Tuesday, April 27, 2021
As I was preparing for a talk on the history of women's suffrage, I revisited some of the scholarship on women voting in early New Jersey. This history jumped out at me in new ways this time for several key points asserted by the scholars studying it:
1. Women's suffrage was a deliberate, intentional political act in the 1776 New Jersey Constitution
- The Constitution includes "all inhabitants."
- A 1790 Election Reform Act defined electors as "he or she."
- The parties - Patriots, Federalists, and Republicans -- were divided in New Jersey and battled for power, seeking women to increase their support. More generally, these American parties sought to attract support for the American Revolution generally by including women, opposing the Tories loyal to England who could not vote.
See Judith Apter Klingoffer & Lois Elkis, "The Petticoat Electors": Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776-1807, 12 J. Early Republic 159 (1992)
Campbell Curry-Ledbetter, https://www.law.georgetown.edu/gender-journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/20Womens Suffrage in New-Jersey,1776-1807: A Political Weapon, XXI Georgetown J. Gender & Law 705 (2020)
New Jersey Let (Some) Women Vote from 1776 to 1807, JSTOR Daily (Mar. 2, 2020)
2. There is new evidence of women voting in significant numbers, between 7-14% of the voters
See On the Trail of America's First Women to Vote, NY Times (Feb. 24, 2020)
There were property qualifications for voting - 50 pounds and land. This excluded married women, who under coverture could not own property. So the eligible female voters were femme soles (unmarried women) and widows. As one lawmaker wrote in a newspaper in 1800: “Our constitution gives this right to maids and widows, white and black."
3. Women were disenfranchise because they were portrayed as the source of voter fraud, because women were pliable, easily manipulated, not independent political actors and thus were mere political pawns. This rationalized their official legislative disenfranchisement. Lucy Stone later condemned this "scapegoating" of women, and its legacy suggesting women were illegitimate as voters. The fraud claims certain offer some interesting parallels to voter disenfranchisement today. See Klinghoffer & Elkis, supra; Curry-Ledbetter, supra.
Friday, April 23, 2021
My latest article on the history and meaning of the 19th Amendment.
Part of the symposium with many great scholars in law, history, and gender including Jessica Clarke, Jill Hasday, Martha Jones, Serena Mayeri, Kyle Velte, Barbara Welke, and Joan Williams.
Tracy Thomas, Reclaiming the Long History of the "Irrelevant" Nineteenth Amendment, 105 Minnesota L.Rev. 101 (2021)
The Nineteenth Amendment has been called an “irrelevant” amendment. The women’s suffrage amendment has been deemed insignificant as a constitutional authority, reduced to a historical footnote. In the Supreme Court canon, it has been diminished as a text that “merely gives the vote to women.” With the accomplishment of that simple task, the amendment has been assumed to offer little guidance to modern constitutional analysis or gender equality. The Nineteenth Amendment has become a “constitutional orphan,” disconnected from its historical origins and precedential place in constitutional jurisprudence.
This constricting view of the Nineteenth Amendment ignores the structural implications and significant history of this gendered amendment and women’s seventy-two-year fight for equal citizenship. Historical and legal narratives fail to capture a full understanding of the factual, legal, and normative steps and effects of the amendment. This article seeks to correct that conventional narrative by offering a more inclusive, yet concise, overview of the Nineteenth Amendment. The history demonstrates women’s longstanding demands for equal rights, the complexity of those demands, and the depths and racial tones of the opposition. The article then argues that this constitutional history is relevant to interpreting constitutional guarantees of gender equality today. Using historical justifications, it joins other legal scholars in arguing for a more robust reading and constitutional meaning of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
A new law in Utah makes biological fathers responsible for half of the out-of-pocket costs a woman incurs during pregnancy and childbirth, a policy that some experts say falls short in addressing the burden of such expenses.
Experts and women’s health advocates say the new law highlights the high cost of prenatal care, but may leave the burden on women to seek financial support. They point to broader resources such as expanded health coverage they say would better help pregnant women. The bill has also been praised by antiabortion groups who argue that it could reduce the number of women seeking the procedure.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that pregnancy related costs are significant and that the burden of those costs should be shared,” said Alina Salganicoff, senior vice president and director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But I think there are other ways that legislators can develop policies that protect women from out of pocket costs.”...
