Equality and Liberty

  • September 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Nicholas Kalin, President, ACS George Mason University School of Law Student Chapter, and Arya Shirani, Vice President, ACS George Mason University School of Law Student Chapter

    US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University’s Arlington campus to announce changes to the previous protocols regarding Title IX and sexual assault.

    If the proposed policy shifts are put into place, sexual assault survivors will face greater pressure to contact the police instead of speaking to a trusted member of their university. Supporters of the previous policy state that students have been more comfortable reporting sexual assaults since the present policies took effect. We believe that the heightened requirement and the greater burden of proof required will make it less likely for survivors to come forward. We believe that the previous policy, while imperfect, allowed survivors to occupy a safer and more comfortable learning environment. This is a dangerous precedent to set. While we hope that not a single rape will occur and these policies will never be needed, we realize that is not the world we live in. The further weakening of Title IX practices and returning power to the schools will only erase the advances made for the rights of sexual assault survivors.

  • September 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    Andy Blevins, Legal & Policy Manager, OutServe-SLDN

    Serving in our nation’s military is undeniably one of the most courageous and selfless acts an individual can make. According to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, nothing but an individual’s “lack of merit” should prevent them from such service. President Obama agreed: merely being transgender should not disqualify somebody from military service, he said.

    Neither Mr. Carter’s nor President Obama’s statements created a newfound desire to serve this nation: transgender people have been serving alongside us, in silence, forever. In fact, it is estimated that more than 15,000 transgender individuals are currently wearing the cloth of our country. They follow more than 134,000 transgender veterans and precede even more who are standing by, ready to offer their own commitment and dedication to our nation.

  • August 16, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    Over the past few days, Trump succeeded in uniting much of the nation against himself.

    On Saturday at the “Unite the Right” rally, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke told a reporter that the event would allow participants to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Echoing that sentiment, an armed militia – some wearing the president’s “Make America Great Again” hats – marched in Charlottesville, later leaving one dead and 19 injured.

  • February 23, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy, National Center for Transgender Equality

    Gavin Grimm, a high school senior in Virginia, had to sit through two public school board meetings during his sophomore year while his neighbors openly discussed his body parts and restroom use while pointedly referring to him as a “young lady,” calling him a “freak,” or comparing him to someone who thinks he is a dog. Gavin is a transgender boy. He had used the boys’ restroom at school for weeks with the full support of his fellow students before those school board meetings, where the school district ultimately decided to bar him from the boys’ restroom. For the over two years since then, Gavin has had to make a “walk of shame” to the nurse’s office each time he needs to use the restroom, a daily reminder that his school thinks he isn’t worthy of being treated like his peers.

    There are hundreds of thousands of transgender students like Gavin in schools all across the country. K–12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, began developing policies over a decade ago to answer everyday questions about supporting transgender students. Today, over 40 percent of U.S. K­­–12 students attend schools with local policies or statewide laws or guidelines that clearly support transgender students’ rights to learn in a safe environment and be treated according to their gender identity, including when it comes to using facilities. 

    Enter Title IX. Starting in 1999, a growing number of federal courts began to rule that federal sex discrimination laws applied to discrimination against transgender people. The rulings relied on two major Supreme Court precedents: Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), which held that discrimination based on gender stereotypes violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services (1998), which stated that Title VII applies to any gender-based discrimination, not just specific scenarios Congress imagined in 1964. Eventually, five federal appeals courts and over a dozen district courts agreed that Title VII, Title IX, and other sex discrimination laws applied to anti-transgender bias, while only a handful disagreed.

  • February 10, 2017

    by Katie O’Connor

    Throughout his campaign and in the months since his election, President Trump has repeatedly pledged that his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case which guarantees the right to abortion. Always a fan of suspense, Trump released two lists of potential nominees before his election, and legal and advocacy organizations began compiling profiles on each of the names. But it was not until Feb. 1, 2017, that speculation regarding the potential nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s seat ended, and President Trump formally transmitted the nomination of Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Senate for confirmation.

    Despite the president’s campaign pledges, we cannot know with certainty how Judge Gorsuch would rule if the Court were asked to overturn Roe v. Wade. What we do know, however, is the following.

    Judge Gorsuch is no champion of women’s access to contraception and reproductive healthcare more broadly. He joined the 2013 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, which found that Hobby Lobby, a for-profit corporation, can have a sincerely-held religious belief that certain contraceptive methods are actually abortifacients (though experts argue they are not) and that facilitating coverage of those methods would be a sin. Moreover, the decision ruled, Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs would be substantially burdened by a provision under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires the corporation to provide health insurance to its employees that includes coverage of those contraceptive methods. Finally, the decision reads, the requirement of such coverage is not narrowly tailored to further the government’s interest in “public health” and “gender equality.” While the government sought to provide comprehensive and seamless coverage of preventative health services to women and men alike, the Tenth Circuit, joined by Judge Gorsuch, essentially found that the religious beliefs of a for-profit corporation outweighed the corporation’s employees’ right to such coverage.