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During a goodwill trip through Southeastern Europe, Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the need to increase opportunities for women stating, "where women prosper, countries prosper." Noting that "much remains to be done" to advance women's rights in every country, including the United States, Rodham Clinton commented that Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular Turkish republic in 1923 "was ahead of his time in believing that women were vital to the progress of society." Speaking to Turkish business leaders, Rodham Clinton said, "If we provide more opportunity for women, we unleash the potential of women and men to cooperate, to work together, to be able to be the kind of democratic citizens that our world so desperately needs."
3/29/1996 - One-Third of U.S. Businesses are Owned by Women
New data from the Census Bureau has found that women own one-third of all U.S. businesses, employing 26 percent of the nation's work force. Sales from the 7.95 million women-owned businesses jumped 236 percent since 1987, and employment in those businesses rose to 18.5 million workers from only 6.6 million in 1987. According to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the number of women-owned companies increased 78 percent in the last nine years while growth among U.S. firms was only 47 percent. The state with the largest number of women-owned businesses was California, and Nevada had the fastest rate of growth. Although the largest share of women-owned companies was in the service sector, growth was "explosive" in nontraditional industries such as construction.
A Washington Post article earlier this month indicated that in the greater Washington, D.C. area, women-owned businesses accounted for 39 percent of businesses in the region in 1992. Specialists attribute the higher numbers to the presence of the federal government and credit affirmative action programs for the overall increasing numbers.
According to an international Gallup poll on gender and society, many people feel their countries would be better governed if more women were in political office. No country said that its government would be less effective with more women involved. Released Tuesday (3-26), the poll showed that a majority of respondents in 12 of the 22 countries believed that women still do not experience equal job opportunities, though a majority of respondents indicated they would prefer a male boss. Only six of the countries favored a "traditional" family structure where only one parent worked. The poll was conducted from August to November in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America.
3/29/1996 - Motor Voter" Registers One Million Each Month
According to HumanSERVE, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, about 11 million people have registered to vote or have updated voting records under the "motor voter" law that went into effect on January 1,1995. The 1993 law forces states to make voter registration accessible through motor vehicle administrations, welfare and disability agencies, the US mail and military recruitment offices . An estimated 20 million people will have registered in this manner by the November 1996 elections. Currently over half of the registrations through National Voter Registration Act come through motor vehicle business such as getting a driver's license.
A number of states did not immediately implement the National Voter Registration Act , and a hearing is still pending in Michigan. The law became effective in the state of Virginia just three weeks ago, and already 6,000 new voters have registered. HumanSERVE says the 1 million a month national rate is the highest since registration practices were established in the late 19th century.
3/28/1996 - Stalker Released By Police Kills Woman, Himself
On March 10 the ex-boyfriend of Karen Mitsoff, a respected teacher in Alexandria, VA broke into Mitsoff’s condominium and threatened to kill her and himself. The stalker, Fisseha Senbet was later charged with burglarly and released on $2500 bond. On Monday (3-25), Mitsoff made good on his threat, breaking into Mitsoff’s home and fatally shooting her before killing himself. The tragedy prompted the city’s chief prosecutor to call for tougher strategies to combat domestic violence. Althought Senbet’s threats were noted in the court file, prosecutors made no attempts to ask for a longer jail stay because they said he had no known criminal record or history of mental illness. According to Virginia’s anti-stalking law, judges can set high bonds or order suspects held for counseling if there is evidence of a threat. Chief District Judge O’Flaterty chose to release Senbet on a low bond amount without mandating any form of counseling.
3/28/1996 - House Passes Abortion Ban
In a vote of 286-129, the House of Representatives voted Thursday (3-28) to approve a controversial bill that would outlaw a rare form of late-term abortion used to save the life, health, or future fertility of the woman carrying the fetus. The vote fell primarily along party lines with 72 Democrats joining 214 Republicans is supporting the measure which has enough votes in the House to override an expected presidential veto. The number of votes in the Senate is not likely to meet the two-thirds required to override the veto.
President Clinton has said he will veto the measure because the House version makes no exception to take into account neither the life nor the health of the woman; the Senate version allows for rare exceptions. The bill would lead to fines up to $250,000 and two years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure, and it provides only narrow exceptions for not applying the penalties if the procedure is "necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury." Opponents to the bill say that the pregnancy itself, not generally considered a disorder, illness or injury, could also endanger the life of the woman. Opponents also say the ban is unconstitutional and would chip away at reproductive rights established in Roe v. Wade.