The bill would require a biological father to pay 50 percent of a woman’s out-of-pocket medical costs during pregnancy, including insurance premiums and other pregnancy-related costs such as a hospital birth. The bill notes that if the paternity of a child is disputed, a biological father would only be responsible for a share of the costs after paternity is confirmed. The bill also adds that the biological father would not be responsible for sharing the financial cost if the woman receives an abortion, unless the abortion is necessary to avoid death, or if the pregnancy was a result of rape or of incest.
Ohio's ban on abortions after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome doesn't violate a woman's ability to obtain an abortion, a divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The law, passed by Ohio's Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. John Kasich in 2017, imposes criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions if they're aware that a Down syndrome diagnosis, or the possibility of a diagnosis, is the reason for seeking the abortion. The penalty is a fourth-degree felony.
Four abortion providers filed suit: Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, Women's Med, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and a doctor. The law was blocked by a federal judge in March 2018, and the case has been tied up in federal court ever since.
On Tuesday, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 that Ohio's law did not "create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s ability to choose or obtain an abortion." The appeals court reversed the injunction blocking the law from taking effect.
The court ruled that a woman's right to an abortion is not absolute. Ohio's law, which prevents a doctor from performing an abortion because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, is not an undue burden on the woman, wrote Judge Alice Batchelder, who was nominated by former President George H. W. Bush.
By preventing the doctor from joining the woman as a knowing accomplice to her Down syndrome-selective decision making, House Bill 214 prevents this woman from making the doctor a knowing participant (accomplice) in her decision to abort her pregnancy because her fetus has Down syndrome," Batchelder wrote. "As limitations or prohibitions go, this is specific and narrow."
Batchelder said the law only prevented doctors from knowingly performing an abortion because of Down syndrome, but if the woman doesn't provide a reason, the abortion could still proceed.
The decision is here: Pre-Term Cleveland v. McCloud (6th Cir. en banc Apr. 13, 2021)
Monday, April 12, 2021
Ninth Circuit Rules Woman Eligible for Asylum Because Domestic Abusers Persecuted her for Feminist Opinions
woman who was persecuted by domestic abusers because of a feminist political opinion is eligible for asylum in the United States, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
Asylum applicant Maria Luisa Rodriguez Tornes didn’t have to show that her feminist opinions played the sole or predominant role in her domestic abuse, according to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco. Rather, she only had to show that her political opinion was “one central reason” in the abuse.
Judge Susan Graber, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, wrote the April 5 panel opinion.
The Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals had found that Rodriguez Tornes was protected under the Convention Against Torture. But the immigration appeals board ruled against her on the feminism claim, holding that there were no findings that Rodriguez Tornes was abused for reasons unrelated to the relationship.
The 9th Circuit disagreed on the feminism claim, finding that Rodriguez Tornes had presented evidence to show that she was persecuted because of her political opinion.
“The record contains episode after episode of men stating, quite plainly, that they were beating, burning, raping and strangling her because she sought an equal perch in the social hierarchy,” Graber wrote.
An immigration judge had found that the Mexican government would acquiesce in Rodriguez Tornes’ torture, which means that the government would also be unwilling to stop future persecution by domestic abusers, the appeals court said.
Rodriguez Tornes had alleged that she was first beaten by her mother, partly to prepare her for future beatings by her husband. Her husband also beat her, according to the appeals court. On one occasion, he stuck a lit cigarette into her arm at 1 a.m. and ordered her to cook. When she refused, he dragged her by her hair into the kitchen. On another occasion, he burned her face with a cigarette because she refused to leave her teaching job.
[See rest of article]
Between 1900 and 1956, women increased from a small proportion of public company stockholders in the U.S. to the majority. In fact, by the 1929 stock market crash, women stockholders outnumbered men at some of America’s largest and most influential public companies, including AT&T, General Electric, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This Article makes an original contribution to corporate law, business history, women’s history, socio-economics, and the study of capitalism by synthesizing information from a range of historical sources to reveal a forgotten and overlooked narrative of history, the feminization of capital—the transformation of American public company stockholders from majority-male to majority-female in the first half of the twentieth century, before the rise of institutional investing obscured the gender politics of corporate control.
Corporate law scholarship has never before acknowledged that the early decades of the twentieth century, a transformational era in corporate law and theory, coincided with a major change in the gender of the stockholder class. Scholars have not considered the possibility that the sex of common stockholders, which was being tracked internally at companies, disclosed in annual reports, and publicly reported in the financial press, might have influenced business leaders’ views about corporate organization and governance. This Article considers the implications of this history for some of the most important ideas in corporate law theory, including the “separation of ownership and control,” shareholder “passivity,” stakeholderism, and board representation. It argues that early-twentieth-century gender politics helped shape foundational ideas of corporate governance theory, especially ideas concerning the role of shareholders. Outlining a research agenda where history intersects with corporate law’s most vital present-day problems, the Article lays out the evidence and invites the corporate law discipline to begin a conversation about gender, power, and the evolution of corporate law.
