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Poised to Affirm Fairness in All Four States, the Sixth Circuit Takes Up Marriage Equality

Posted by Lauren Khouri, Fellow | Posted on: July 17, 2014 at 09:45 am

Protection of basic individual rights has had a tough time as of late in the courts. Marriage equality, however, is a happy exception, sweeping through the courts with extraordinary unanimity. The Supreme Court started the trend last June in United States v. Windsor. In Windsor, the Court overturned as unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. Since then, every federal court to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans has found the state laws unconstitutional. Next up are the rights of same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—the four states over which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction—with five district court cases under review by that court.

In Tennessee, married same-sex couples are looking to have their validly-performed, out-of-state marriages recognized in their home state. In Ohio, one case is seeking to have valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples recognized for the purposes of death certificates, and the other case is seeking the same recognition rights for birth certificates. In Michigan and Kentucky, same-sex couples are seeking the right to marry in their states. In all cases, the district courts found the challenged marriage bans and marriage recognition bans unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Title IX Stands With Jada, Too

Posted by Lauren Khouri, Fellow | Posted on: July 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

“There’s no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”

These are the words of courageous 16-year-old Jada. Jada was drugged and raped at a party of a fellow high school student. She had no recollection of the event, but became aware of it when friends began texting her to ask if she was okay. She then realized that photos and videos of her assault were going viral on social media. As if that wasn’t horrible enough, people started mocking her assault by posting photos, tweets, and videos imitating Jada while she was unconscious, using the hashtag #jadapose.

 With incredible bravery, Jada is speaking out and saying she will not hide and that she is angry about what has happened to her. And Jada’s not the only one. Thousands are taking to social media to express their outrage, show support for Jada, and challenge the all-too-common rape culture. With the hashtag #jadacounterpose, people are saying they stand with Jada.

Jada, Title IX stands with you, too.

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Pushed Out of Work Because of Pregnancy? Not On Our Watch, Says EEOC

Posted by Emily Werth, Fellow | Posted on: July 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

A lot has changed for pregnant women in the workforce since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed over 35 years ago. More women are working during pregnancy, and into later stages of pregnancy. And formal policies that purport to prohibit pregnant women from working outright have largely disappeared.

But unfortunately that doesn’t mean that we have seen the end of unfair treatment of pregnant workers. Workers continue to be forced out of their jobs because of pregnancy. In particular, they are often denied temporary job adjustments for which they have a medical need during pregnancy – even when their employers will honor the needs of employees who have non-pregnancy-related disabilities or injuries. As a result, pregnant workers are too often forced into an untenable choice between risking their health and their pregnancy or losing their income at precisely the moment their families can least afford it.

Yesterday the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sent a strong message to employers that treat pregnant workers like second-class citizens in this way: you are breaking the law.

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Hobby Lobby: A "Perfect Storm" to Galvanize the Public

Posted by Sharon Levin, Director of Federal Reproductive Health Policy | Posted on: July 14, 2014 at 01:35 pm

Although I was expecting a strong public outcry after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, the depth and breadth of the outrage has surprised me. People who have never expressed an interest in women’s issues are posting about it on Facebook and asking me questions about the case. Friends who have a passing interest in reproductive rights have reached out to me to find out what they can do and where they can donate.

I think the reason for this wide-spread outrage is that in the Hobby Lobby decision, several different long-term attacks on individual liberties all come together. Just as three different weather fronts collided to make the 1991 “Perfect Storm” that is the subject of the book and film of the same name, three different “fronts” collide in the Court’s decision as well:

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Not Backing Down: Minnesota Home Care Workers Move Forward With Union Vote

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: July 11, 2014 at 04:23 pm

The Supreme Court might not get it, but workers do. 

The Court's decision in Harris v. Quinn came down just last week, and we're still learning how the ruling will impact home care and child care unions around the country. But let's be honest: The end of fair share fees for some unions is a major blow to the overwhelmingly female and poorly paid workers who fill these roles. Even the most supportive op-eds have been depressing, noting (rightly!) that the Court "discussed the unionized workers as if they were lumps of clay" rather than workers who voted for unionization and stating that the opinion means "disadvantaged workers should be disadvantaged some more." 

Right now, with so much at stake for workers who found a voice at the table after being isolated and underpaid, it's hard to find a silver lining. Amazingly, though, some workers have done just that. 

The same day the Harris decision was announced, home care workers in Minnesota vowed to keep fighting for better working conditions and high-quality care for the people they serve.

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With Broad Bipartisan Support, Congress Takes Step to Build 21st Century Workforce

Posted by Lauren Khouri, Fellow | Posted on: July 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with overwhelming bipartisan support. WIOA, which reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), reforms federally-funded workforce training programs to create opportunities for many workers and their families. WIOA passed the Senate with a bipartisan 95 to 3 vote, and House Republicans and Democrats alike followed suit, voting 415 to 6 to send the bill to President Obama for his signature. 

WIA, originally passed in 1998, authorized a federally funded workforce development system and created holistic career centers, in which employers and jobseekers can access a wide array of employment and training services. For 16 years it has helped individuals with barriers to employment enter and remain in the workforce. WIOA updates and modernizes job-training programs, and will help improve employment opportunities for women, low-income adults, low-income youth, and dislocated workers. This increased access to high-wage, high-skilled occupations will promote an economy that enables long-term financial sustainability for women and their families. 

Yet our work is not done. It is an unfortunate reality that more and more women and their families are falling behind in today's economy.

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The Working Families Child Care Act Aims to Help Families with Young Children

Posted by Therese Salazar, Intern | Posted on: July 10, 2014 at 02:31 pm

The first three years of a child's life are crucial for brain growth and development. Yet affordable, high-quality care for infants and toddlers is extremely hard to find, particularly for families with limited incomes. Nearly one in five (19.2 percent) working mothers of very young children are employed in low-wage jobs. These families often struggle to afford the reliable, nurturing care that parents need to work while ensuring their children's well-being. 

So what can be done to help give more infants and toddlers access to the high-quality care that fosters their growth and development? The Working Families Child Care Act takes a step in the right direction. 

The bill (HR. 5000), which is sponsored by Representative Lois Frankel and 64 co-sponsors at last count, would provide $2 billion in mandatory funding to states to help low-income families with infants and toddlers pay for child care and increase payments rates to child care providers serving these families. Additional funding would be available to states for initiatives to increase the supply of high-quality care for infants and toddlers. 

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ICYMI: Cheryl Krause Confirmed to Third Circuit Seat This Week

Posted by Amy K. Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts | Posted on: July 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Late Monday afternoon, the Senate confirmed Cheryl Krause to a Pennsylvania-based seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by a vote of 93-0. Her confirmation brings the number of active female judges on this court back up to 3 (out of 13 judges). In addition, now-Judge Krause is the fourth consecutive female Court of Appeals judge to be confirmed, bringing the percentage of active female federal appellate court judges to almost 34 percent. 

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