3/28/1996 - Domestic Assault Victims Get Help from INS
On Tuesday (3-26), the Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a new rule to allow battered spouses and children to apply for permanent residence in the USA on their own. The rule is aimed at preventing abusive husbands or wives from holding the victims of their abuse captive. According to officials, close to 400 applications from battered spouses and children are awaiting action.
According to historians, the Japanese military forced more than 200,000 Asian women into sexual slavery by during World War II. On Thursday (3-28), 69 women from four Asian nations attended a conference in Manila sponsored by Asian Women’s Solidarity and refused an offer from a private fund set up by the Japanese government. The women demanded that Japan apologize to and compensate them directly, acknowledging its responsibility for forcing thousands of women to become sex slaves, or "comfort women," for Japanese troops in Manila and Singapore.
While the Japanese government set up a private fund for voluntary contributions , it has refused to provide any financial compensation itself. Priscilla Bartonico, a Filipino, commented on the government, "The perpetrator of the crime committed upon me and to the thousands of women all over Asia has evaded its moral and legal responsibility."
3/27/1996 - Grand Jury Indicts Anti-Abortion Arsonists
Jennifer Sperle and Clark Martin, Virginia anti-abortion activists, were indicted on federal conspiracy and arson charges for fires at two clinics. Each could face 45 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted of causing the 1994 fire at the Newport News clinic and the 1995 fire at the Tidewater Women’s Health Center in Norfolk. According to the indictment, Sperle also tried to instruct others in the how-to’s of destroying clinics and provided an instruction manual.
"The good news here is that they got two indictments, which indicates the Justice Department didn’t just abandon its abortion violence investigation as some anti-abortionists had mistakenly claimed in January," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It’s encouraging that they could bring a conspiracy charge, because some anti-abortionists have been saying there is no conspiracy," Smeal said.
3/27/1996 - Clinton Nominates First Woman Lieutenant General
On Tuesday (3-26), President Clinton nominated Marine Corps Maj. Gen Carol Mutter, 50, to be the first woman promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in the Marines. If confirmed by the Senate, Mutter would become the first female officer elevated to the rank of three-star general in the Marines. The ranking equals a vice admiral in the Navy, a position to which no woman has been named. Mutter, a 28- year Marine veteran, will be in charge of a senior position, the Marine Corps manpower policy and planning. Mutter remembered the limits for women in the military when she began her career and advised women in the military to be patient and persevere. Currently the positions open to women comprise the 64 percent of the positions in the Marines, 68 percent in the Army, 94 percent in the Navy, and 99 percent in the Air Force.
3/27/1996 - Woman Sues GOP for Lewd Behavior
Former GOP fund-raiser Deborah Henson has launched $21.5 million lawsuit against the Republican National Committee amid allegations supported by colleagues that the environment at the RNC headquarters is hostile to women, people of color, and homosexuals. The suit alleges, "The RNC maintains a work place wherein sexual, racial, homophobic, appearance-based and anti-Semitic comments, jokes and horseplay are commonplace, tolerated and encouraged."
Henson, a fund-raiser with a long history with the GOP, spent five months at party headquarters and says she was not given a full-time job in the RNC because she was overweight and a woman. The lawsuit describes numerous accounts of "lewd and offensive" behavior including an allegation that RNC Finance Director Albert Mitchler fondled women and made them sit on his lap. The RNC denies the allegations.
On Tuesday (3-26), Texas Attorney General Dan Morales announced he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision made last week by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that would wipe out affirmative action programs implemented to increase diversity at the University of Texas. Since the ruling could have dramatic effects on institutions of higher learning across the nation, Morales said he wants to work with the Supreme Court in developing an affirmative action policy that is workable. Stating that he believes that most Americans are not racist and do support the goals of diversity, Morales indicated that if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, he will seek a stay of last week’s ruling to allow admissions policies to go on as is custom at UT rather than having to conform to the 5th Circuit guidelines.