Reva Siegel, Why Restrict Abortion? Expanding the Frame on June Medical, 2020 SUP . CT. REV. (forthcoming 2021)
As the Supreme Court prepares to roll back protections for the abortion right, this Article analyzes the logic of pro-life constitutionalism in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo.
I expand the frame on the admitting privileges law in June Medical to examine the logic of woman-protective health-justified restrictions on abortion. Do these laws protect women or the unborn—and how? By considering the history of the admitting privileges law at issue in June Medical and locating it in broader policy context, we can see how Louisiana legislators who restricted abortion to protect women’s health equated women’s health with motherhood; they supported laws that pushed women into motherhood while declining to enact laws that provided for the health of pregnant women and the children they might bear. Expanding the frame on Louisiana’s pro-woman pro-life law shows us sex-role stereotyping in action, and demonstrates the intersectional injuries it can inflict.
From this vantage point, we can see that judges who refuse to scrutinize pro-life law making—on the grounds that it would involve judges in politics—help legitimate the claims about protecting women’s health that supposedly justify the abortion restrictions, while revising the meaning of the Constitution’s liberty and equality guarantees. Reading the doctrinal debate in June Medical in this context identifies open and hidden efforts to roll back protections for the abortion right—and suggests how the Supreme Court that President Donald Trump helped fashion values women, health, life, truth, and democracy.
Ann McGinley, Masculinities Theory as Impetus for Change in Feminism and Law, THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF FEMINISM AND LAW IN THE UNITED STATES (Deborah L. Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna L. Williams, eds.).
Feminist legal scholars have found much in the field of masculinities to enrich the feminist analysis of law. In drawing on and incorporating masculinities theories into legal feminism, feminist scholars have added their own insight into the meaning of “masculinities.” As Nancy Dowd, Nancy Levit, and Ann McGinley explain: “Masculinities” has multiple meanings. First, it is a structure that gives men as a group power over women as a group. Second it is a set of practices, designed to maintain group power, that are considered “masculine.” Third, it is the engagement in or “doing” of these masculine practices by men or women. Finally, the term refers to a body of theory and scholarship by gender experts in various fields of social science.
Although masculinities originated in fields outside of law, legal scholars have adopted insights raised by masculinities scholars, combined with those of feminist theory, queer theory, and critical race theory, to develop a legal theory of masculinities that proposes new legal interpretations and policies that better correspond to the lived experiences of persons of different genders, races, and classes. This chapter explores how masculinities research has influenced legal feminism in the U.S.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
I had always hated Hemingway. He was, after all, the classic misogynist.
It seemed I was forced to read Hemingway every year in school. Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Old Man and the Sea. I read them all, against my will. To me they were boring stories about men. The words were short, cold, and devoid of beauty or lyricism. The topics were harsh and violent -- masculine topics of war, bullfighting, and big game hunting. Moreover, the works were filled with hateful depictions of women. Women were crazy harpies, tempting devils, or dead mothers. In Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical accounts, women were merely the women objects of antipathy, perhaps like the many wives that he continually traded in like cars.
So when I heard that PBS was featuring a new documentary series on Hemingway, I rolled my eyes and thought, “how tone deaf.” How misguided to hear yet again about a privileged white man, and one who had already received his acclaim. In this time of intense public debate of race and gender, in this time when so many women and people of color have not yet been recovered, why return to the same old story. For indeed, I had not encountered even famous writers like Zora Huston Neale or Daphne du Maurier until my own independent reading, long after school. But, like so many things that one dismisses, I discovered more complexity and nuance in Hemingway’s story, particular in the realm of gender.
The film reveals Hemingway not as a model of masculinity, but as a man battling with his own masculinity. Understanding this as toxic masculinity, changed the narrative for me. We learn of Hemingway’s Freudian early years with a mother who wrote him a rejection letter, and dressed him like a twin to his sister. We then understand his early attraction to two older woman, maternal figures, one of whom becomes his first wife. We see the author constrained by family demands--fighting for the time to write and feed his creative muse, diverted by screaming babies, marital demands, and unpaid bills until he can get alone, on the road or with his thoughts. This is all juxtaposed against the raucous pull of the popular writing crowd, with their carousing and attention-seeking affairs.
