of what dignity means for the LGBTQ community.  Among other purposes, Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell and Windsor used dignity for drawing a sense of similarity to opposite-sex relationships. In that way, as I’ve written before in other HRAH posts, using dignity to draw similarities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ relationships had a side effect of subordinating LGBTQ identities and diversity in order to achieve the legal argument that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was an act of inequality.     

But post-Obergefell and post-Orlando, the examination of LGBTQ lives can take on dignity in a different way that should affect the next time dignity is used in legal argumentation within a forum to push forward for antidiscrimination.  This carries insight for furthering the notion that gay rights equals human rights.

Recently, whenever a terrorist incident has occurred, the ultimate response beyond the vigils and the symbolic tributes has been to return to normal and persevere with our daily lives as quickly as possible:  to ignite courage and fly on an airplane, to walk past fear and ride to our jobs on the subway, to rally at extraordinary feats of human athleticism at national sporting events.  But what does “return to normal” mean to the community that was attacked two weekends ago, a community that has historically and intrinsically called itself “queer”?  A lot can be said about living normally:  LGBTQ people too take the subway.  They fly on airplanes as well.  They can be known to tailgate.  “Normal” means something deeper here.  “Normal” is gay, queer, straight, and everything in between.  “Normal,” in effect here, means dignity. 

Indeed, this act of terrorism targeted people, in part, because of who they were.  In the middle of Pride month, this gunman held up and silenced his victims in an act of terror—perhaps intending to bully us all—LGBTQ or not—collectively into a closet, where we hold ourselves hostage so no one sees us, where we trade who we are for the false sense of safety, where we can’t dance openly on a Saturday night.

But since the tragedy, the opposite of fear has been the massive response for recognizing gay people and what it means to have this shooting take place at a gay nightclub—a historically safe place for LGBTQ people to be “normal,” to be who they are.  Going forth, this moment should reveal that while people were targeted for their differences, the result was that their humanity and dignity—what we all intrinsically share—was ultimately placed on assault.  Somehow, this side of dignity must be retained in our legal minds and infuse the cases that rely on dignity to further articulate the rights of LGBTQ people.          

For the LGBTQ community, this weekend and the coming week will mark the one-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges, the pro-gay marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court. What’s interesting about this moment one year later is not the focus on same-sex marriage controversy. Such “controversy” is hopefully becoming more and more of a non-starter in terms of legality, but not, on the other hand, in terms of its evolving meaning.

In a year’s time, we have seen county clerks protesting against issuing marriage licenses; we have seen judges refuse to obey the SCOTUS ruling. But those dissident voices toward same-sex marriages are gradually quelling. The rights movement for LGBTQ individuals then shifted toward antidiscrimination and more notably restroom accommodations for transgender people.

The Orlando gay nightclub shooting—as interpreted by many—takes the moment past discrimination and into the realm of hate. Because of this shift, it is also a moment to add nuance to the existing sense of what dignity means for the LGBTQ community. Among other purposes, Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell and Windsor used dignity for drawing a sense of similarity to opposite-sex relationships. In that way, as I’ve written before in other HRAH posts, using dignity to draw similarities between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ relationships had a side effect of subordinating LGBTQ identities and diversity in order to achieve the legal argument that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was an act of inequality.

But post-Obergefell and post-Orlando, the examination of LGBTQ lives can take on dignity in a different way that should affect the next time dignity is used in legal argumentation within a forum to push forward for antidiscrimination. This carries insight for furthering the notion that gay rights equals human rights.

Recently, whenever a terrorist incident has occurred, the ultimate response beyond the vigils and the symbolic tributes has been to return to normal and persevere with our daily lives as quickly as possible: to ignite courage and fly on an airplane, to walk past fear and ride to our jobs on the subway, to rally at extraordinary feats of human athleticism at national sporting events. But what does “return to normal” mean to the community that was attacked two weekends ago, a community that has historically and intrinsically called itself “queer”? A lot can be said about living normally: LGBTQ people too take the subway. They fly on airplanes as well. They can be known to tailgate. “Normal” means something deeper here. “Normal” is gay, queer, straight, and everything in between. “Normal,” in effect here, means dignity.

Indeed, this act of terrorism targeted people, in part, because of who they were. In the middle of Pride month, this gunman held up and silenced his victims in an act of terror—perhaps intending to bully us all—LGBTQ or not—collectively into a closet, where we hold ourselves hostage so no one sees us, where we trade who we are for the false sense of safety, where we can’t dance openly on a Saturday night.

But since the tragedy, the opposite of fear has been the massive response for recognizing gay people and what it means to have this shooting take place at a gay nightclub—a historically safe place for LGBTQ people to be “normal,” to be who they are. Going forth, this moment should reveal that while people were targeted for their differences, the result was that their humanity and dignity—what we all intrinsically share—was ultimately placed on assault. Somehow, this side of dignity must be retained in our legal minds and infuse the cases that rely on dignity to further articulate the rights of LGBTQ people.

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June 28, 2016 in Equality, Gender Violence, Jeremiah Ho | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sexual Assault at Westpoint: Leadership's Disregard of Human Rights

 Recently, a former West Point cadet filed suit based upon sexual harassment and sexual assault she suffered during her time at the academy.  The complaint describes not a system of neglect in failing to safe guard female cadets, but a deliberate failure to protect cadets from sexual assault while placing the burden of prevention on women. 