Pre-eminent constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard University has agreed to help Texas prepare its appeal and to argue the case if the Supreme Court decides to hear it. The case would probably begin in the fall of 1996 with an opinion to follow no sooner than spring of 1997. The Justice Department has called the 5th Circuit ruling unconstitutional and has stated it will back the University of Texas in an appeal.
3/27/1996 - House to Send Abortion Ban Bill to Clinton
In the first move to ban any form of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the House of Representatives was expected to pass legislation Wednesday (3-27) that would outlaw a rare form of late-term abortion used to save the life of the woman carrying the fetus. The procedure, technically referred to as intact dilation and evacuation, is used less than 500 times a year when necessary to protect the health of a woman facing severe health problems due to the pregnancy.
After much deliberation, President Clinton announced last month that he will veto the measure; supporters of the ban will likely not have enough votes to override the veto. On Monday (3-25), the National Council of Catholic Bishops placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post distorting the reasons for the procedure and urging President Clinton not to veto the ban. Abortion rights supporters denounced the ad and have stated their concern that outlawing this form of abortion could lead to further, more broad restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom.
Stating that same-sex unions may deserve legal recognition, Colorado Gov. Roy Romer vetoed a bill that would ban same-sex marriages. It is unlikely that state legislators will have enough votes to override the veto. The legislation is similar to bills in other states where measure supporters hope to exempt the state from recognizing gay marriages if they are legalized later this year in Hawaii, as is expected.
Colorado was boycotted after approval of a 1992 anti-gay rights measure to ban laws from protecting gays from bias in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The ballot measure was struck down by courts and never took effe
3/26/1996 - Barroom Rape Case Gets First Acquittal
Jurors in the New York state Supreme Court deliberated for four hours before finding Mark Hartle, 29, not guilty of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. Hartle was accused of a gang rape in a restaurant bar in upstate New York the night of October 26, 1991 and had pled guilty to lesser charges in 1993 after admitting having sexual intercourse with the 22-year-old woman who was unconscious from alcohol. Fines and court costs for each of the four men pleading guilty amounted to $840 with no jail time, infuriating women's rights advocates. Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994 superseded the district attorney and appointed the state attorney general as special prosecutor. Dennis C. Vacco, successor to former attorney general G. Oliver Koppell, still wants to try the other defendants on felony charges.
California State Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) is authoring Assembly Bill 2204 to create an affirmative defense to California Penal Code Section 273a. Under statute 273a, it is either a felony or a misdemeanor if a parent or guardian fails to protect a child from abuse, but the section allows charges against a battered woman who is not able to protect even herself from abuse. Unintended consequences of this section could include punishing a victim of domestic violence who is incapable of acting to defend the child. Kuehl's bill would provide a defense for a woman who believes that acting to stop the abuse will lead to substantial bodily harm to herself or the child if the belief is considered reasonable under the circumstances.
3/26/1996 - Gay Couples Tie the Knot in San Francisco
Close to 200 couples participated in a ceremony Monday (3-25) to publicly acknowledge their status as domestic partners. Although the unions in the nation's first mass "gay marriage" ceremony are not recognized by state law, couples felt their gestures were symbolic to their relationships and also to members of the California Assembly where a bill is pending to outlaw same-sex marriages.
Some 3,000 couples, most same-sex, have registered as domestic partners under the city's 1991 ordinance which allows for visitation rights in hospitals, shared health plans for city employees, and bereavement leave for city workers when a partner dies. Mayor Willie Brown performed the Monday ceremony, approved by city supervisors in January, which featured a stage decorated with flowers and an American flag, and a 15-piece orchestra.
3/26/1996 - Justice Department Intervenes in Rape Case
A woman using the 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act to sue Virginia Tech and two football players on rape charges will get support from the Justice Department. The Department decided to intervene in the $10 million case; one of the defendants has challenged the constitutionality of the law which allows victims of sexual assaults to contend their civil rights were violated and to seek civil damages.
Claiming that the harassing and physically abusive actions of Lance Cpl. W.H. Beckwith do not merit federal charges, federal officials announced they will not pursue charges of civil rights violations for Beckwith's conduct on January 8. When Beckwith turned on the sirens of his unmarked car and began following motorist Susan Antor or Miami, his patrol car video recorder automatically turned on and recorded Beckwith dragging the woman out of her car, shouting obscenities, and pushing her face down on the road. FBI agents viewed the tape and decided not to pursue charges, although Beckwith still faces an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Antor's lawyers indicate they might file suit against the white South Carolina state trooper. Antor, who is black, maintains the attack was racially motivated. Beckwith was fired after Antor complained to authorities about the incident.