The film also shows us a broader range of topics that occupied Hemingway’s mind beyond bulls, bullets, and booze. One of his earliest stories, Up in Michigan, was about date rape. A shocking story that barely saw the publishing light, writer Edna O’Brien explains as actually told from the woman’s perspective, which is why it was so powerful. He wrote about abortion, suicide, STDs, childbirth, Caesarean sections, and death in childbirth – grim accounts of women (and men’s) reality. A later work, published posthumously, engages with transgender and same-sex attraction.
The short words took on new meaning for me as well. Rather than just a mimic of his journalism years, the short words were explained as a revolution in writing that left behind conventional indicators of writing prowess. I discovered the beauty of the short form, in the repetition of the same words that function as the action itself, as when repeating words form the march of the soldiers. Right, left, right, left, right, left. Like lawyers learning the impact of plain, unaffected writing, I could now appreciate the power of the staccato, and what the film describes as musical. The film reveals these words slowly on the screen, literally showing us the beauty of the typed word as Jeff Daniels' voice-over reads aloud.
This all came together for me in the discussion of the short story, Hills Like White Elephants. In this story, a man pressures his lover, “the girl,” to get an abortion. Most of the story is the man controlling the conversation, working through various points to win the argument, eventually gaslighting his partner, claiming, “I only want what you want.” He is dismissive of the way in which the young woman sees the world, whether its her vision of the looming white elephants overshadowing their lives or the personal and relational consequences of the abortion. Eventually, the young woman demands: "Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?"
PBS, Video, Hemingway, Gender and Identity
Friday, April 2, 2021
In an effort to further restrict abortion in Tennessee, two state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow a father to deny an abortion without the pregnant woman's consent.
The bill, sponsored by state Republicans Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton, would give a man who gets a woman pregnant the veto power to an abortion by petitioning a court for an injunction against the procedure.
Tennessee lawmakers already passed one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws last year, although much of it is held up with legal challenges from abortion rights advocates. The ongoing court battle could stretch for months if not years.
Despite the outlook for potential lawsuits, state lawmakers appear adamant in pushing for stricter abortion laws this legislative session. Including Pody and Sexton's legislation, six bills to further restrict abortion have been filed this year
Pody said Wednesday that he introduced his bill after a Tennessee resident expressed concerns that fathers do not have a say over abortion under the current law. He said his bill would assure fathers' right to make a decision about an unborn child.
"I believe a father should have a right to say what's gonna be happening to that child," Pody said
The US Supreme Court declared a spousal veto to be unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood of Missouri v. Danforth (1976), and spousal notification to be unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).
Sixth Circuit Allows Professor's First Amendment Suit to Proceed, Challenging Discipline for Refusal to use Transgender Student's Preferred Pronouns
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a First Amendment lawsuit by a public college professor in Ohio who violated school policy by refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns.
The 6th Circuit ruled for Shawnee State University philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether in a March 26 opinion by Judge Amul Thapar, an appeals court appointee of President Donald Trump. Thapar was viewed as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee during Trump’s presidency.
Meriwether, a devout Christian, believed God created humans as male or female, and said using preferred pronouns to refer to a student in his class violated his religious beliefs.
The student had protested after Meriwether referred to her as “sir.” University policy required professors to use students’ preferred pronouns, and Meriwether received a written warning.
Meriwether proposed a compromise where he would refer to the student only by her last name. At first it was accepted, but was later rejected. The university said Meriwether should either stop using all sex-based pronounds in his classroom, or he should refer to the transgender student as a female.
Meriwether sued for free speech and free exercise violations under the First Amendment, and due process and equal protection violations of the 14th Amendment. A federal judge tossed the claims, but the 6th Circuit reversed as to the First Amendment claims.
March Madness Could Spark a Title IX Reckoning, The Atlantic
The gender inequality in college sports runs far deeper than a few social-media posts can reveal. As Cheryl Cooky, a professor studying sport sociology at Purdue University, told me in a recent phone conversation: “The problem is not the weight room itself, but what kind of groundwork has been laid that produced this moment where the weight-room controversy occurred. Nobody looked at that space and said, ‘Something’s not right here.’ It took someone posting on social media to bring attention to the issue.”
