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Federal Judge Eugene H. Nickerson, of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, has ruled that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. Nickerson has also become the first judge to rule that the military's ban on lesbians and gay men is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates a person's first amendment rights because the military discharges a person for declaring that he is gay or she is a lesbian. The judge also ruled that the ban on lesbians and gay men violates the equal-protection guarantee of the fifth amendment.
In 1995, Nickerson made a similar ruling in the same case regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The government appealed the 1995 decision, but an appeals court refused to affirm or sustain the ruling. Instead, the appeals panel sent the case back to Nickerson and asked for a ruling regarding the constitutionality of a ban on lesbians and gay men in the military. In making his second ruling on the case, Nickerson commented on the government's claim that the policy was needed for unit cohesion, "a euphemism for catering to the prejudices of heterosexuals…It assumes that, provided homosexuals stay in the closet, heterosexuals will believe there are no homosexuals present in their unit. In fact, homosexuals are present and are entitle to be present."
A recent study reveals that almost one in every ten Argentine women suffers from clinical anorexia or bulimia. According to mental health experts, eating disorders among young women in the country are three times higher than in the United States and in all likelihood the highest in the world. The country's most prominent supermodel, Mancini, slipped into a coma after enduring liposuction on her already thin frame. The Hospital for Anorexia and Bulimia in Buenos Aires attempts to combat the problem by making its hundreds of patients eat five times a day, tearing all the sizes from clothing, and forbidding scales. More than 70 women a week check into the already-crowded hospital. While male patients do not comprise anywhere near the majority of patients in the hospital, the percentage of them who check in has increased from five percent five years ago to 12 percent today.
7/3/1997 - Women Underrepresented in Secret Service
Although women have been accepted into the Secret Service since 1970, only 10% of agents are women. To qualify for the United States Secret Service, an individual must undergo 16 weeks of training, pass physical fitness tests and detailed background checks and spend about eight years at the service's field offices investigating counterfeiting and other financial crimes. Contrary to the common stereotype, however, potential agents do not have to be male. When he goes recruiting, Special Agent Anthony Triplett discovers that many women do not realize they can join the Secret Service. "A lot of women…initially are not sure it's something they want to do or something they can do," Triplett said. "I've had people ask me, 'Do you have female Secret Service agents?'"
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen T. Compton will step down from his position, but remain on the Court, after receiving a private rebuke from the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct for sexual harassment. The Commission found that on two occasions Compton's conduct toward two different female court employees violated the Alaska Code of Judicial Conduct because it constituted sexual harassment. The Commission's private rebuke is the lowest level sanction that can be issued. Neither Compton, the Commission nor the two female employees commented on the nature of the allegations.
The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that that state's 24 year-old ban on lesbian and gay sex is unconstitutional. The court ruled that the government has no right to govern the private sex lives of consenting adults and that the ban violates Montana's Constitutional right to privacy. Currently, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma still outlaw lesbian and gay sex.
The June 27th suspension of Lt. Col. Martin T. Utzig marks the first time the Army has decided to assign responsibility to a commander for sexual misconduct in training units at Aberdeen. Six drill sergeants and a captain in Utzig's battalion face charges of sexual assault against subordinate trainees. Delmar Simpson, the first Aberdeen drill sergeant convicted of rape, was under Utzig's command. His suspension shows a willingness on the Army's part to listen to members of Congress and other critics who believe the entire command structure at the northeast Maryland post has contributed to the secrecy surrounding the sex scandals. More than 50 women have allegedly been harassed at Aberdeen. During Utzig's suspension, Capt. Kathy Sorenson will be acting commander at the battalion.
Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM), a small New York-based abortion rights group, plans to offer mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) free to 10,000 women as part of an effort to make the drug available to American women. The group has approval from the Federal Drug and Food Administration to use its own version of the drug in research trials. Although the Population Council, also a New York based group, holds patent rights for mifepristone, other groups conduct research on patented drugs, but cannot use them for commercial gain. Lawrence Lader, the group's President, says that with new funding from the John Merck Fund, the Abortion Rights Mobilization will add research sites to New York City, Westchester County, Texas, Maryland and Florida. Currently, the group has provided approximately 1,000 women with the pills free of charge, although the women do have to pay for two required doctor's visits where mifepristone and a prostaglandin is administered. Lader commented, "We have the money, and this will provide coverage for women in all different parts of the company…Obviously, the long-term answer to getting mifepristone to American women will have to come from the Population Council. We'll get out of the business as soon as they're ready. But who knows when that will be?" The Population Council has currently run into problems with its manufacturer and is exploring whether the Abortion Rights Mobilization's manufacturer, so far not publicly known, is capable of full-scale production
A study released on July 1, 1997 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shows that conservative foundations have given over $210 million within a three year period to reshape national policy debates and push the U.S. and states legislatures to the right. The study said, "Two-thirds of their grant dollars went to organizations and programs pursuing policy agendas based on the privatization of government services, deep reductions in federal anti-poverty spending, industrial deregulation and the transfer of responsible social welfare to state and local government and the charitable sector." The report studied the funding pattern of the following twelve foundations: the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Earhart Foundation; the Charles G. Kock Foundation; the David H. Kock Foundation; the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation; the JM Foundation; the John M. Olin Foundation; the Henry Salvatori Foundation; the Sarah Scaife Foundation; the Carthage Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The foundations have given financial support to, among others, the following conservative think-tanks: the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Free Congress Research and Education Fund, the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
In February, retired Sgt. Major Brenda L. Hoster's allegations of sexual misconduct against Sergeant Major of the Army, Gene C. McKinney, kicked off an investigation of the actions of the Army's top enlisted man. The Army is currently conducting a preliminary hearing into Hoster's and other women's allegations, against McKinney. But Susan Barnes, Brenda Hoster's attorney, says her client will not voluntarily testify at the hearing because Barnes thinks "the Army is punishing these women [for coming forward.]" Hoster complains that the Army has failed to protect the women accusing McKinney from unfair invasions into their private lives. In a letter to the Army prosecutors on the case, Barnes reiterated these sentiments and added that the decision of the Army's chief of staff, Dennis J Reimer, decision to issue a statement in support of McKinney even before the hearing is completed "makes a fair and impartial pretrial investigation impossible."
The hearing will decide whether or not McKinney will face a court martial for his actions. Army prosecutors are deciding whether or not to recall Hoster to active duty, thus allowing them to force her to testify. Two other women testifying against McKinney have faced personal attacks on their characters by defense attorneys. One woman had to change her job location because of the treatment she received from co-workers after accusing McKinney of sexual misconduct. She said, "People I thought I knew, I didn't know. People are judging me."
A Navy report accuses Captain Dennis Gillespie, the air wing commander of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, of failing to adequately integrate female Navy pilots into his carrier. The report, an investigation into the integration of women on the carrier, gives many highlights of Gillespie's actions and words which created a double standard for the women and men under his command. When asked, by the women pilots, of his assessment of the women's integration in the spring of 1995, Gillespie commented, "I love my wife and my daughter. [Having women in aviation] is difficult to see…because I've always had this feeling that in this country, the philosophy was that we wouldn't put our women in harm’s way." The report comments, "The Navy must train its [commanding officers] and other leaders in communications skills, especially if its expects them to successfully lead a diverse Navy into combat."
The report pointed to Gillespie as "representative of many in the Navy who, often for reasons beyond their control and not of their choice, have not learned how to effectively communicate with and lead members of the opposite sex." At another women-only meeting, for example, Gillespie served brownies and cookies and said that the food was better and ship cleaner since the women arrived on board. The extensive use of segregated meetings was also cause for concern among the women. The report found that Gillespie's most divisive decision was to require mandatory pregnancy tests of all the females. Some women felt this was a tactic used to embarrass and single out the women. Some women refused to comply with the order, and then the issue became whether or not those women would be charged with disobeying an order. Gillespie eventually reversed himself on the pregnancy test policy, but then the men claimed the women were being given preferential treatment.
