We are experiencing a watershed moment in relation to sexual harassment: boldface names fall daily, and women are speaking up as never before. This is one of those moments when norms change, presenting a tremendous opportunity. Proposals that seemed unrealistic last year could now be taken seriously in the political sphere.
In the Guardian last weekend, Sharon Block and I outlined an agenda for bringing sexual harassment to light sooner, punishing it appropriately, and above all, preventing it in the first place. In the interest of furthering the conversation, this post elaborates on those ideas, and also aggregates several noteworthy articles proposing thoughtful reforms.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to sell his baking services to Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a Denver couple seeking a wedding cake. He was fined for violating Colorado’s public accommodations law, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places open to the public. Phillips is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, and believes that to avoid condoning same-sex marriage, Jesus himself would refuse to employ his carpentry skills to make a bed for this couple. Phillips argues that forcing him to make a cake for Craig and Mullins would violate the Free Speech Clause by compelling him to use his creative talents to express approval of same-sex marriage. He is wrong.
by Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government, American University School of Public Affairs
For much of American history, legal rules and cultural norms have deemed women unworthy of trust or responsibility. The law often treated women as children, incapable of carrying out adult duties. Women did not have the right to vote until 1920. It took until 1961 for the Supreme Court to strike down laws automatically excluding women from jury duty. Until 1979, state laws made it legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife. In the early 19th century, the doctrine of “coverture” provided that a married woman did not have legal status separate from her husband. In the eyes of the law, married women were not their own person. Women were barred—by law or by practice—from professions like law, medicine, and politics.
We like to think those days are long behind us, that women are no longer second-class citizens relegated to a separate, lesser sphere. But it may be difficult, especially for men, to recognize the ways in which significant problems linger.
by Gregg Ivers is Professor of Government at American University. He is currently working on a book, Swingin’ at Jim Crow: How Jazz Became a Civil Rights Movement.
In September 1962, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett was looking for something – anything – that would boost his sagging political fortunes. Just three years before, Barnett had barely prevailed in a four-way contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination, winning just 35 percent of the vote, barely one percent more than his closest rival. While Barnett would win handily in the subsequent run-off and run unopposed in the 1959 general election, by mid-1961 his autocratic and less-than-honest governing style had rubbed many white Mississippians the wrong way. Sure, he was among the founders of the state’s first Citizens’ Council, an organization of suit-and-tie businessmen set up after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education to maintain Mississippi’s unparalleled commitment to racial apartheid in every aspect of public and private life. And, yes, Barnett had shown the Freedom Riders who was boss the previous spring, when he sent the remainder of those who had survived their harrowing May 1961 ordeal in Birmingham and Montgomery to Parchman Farm, the state’s most notorious prison, after their arrival in Jackson for violating the state’s segregation laws.
by Sheila Bapat, Program Director, California Bar Foundation
California Bar Foundation has been excited to partner in the Meet Your DA event series here in California. Led by the ACLU of Northern California, this four-part event series is shining a light on the power of District Attorneys (DAs) and how prosecutors can be vehicles for social change. The final event in this series will take place in Los Angeles this week, on November 1. It has been a privilege to partner with the ACLU along with Smart Justice California and the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy to reach law students throughout the state with this message.
California Bar Foundation’s mission is to build a better justice system -- for all Californians. We believe that every Californian deserves access to justice, and that lawyers working in this system should be representative of the communities they serve. We fund legal aid fellowship opportunities and scholarships for diverse law students throughout California who are devoted to making social change. We also fund pipeline programs throughout California to empower high school, community college and college youth to consider careers in the law.