Although the NCAA is a nonprofit that organizes athletic tournaments for college athletes, it acts more like a professional-sports organization. And the deeply entrenched sexism in intercollegiate sports means that male athletes are treated with red-carpet fanfare, and women are treated as second-class citizens. That swag-bag gear, forinstance? The women’s paraphernalia doesn’t say march madness, because the NCAA refuses to use the name of its highly marketable men’s tournament to refer to the parallel women’s tournament, which is held at the same time. If you download the NCAA March Madness Live app, you might be under the impression that the women’s tournament doesn’t exist at all—no women’s schedule, bracket, or game highlights are available. This is the first year in which the entirety of the women’s tournament will be shown on national television, whereas the men’s tournament has been taking over airwaves for decades. And still, Sunday’s women’s championship game will be available only on ESPN, while the men’s championship game will air on CBS, a national broadcast network, making their game more widely available.
Broadcast and advertising deals are private-market decisions. But these issues involve student athletes, who are playing for schools beholden to Title IX—the statute that prohibits gender inequality at any educational institution receiving federal financial assistance (basically every school in the NCAA, via student financial aid). So is it legal that the NCAA calls its women’s tournament by a different (and far less marketable) name? Or that the broadcast deals it strikes for the men’s tournament are so much larger than those for the women’s? According to the Supreme Court’s decision in NCAA v. Smith, it is.
In 1999, the Court ruled that, although the NCAA runs sports tournaments for schools—and collects money from those schools—the league itself does not receive direct funds from the federal government. But Neena Chaudhry, the general counsel and senior adviser for education at the National Women’s Law Center, says a legal argument could be made that the NCAA should be held to Title IX when it comes to these tournaments. Chaudhry, who worked on NCAA v. Smith, has successfully argued at the state level that high schools have essentially given sports leagues controlling authority over their federally funded athletic programs.
. . . .
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Kyle Velte, The Nineteenth Amendment as a Generative Tool for Defeating LGBT Religious Exemptions, Minnesota L. Rev. (forthcoming)
In the summer of 1920, women gained the right to be free from discrimination in voting when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. One hundred years later, in the summer of 2020, LGBT people gained the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII. Yet, LGBT people continue to face discrimination in many contexts, a prominent example of which is the national campaign by Christian business owners to obtain religious exemptions from state public accommodation laws. What does women’s suffrage have to do with today’s religious exemption debates? This Article contends that there is a through-line from a radical, antisubordination strand of the history of the Nineteenth Amendment to today’s fight over religious exemptions from SOGI antidiscrimination laws.
The antisubordination strand of Nineteenth Amendment history envisioned women’s suffrage as about more than just the right to cast a ballot. This capacious view of the Nineteenth Amendment—as a means of dismantling sex-based hierarchies and ensuring full citizenship rights regardless of sex—would allow women to engage in all aspects of life, both political and civic. Between the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and today’s battles over SOGI religious exemptions stands 100 years of sex discrimination law. That era saw state legislatures enact public accommodation laws prohibiting sex discrimination in the public square; these laws extended to women the right of civic engagement and thus full citizenship. This body of sex discrimination law included the Court’s 1984 decision in Roberts v. United States Jaycees, which involved a challenge to one such law. The Jaycees Court upheld a public accommodation law against a claim that enforcement of the law—which would compel the Jaycees organization to admit women as full members—would violate the Jaycees’ First Amendment free speech rights. The Court reasoned that states have a compelling interest in eradicating sex discrimination in public. Jaycees expands the reach of the equality-enhancing aspect of the suffrage movement. It embodies the antisubordination strand of the women’s suffrage movement and stiches it into the fabric of the legal doctrine governing sex discrimination.
In today’s religious exemption cases, the Christian business owners argue that although the state has a compelling interest in eradicating race discrimination in the public square, it does not have a compelling interest in eradicating SOGI discrimination. This distinction, they argue, dictates that an exemption be granted vis-à-vis SOGI discrimination, even though such an exemption would be rejected vis-à-vis race discrimination. Bostock is the contemporary bridge that connects Jaycees to the SOGI religious exemption cases. Jaycees, in turn is the bridge back to the radical strand of the Nineteenth Amendment’s history: The Nineteenth Amendment was generative not simply of the right to vote, but of a commitment to full citizenship rights regardless of sex. That equality was formalized in state public accommodation laws, which Jaycees teaches serve a compelling state interest. Bostock, when coupled with Jaycees, directs the same conclusion for public accommodation laws that prohibit SOGI discrimination, namely that such laws serve a compelling state interest that defeats claims for religious exemptions.