An amicus brief filed by Sandra Park of the ACLU outlines the lack of administrative response to sexual assault and other gender based harassment and violence.  Among the practices engaged in at the academy are the following:

        Permitted sexist chanting and comments directed toward female cadets.

        Provided sexual assault training that placed the burden on women.

        Required mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases for female cadets only.

        Ignored the Department of Defense's directives on sexual assault reporting.

        Fostered a system of retaliation against sexual assault survivors who filed complaints.

        In 2010, the Department of Defense found that 51% of female cadets  experienced gender related harassment.

        The same study found that 94% of female cadets experienced sexist behavior.

        In the same year, 9% of female cadets reported experiencing sexual assault.

        94% of those women reported their assailant as a fellow cadet.

The Defendants in the case, both of whom were responsible for cadet conduct and sexual harassment prevention, are, in the words of the amicus brief, "subject to suit for creating the policies and customs that caused or permitted the violation of Doe's equal protection right to an education free from sex discrimination."  The court has permitted this equal protection complaint to proceed.  The government has appealed, which resulted in the amicus brief filed on behalf of the ACLU and others.

Citing human rights law, the ACLU argues that "the right to state protection from gender-based violence and a government's concomitant due diligence obligation to effectively prevent, respond to, and remedy such violence is now so universally accepted that it has acquired the status of customary human rights law."

 Indeed, "gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination within the meaning of article 1 of [CEDAW]."

One question asked at one of the presidential debates is whether or not the candidates favored including women in any potential draft.  The answer that none of the candidates gave is that until the military protects members of vulnerable populations from sexual assault, the question is premature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2016 in Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Military | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Policing and Gender Violence

by Julie Goldscheid 

 Advocates, service providers, attorneys, and people working in membership-based organizations were invited to share stories and recommendations regarding policing and domestic violence and sexual assault in response to a nationwide survey that was open for a one-month period in April to May 2015.  More than 900 people responded. 

Our report, Responses from the Field: Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Policing, captures their responses.   While respondents told us about promising practices, most of which included significant collaborations between law enforcement and advocates, overall, we heard very discouraging stories.   Respondents reported significant police racial and ethnic bias, as well as bias on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity, poverty, immigration status, language, and against victims who have a criminal history including sex workers.  They described how contact with the police has negative collateral consequences for victims including in immigration, child protective services involvement, and economic consequences.  Respondents also reported that a significant number of victims have goals that do not align with those of the criminal justice system including the desire to seek a non-punitive intervention, the need to “move on” coupled with the expectation that criminal justice involvement will be lengthy and (re)traumatizing, and the fear that they would lose control of the process. 

For additional information, see the report, at the link above, and the blogpost at Move to End Violence, written by co-authors Sandra Park, ACLU, Donna Coker, University of Miami School of Law, and me.  We welcome your feedback, comments, and suggestions for re-thinking the role of the criminal justice system within efforts to end gender-based violence. 

November 30, 2015 in Criminal Justice, Gender Violence, Police | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

State College, PA Joins the Human Rights Movement

Prof. Jill Engle reported the following:  Joining a growing national movement,  the Mayor of State College and the City Council declared Freedom from Domestic Violence a Fundamental Human Right and adopted a declaration that provides chilling statistics on the frequency of domestic violence.  One statistic that is particularly disturbing is the range of age- 2o days to 92 years- of those who were killed because of family violence.

Prof. Engle was joined in this endeavor by Courtney Kiehl, a former student and current fellow in the Family Law Clinic directed by Prof. Engle.  Courtney gives her personal account of her commitment to the project:

I came to law school because of my experience working with victim-survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  I’ve seen cuts, bruises, scars, and fingers that had been broken so many times that the bones would never lay straight again. I’ve seen the emotional impact that goes far past the skin’s surface, the relentless fear, devastation, broken hearts and families.  I’ve held the hands of young children as I walked them in to the courtroom and I’ve sat beside them as they testified about the violence they’d seen.  For over a decade, this has been my world.  I’ve dedicated myself to one mission, one goal: creating a world free from gender-based violence. 

 On October 12, 2015, that goal moved a little closer when my university town of State College, Pennsylvania joined the growing list of local government bodies across the country that have declared it is a fundamental human right to live free from domestic violence.  These proclamations raise awareness and demonstrate support for a new, human rights-based approach to domestic violence.  Further, these proclamations highlight the responsibility of local government to address domestic violence while acknowledging the important role they play in keeping their citizens safe.

 The human rights proclamation was a policy project started by students in Penn State Law’s Family Law Clinic, where I’m currently doing a fellowship.  In 2013 a clinic client, Tracy Raymond Miscavish, was killed by her estranged husband.  This project has been deeply important to me and to each student who has worked on it.

During my second year of law school, I was fortunate enough to be a student in the Family Law Clinic .  When Professor Engle told our class about this policy project, I knew I had to be a part of it.  As previously mentioned, I’ve been working with victim-survivors for nearly 12 years now.  While that might not seem like a very long time, I’m currently 25 years old and I know lawyers aren’t great at math, but that’s nearly half of my life.  This proclamation might seem like just another piece of paper, but to me, Professor Engle and the other students who’ve worked on this project, it is so much more.  It’s an acknowledgement of the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in our community.  It’s a message to all victim-survivors and to past and present clients telling them that they are supported and no one in any circumstance, not any human being deserves to be abused.  It’s a win, and we need all of those that we can get.

 

November 10, 2015 in Domestic Violence, Gender Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)