When applying to college several years ago, I was privileged to be able to consider women’s colleges without being concerned that my gender identity would present any problem in the application process. This is because I am cisgender – a term used for people who have a gender identity that “matches” the sex they were assigned at birth. For transgender applicants like Calliope Wong, things were more complicated.
Calliope, who identifies as a transgender woman, applied with high hopes to Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts. Her application was returned to her, unreviewed, with a letter from the admissions office that because her federal financial aid paperwork indicated her sex as male, they could not accept her application.
It's marriage equality week! Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which revoked same-sex couples' right to marry in California. The day after that, the Court will consider the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which provides that same-sex married couples cannot be considered "married" under federal law. There are lots of reasons why we will be watching these cases closely. In human terms, both cases have could have a dramatic impact on the lives of same-sex couples. Indeed, they have the potential to be historic civil rights milestones — moments when the arc of the universe curves toward justice. Read more »
For forty years, the Supreme Court has held that the government may not impose laws that treat men and women differently based on an ‘interest’ in perpetuating traditional gender roles. The Court should also hold that the government may not decide who is permitted to marry based on traditional gender stereotypes about who men and women should love, the National Women’s Law Center argued in an amicus brief filed today in Hollingsworth v. Perry—thecase in which the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that overturned the California Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry. Tomorrow, the Center will file the same brief in United States v. Windsor, the case before the Supreme Courtchallenging the constitutionality of the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples. Read more »
This Friday, November 30, the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the so-called marriage equality cases: suits challenging the legality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defines marriage as between one man and one woman at the federal level, and Proposition 8, the California provision banning same-sex marriage there. The Court will announce next Monday whether it will hear any of those cases.
Each of the laws has been struck down by lower courts. The First and Second Circuit as well as a federal district court in the Northern District of California invalidated Section 3 of the DOMA under the federal equal protection clause, while the Ninth Circuit ruled that Proposition 8 was constitutionally impermissible for the same reason. Read more »
While we only know of one woman who made sure to cast her vote even though her water had broken and her contractions were five minutes apart, she was far from alone in her determination to make her voice heard at the polls yesterday in an election season where women’s health, reproductive rights, and fair pay were frequent flashpoints. Women made up the majority of the electorate on Tuesday—53 percent. Unmarried women were 23 percent of voters, up from 20 percent in 2008. And women’s votes were key to yesterday’s results.
People, you just canNOT make this stuff up. Last Friday, I brought you the absurd story of the student who was bullied during at TV interview ON BULLYING.
Then today I find this gem: a school district appointed a hate group to its anti-bullying task force. Yep. You read that correctly.
Back in March, the Anoka-Hennepin School District just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice filed a landmark consent decree to resolve plaintiffs’ claims that middle and high schools in the district failed to address pervasive bullying and harassment of LGBT students (and those perceived as LGBT). The students had alleged violations of a number of laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination—including harassment of students for gender non-conformity—in schools that receive federal funding. Read more »
This Thursday, the Second Circuit ruled 2-1 that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. DOMA defines marriage under federal law as between one man and one woman. The Second Circuit’s ruling continues a recent string of decisions striking down Section 3 of DOMA, which began with the Northern District of California’s ruling in Golinski v. OPMin February and continued with the First Circuit’s ruling in Gill v. OPM.
In Windsor v. United States, the Second Circuit concluded that laws discriminating against gays and lesbians were subject to “heightened” or “intermediate scrutiny” under the Constitution. According to the Court, heighted scrutiny applies based on the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians and their relative political disempowerment. Heightened scrutiny is the same constitutional standard of review that applies to gender and the Second Circuit here used gender discrimination as an analogy to the discrimination faced by gays and lesbians. Laws subject to heightened scrutiny are presumed to be unconstitutional, unless the challenged legislation is shown to be at least substantially related to an important purpose. In other words, the justification for the law must be “exceedingly persuasive.”
The Second Circuit found that the DOMA failed to meet heightened scrutiny because the purposes given for the law — uniformity at the federal level on marriage, conservation of federal resources, preserving a traditional definition of marriage, and “responsible” child-rearing — were not promoted by the law. Read more »
Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone! In honor of this day, in which we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or as an ally, I wanted to take a minute to highlight our resources on existing federal protections for LGBT students. Plus, I’ll give shout-outs to a couple of important laws that the National Women’s Law Center is working hard to get passed, along with our allies at the Human Rights Campaign, GLSEN, the ACLU, and others.
Before I do that, though, take just a second to review a few of the latest stats showing the extent to which bullying and harassment of LGBT students in schools is a serious problem.
More than 8 out of 10 LGBT students had experienced verbal harassment (being called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
LGBT youth are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to say that they have been verbally harassed and called names at school.
Youth who are out at school are more likely than students who are not out to have been called names involving anti-gay slurs, and to experience verbal harassment at school “frequently.”
In some cases, this conduct is more than just “bullying,” it’s sex-based harassment that’s prohibited by Title IX.Read more »
Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of Connecticut joined the Northern District of California, the Southern District of New York, and the First Circuit in holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for the purposes of federal law as between one man and one woman, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
In Pedersen v. OPM, Judge Vanessa L. Bryant concluded that gays and lesbians are entitled to significant constitutional protection because of the history of discrimination against them. She rejected arguments made by a group of Republican leaders of the House of Representatives, who have taken up defending DOMA in the courts after the Department of Justice refused to do so. The Pedersen case involved six same-sex couples and a widower, all of whom had been married legally under the laws of Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, and were denied federal benefits. Judge Bryant declined to apply “heightened scrutiny” to Section 3, because the provision could not survive “under even the most deferential level of scrutiny.” Read more »