3/25/1996 - Tomb of the Unknowns Gets First Female Guard
A military police officer from California took her place in Army history Friday as the first woman to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Guarding the tomb is an honor bestowed upon the best of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the Army's oldest and one of its most elite units.
Sgt. Heather Johnsen joined the Army in August 1992 and was a personnel administrative assistant before coming on active duty. She has served in Korea and at Fort Monmouth, N.J. After receiving the prestigious tomb guard badge, Johnsen began a 24-hour shift with other volunteer guards who walk back and forth in a regimented pattern and have an intricate changing of the guard ceremony.
On Tuesday (3-25), voters in Oakland, California will vote on a city charter amendment that supporters call a "pre-emptive strike" against the anti-affirmative action "California Civil Rights Initiative" on the November ballot to amend the state constitution. Measure G in Oakland would require the city to adjust its race-based and gender-based contracting and hiring programs every two years to ensure equitable policies. Oakland wants to retain and expand affirmative action programs in public contracting but worries about efforts to legally protect the programs amid efforts to tear them down. Although the San Francisco Chronicle article only illustrated inequities in contracting with regard to race, Measure G appears to apply to gender inequities as well.
Having supported the deceptively title "California Civil Rights Initiative" to ban affirmative action programs for months, presidential candidate Bob Dole announced his position publicly for the first time. At a rally sponsored by supporters of the initiative -- including Gov. Pete Wilson and businessman and University of California Regent Ward Connerly -- Dole announced his support for the measure Sunday (3-24) in what is called a "direct challenge to President Clinton" who has denounced the CCRI.
The announcement reiterated the strong role affirmative action will likely play in the November presidential elections. A recent poll showed that California voters still favor the CCRI, but that its support wanes when people realize that it will not only outlaw affirmative action programs for women and people of color, but will also gut sex discrimination law in the state where such laws are strongest and where many of the largest cases have been won against discriminating companies. Dole has introduced one of the many anti-affirmative action bills currently in Congress, and there are similar measures circulating in 17 other states.
Supporters of abortion rights groups and right-to-die groups have been threatened with excommunication by a Roman Catholic Bishop in Lincoln, Nebraska. Members of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz' Lincoln diocese must drop their membership in 12 groups by May 15 or they will no longer be able to receive Holy Communion and will be excommunicated one month later. The targeted groups include Catholics for a Free Choice and Planned Parenthood; one member of the latter called the warning "totally ridiculous" and indicated a court battle might ensue if the bishop tries to enforce it. A spokesperson for Bruskewitz said only the pope can overturn the decision
3/22/1996 - War Crimes Indictments Issued by Tribunal
The first indictments for war crimes allegedly committed against Bosnian Serbs were issued Friday (3-22) by an international tribunal. Three of the four indicted are Bosnian Muslims. The indictment details accounts of murder, torture, and repeated rapes of women at a prison camp in central Bosnia
3/22/1996 - Privacy Fight Poses Threat to Rape Victims
Nassrine Farhoody runs the Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts and has vowed to keep clients’ rape counseling records confidential even if it puts her in contempt of court. After a judge had ordered her to turn the records over by Wednesday afternoon (3-20), appeals Judge Raya S. Dreben ruled Thursday (3-21) that Farhoody could stay out of jail until April 4 when her appeal will be heard by the full Appeals Court or by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.
Rape crisis agencies say the case could scare rape victims out of counseling and could jeopardize agencies’ image as a refuge for victims. Lawyers for David Fuller, 36, a man accused of rape, requested the disclosure of the files hoping to find discrepancies in the woman’s story that could clear Fuller of the crime. The defense argues that if the victim had indicated feelings or shame or humiliation while in counseling, she must have consented to the act; Farhoody says that logic amounts to blaming the victim. Farhoody’s lawyer hopes the eventual appeals will help establish a constitutional privacy right for such records. Currently, only Pennsylvania and a few other states have significant restrictions against allowing such records in court.