7/2/1997 - Women Attend VMI's Summer Program
Eighteen women changed a 158-year old tradition on Monday, June 30, by attending the Virginia Military Institute's previously all-male summer transition program. According to VMI, the cadets who participate in the program are less likely to drop out of the school than those who choose not to attend in the summer. Although the program will allow the women to ease into VMI, they will not obtain the complete military school experience this summer because the formerly all-male institute has not yet made all the necessary changes to the facilities. For example, construction crews have not yet finished building women's rooms and showers in the VMI barracks. The female cadets will begin the full VMI program on August 18 when the other women attending the school will join them, bringing the total number of women enrolling in the fall to 32.
Women and minority members of the Los Angeles City Council were disappointed Tuesday, July 1 when two white men were reelected to the council's top positions. While the council unanimously chose the incumbent John Ferraro as its president, Joel Wachs became president pro tempore with a nine-to-six vote. Mike Hernandez, a liberal Latino who challenged Wachs, won votes from the council's three Latino members, two white women, and one African-American. Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who supported Hernandez, said Wachs' victory proves that the council does not reflect the increasingly diverse city. When speaking of the individuals who have held the top two positions of the council in the decade she has been on it, she said, "They are all white. They are all men. They are all from another era. The city is different now."
A new study by the International Business Machines Corp. found that minority women are the fastest-growing segment of business owners in the country. In the past ten years, firms which African American, Latino, Asian and Native American women own have risen in number by 153% to 1 million businesses nationally. Minority women's businesses employ 1.7 million people and produce annual sales of $184 billion. IBM conducted its research by asking The National Foundation for Women Business Owners in Washington, DC to gather and study U.S. census data. Phyllis Hill Slater, president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said, "For the first time, we now have up-to-date information on firms owned by minority women, which demonstrates their importance to the economy."
Judge Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled U.S. District Judge James C. Turk on the evening of June 30, just hours after Turk had blocked enforcement of Virginia's Parental Consent Law. Luttig’s decision allows the law to go into effect. Physicians performing abortions on minors are now required to make sure a parent of the girl is informed at least 24 hours before the procedure. Planned Parenthood, who brought suit to block enforcement of the law, claimed that the legislature omitted three key provisions that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled are mandatory when passing state parental-consent laws. These provisions are: that states guarantee confidentiality to teenage women who ask judges to waive the requirement, that states ensure a speedy verdict from the judges, and that states require judges to grant the medical procedure automatically if a girl proves that she is "mature." Planned Parenthood plans to appeal Luttig’s decision to an appeals circuit panel or to a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Currently, 39 states have parental consent laws. In seven states, federal courts have blocked the laws; one state court has blocked the law; and four states do not enforce the law.
Three former high school athletes, convicted four years ago of sexually assaulting a retarded girl, were finally put in jail on June 30th. During a resentencing, required after an Appeals court reduced the convictions of the three men, Kevin Scherzer and Christopher Archer received fifteen years at a youth facility from which they could be released in two or three years. Kyle Scherzer's fifteen-year sentence was reduced to seven years of which he may only serve 10 months. State Superior Court Judge R. Benjamin Cohen, who sentenced the three, refused to let the defendants remain free on bail while their lawyers continue to appeal the 1993 convictions. During the 1989 attack, the then 17-year-old girl, who had the mental capacity of someone less than half her age, was induced to strip and to allow Archer and Kevin Scherzer to sexually assault her with a broomstick and with a full-length baseball bat.
Police have arrested the Director of Citizens for Pro-Life Society, Monica Miller, for allegedly leaving her two-year-old son in a locked car. The car's window were barely cracked and the car was parked in the sun during mid-80's weather. Jefferson Aikin, a spokesperson for the Milwaukee County Department of Human Services, said that when the child was removed from the car, he was "listless and sweating profusely." Jail officials have confirmed that Miller is currently in custody. Miller has repeatedly been arrested during anti-abortion protests.
A professional baseball league exclusively for women, Ladies League Baseball, has announced its schedule and final roster for its inaugural season. Opening day is slated for July 9, 1997 at San Jose Municipal Stadium. The Los Angeles Legends will play against the San Jose Spitfires. Three other cities have female baseball franchises, including the Long Beach Aces, the Phoenix Peppers and the San Francisco Bay Sox. League President and Founder, Michael Ribant, commented, "Baseball is America's Game and it is time to provide the opportunity for women to play it at the professional level. There is incredible baseball talent out there. Our games will be highly competitive and entertaining to watch."
6/30/1997 - Cohen Forms Panel to Study Mixed-Gender Training
At a news conference Friday, June 26, Defense Secretary William Cohen discussed a panel he has created to study the "viability" and "desirability" of mixed-gender training and make sure women trainees receive fair treatment. While he claims the panel will not restrict opportunities for women in the military, Cohen did not deny the possibility that the panel will suggest segregated training as a means of improvement for the military. Cohen created the panel to deal with female trainees' charges of sexual harassment against male drill sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Cohen attributes the strength of the military to the increasing importance of women's role in the armed forces. Women make up almost 14% of the military compared to 2% twenty-five years ago.
Former Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker will head the panel. At the news conference, Kassebaum said the panel will consist of four retired military officers and six civilians, evenly divided by gender. The panel will have six months to submit its suggestions to Cohen.
6/30/1997 - Supreme Court to Rule on Affirmative Action Case
The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted a pivotal affirmative action case for review during its 1997-98 term. The case centers around whether the New Jersey Piscataway School Board legally or illegally laid off a white woman teacher rather than an equally qualified African-American woman teacher. Lower courts have ruled that the school board illegally fired the white teacher. New Jersey law requires tenured teachers to be laid-off in reverse order of seniority. Two equally qualified teachers, Sharon Taxman and Debra Williams, started their jobs on the same day nine years ago. Taxman, who is white, was laid-off and Williams, the only person of color in a 10-teacher business department, was not laid-off. In 1975, the school board adopted an affirmative-action plan when "candidates appear to be of equal qualification."
During a question and answer session with a group of Hispanic Americans, President Bill Clinton strongly reaffirmed his commitment to affirmative action programs. Clinton commented, "I'm not willing to give up on affirmative action in education. I'm not about to give up on it, and we are exploring what our legal options are as well as what policies we might implement to try to stop public high education in America from becoming resegregated." The President did not comment on the Supreme Court's decision to review the New Jersey affirmative action case.
6/30/1997 - Thirty Women to Attend VMI
On August 18, Erin Claunch and twenty-nine other women will do what no other women have done before. They will report for classes at the previously all-male Virginia Military Institute. VMI had to change its all-male policy because of a Supreme Court decision in June 1996 which ordered the school to admit women or become a private university. The Board of Trustees announced its compliance with the Court's decision in September. The school named Claunch an Institute scholar, which gives her a full four-year scholarship to the VMI. Claunch wants to attend the school because of its rigorous academic program and military structure. "I'm really looking forward to the challenge," she said. "I'm anxious to test my limits and see how far I can go."
The school has made some necessary changes, including modifying bathrooms and athletic facilities. VMI also hired female professors and advisers to assist the female cadets.
6/30/1997 - Thousands March for Lesbian and Gay Pride
Spectators in Manhattan and San Francisco cheered for the thousands of lesbians and gay men who participated in the 28th annual march for Gay Pride Day. The event launched an effort to help people stay healthy and free of HIV. In Manhattan, marchers included the city's politicians. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani ( R ), received some boos and accusations of hypocrisy when he marched by the crowd. Giuliani's participation sparked controversy because the Mayor has announced his opposition to lesbian and gay marriages sanctioned by the law. In San Francisco, hundreds of women on motorcycles led the march. The city's Parade Spokeswoman Denise Ratliff commented, "We truly are of every age, every race, every religious background, every economic and educational background. We're everyone's brother and son and sister and daughter."
On Thursday, June 26, the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution concluded that the country needs affirmative action because the "preferences have been on the side of white America for so long." Members of the subcommittee who supported the deceptively-titled “Civil Rights Act of 1997” often claimed that the passage of Proposition 209, a California measure which bans affirmative action serves as "proof" that the entire country opposes affirmative action. Effects of Prop 209 are already showing in California's law schools. University of California-Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law will have only one black student enrolling in the class that begins in August. According to Richard Russell, a member of the UC Board of Regents, "It's obvious that the resegregation of higher education has begun."
Lucille Gager, 66, has filed a $10 million lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, New York against the 24th Precinct New York police station. The lawsuit claims that four police officers forcefully threw her to the ground, assaulted, falsely arrested, wrongfully imprisoned her and violated her civil rights.
The incident occurred when Gager walked to the police station after noticing that the police had ticketed her car. While at the station, Gager claims that the police refused to hear her complaint. One officer grabbed her by the shoulder and told her to get out of the station. Gager then commented, "What are you trying to do, shoot me in the back like they did that boy?" Police had shot sixteen year-old Kevin Cedeno in the back while he was running up Amsterdam Avenue with a machete. Gager alleges that after making the remark, four police officers forced her to the ground, one placed his knee in her back and another handcuffed her. She was then given tickets for disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. After being released, she went to a hospital and was treated for bruises and blunt trauma. The charges against her were subsequently dropped. Her lawyer, Joel Berger, advised her to file suit instead of a complaint with the police department because he said he believes the police department and Civilian Complaint Review Board “do not adequately investigate these matters."
The United States State Department has formally denounced a recent Egyptian court ruling which overturned a ban on female genital mutilation. The State Department called the mutilation an "abhorrent practice." State Department spokesperson John Dinger commented, "The U.S. government will continue to urge an end to this form of violence against women. It has been widely condemned by international experts as damaging to both (the) physical and psychological health of women."
Worldwide, nearly 80 million women have had the procedure, known both as genital mutilation and female circumcision. The procedure involves cutting away the clitoris and labia minora with a knife, razor blade or other sharp object such as broken glass without anesthetic except for herbal remedies in some cases. Often women and girls contract diseases, such as tetanus, because the procedure is performed in unsanitary conditions, and many die of infection or other complications.
In June of 1996, a U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that a 19-year-old women who escaped her native Togo to avoid the practice should be granted political asylum. It marked the first time a court with national jurisdiction recognized the practice as a form of persecution. The ruling is now binding on all U.S. immigration judges who hear asylum cases. A law sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and former Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-CO) bans the practice in the United States.
Hearings began this week to determine whether the Army's highest-ranking enlisted soldier should be court-martialed for alleged charges of indecent assault, adultery, and obstruction of justice. Sgt. Christine A. Roy, a key witness for the prosecution, testified against Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney on June 26. She was disappointed to learn that, because of loopholes in the law, McKinney faces lesser charges than she believes he deserves. The case is highly political because of McKinney's high-profile position.
During her testimony, Roy said McKinney pressured her into having sex with him even though they are both married. She eventually consented because she did not want to jeopardize her career. Her concerns for McKinney's effect on her career stem from the fact that the male soldier holds an office in the Pentagon and advises the chief of staff on all matters relating to enlisted personnel. Roy and two other women who have accused McKinney are subject to his orders. McKinney denies all charges and claims his four accusers, who are white, are discriminating against him because he is black. The second alleged victim was scheduled to testify on June 27 in the preliminary hearing. After the preliminary hearing, Col. Owen C. Powell will weigh the evidence and determine whether to proceed with a trial, alter the charges against McKinney, or dismiss the case. McKinney has requested permission to retire but has received no official response from the Army.