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A coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, announced that it would ask U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson on December 5 to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the University of California from implementing Proposition 209, the passed constitutional amendment that seeks to outlaw affirmative action programs and to gut sex discrimination law in the state. Last week, Henderson issued a temporary restraining order to bar Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and Attorney General Dan Lungren from implementing Prop 209, indicating there was a strong probability that the initiative would be found unconstitutional. The restraining order will remain in effect until December 16 when Henderson will hear arguments in favor of a preliminary injunction to freeze implementation of the measure until a trial decides its constitutionality. The ACLU indicated that the University of California planned to continue its implementation of Prop 209 despite Henderson's ruling, affecting the admission of students for fall 1997.
Dow Corning, once a leading manufacturer of silicone breast implants, is now under intense scrutiny from women concerning a settlement award issued December 2, offering breast implant recipients compensation for related medical problems associated with the implant procedure. Dow Corning had been a supplier of breast implants since 1964 until questions were raised concerning the safety of the implants. Women alleged implants were causing immunity-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In 1992, the FDA issued a moratorium on all implants while their safety was disputed.
In response to over 15,000 lawsuits filed against the company since 1994, Dow Corning has now offered a $2 billion proposal to settle all implant claims. However only $600 million offered would be distributed among women in out-of-court settlements. The remaining $1.4 billion would be available for women contingent only upon a single trial demonstrating that the implants do in fact cause disease.
Women and their lawyers have criticized the plan's distribution claiming that $600 million is not enough to meet the needs of over 300,000 implant recipients. Sybil Niden Boldrich, a former implant patient who had her implants removed, noted that out-of-court settlements would only award each woman about $2000. "You can't sell these things for 30 years and just give women $2000 and tell them to go away," Boldrich stated.
At an annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America on December 2, studies were released that show annual breast screenings for women over the age of 40 are both recommended and necessary. Conducted by Dr. Stephen Feig, director of breast imaging at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, the studies address an issue often debated by cancer prevention specialists - when and how often screenings should be administered. One of Feig's studies has shown that annual mammograms for women ages 40 to 49 could reduce the rate death from breast cancer by 35 to 40 percent in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent decrease in fatalities for women who are screened every two years. Both the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association condone annual mammography.
These recommendations however, contradict the views of The National Cancer Institute which claims that Feig's research is not yet reliable enough to recommend administering regular screenings. Dr. Barnett Kramer, deputy director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the National Cancer Institute notes that there is ambiguity involved in the research conducted on women in the 40 to 50-year-old age group. Kramer also claims that mammograms are expensive and may produce stressful false- positive results.
Two other studies released by Dr. Feig advise annual screenings for younger women under the age of forty.
A ban passed in Egypt on female genital mutilation (FGM) in July of 1996, has yet to take affect in most Egyptian cities. FGM, the partial or complete removal of a woman's clitoris or external genitals, is widely practiced in many sub-Saharan African nations as well as in Egypt. After complications FGM caused the July death of an eleven-year-old girl, pressure from international groups led to a ban on the operation issued by Health Minister Ismail Sallam. The decree, which pertains solely to public hospitals, remains ineffectual however in hindering the practice because of objections by Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom are health professionals who believe that the circumcision curbs women's sexual habits and maintains passivity in girls. Girls as young as three continue to undergo the painful procedure which, if it does not result in death, can cause lifelong pain and complications.
A recent national survey conducted this year by Macro International Inc. with help from the US Agency for International Development indicates that over 95 percent of married Egyptian women had been circumcised while nearly 90 percent of Egyptian girls had either already undergone the procedure or were awaiting circumcision. Human rights activists advocate the criminalization of the procedure and are attempting to promote public awareness of both the procedure and the need to make it a criminal offense. Marie Assaad, a chairwoman of a coalition of Egyptian non-governmental organizations has stated however "many doctors still believe it is a very important protection against disease and immorality and that talking against it is a Western Fad."
Implementation of Proposition 209, the amendment to the California constitution that prohibits affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting, has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge. Chief U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued a temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit against Proposition 209 brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Judge Henderson, a former Justice Department civil rights prosecutor, has said there is a "strong probability" that Prop 209 will be proven unconstitutional at a trial and be struck down permanently. The temporary restraining order blocks the state of California from implementing the new amendment at least until a scheduled hearing on December 16, at which point Judge Henderson could issue a permanent injunction to prevent implementation of Prop 209 until a trial is held.
The ACLU lawsuit argues that Proposition 209 is unconstitutional because it singles out women and minorities as groups that cannot benefit from affirmative action to remedy past discrimination. Other groups such as the disabled and veterans are not affected by Proposition 209.
The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution "not only prohibits the outright exclusion of women and minorities from the political process, but also prohibits more subtle distortions of the political process that place special burdens on the ability of women and minorities to achieve beneficial legislation," wrote Judge Henderson in his temporary restraining order.
The Supreme Court rejected without comment the appeal of an anti-abortion protester who claimed she was wrongly denied a jury trial for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. In rejecting the appeal Monday, December 2, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by a federal judge who sentenced Marilyn Hatch with 30 days in jail and a $500 for an offense that could have led to a six month sentence and a $10,000 fine. In an earlier appeal, a U.S. appeals court noted that the Supreme Court does not consider six-month maximum prison terms enough to trigger a jury trial. In June 1994, Hatch and five other protesters were charged with violating the FACE law after creating a blockade at a Milwaukee clinic.
12/2/1996 - Japanese Bank Found Guilty of Sex Discrimination
For the first time, a Japanese court has found a Japanese employer guilty of sex discrimination for denying women promotions. The Tokyo District Court ordered the Shiba Shinyo credit union to pay 12 women employees almost $900,000 and to promote eleven of them to management positions. One of the women has already retired.
The twelve women filed their lawsuit more than nine years ago. They said men were trained on the job to pass the management exam, but women had to prepare on their own outside of work. One woman who worked at the bank for 42 years while putting herself through college, said that some of the men who started with her are now on the bank's board of directors while she was still answering phones when she retired three years ago. Ninety-nine percent of the bank's managers are men.
The bank has appealed the ruling.
Shannon Lucid, who spent a record 188 days in space on the Russian space station Mir, became the first woman to be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. President Clinton awarded her the medal in an Oval Office ceremony. Lucid set the American record for the longest time spent in space, as well as the world record for the longest time a woman has spent in space.
The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his duties has distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind." Eight other astronauts have previously been awarded this medal.
John Salvi, who was convicted of killing two abortion clinic receptionists in December 1994, was found dead in his maximum-security prison cell on November 29. Authorities believe he committed suicide. He was found with a plastic bag tied around his head.
Salvi was serving two life sentences without parole. At his trial, his court-appointed lawyer had argued that he was insane, but the court rejected this argument. Despite claims by women's rights groups of a nationwide conspiracy to commit violence at abortion clinics, Salvi's prosecutors said he acted alone and no accomplices were charged.
MORPHINE, LETTERS TO CLEO, BUFFALO TOM’S BILL JANOVITZ, FUZZY AND GIGOLO AUNTS O PERFORM SAFE AND SOUND BENEFIT CONCERT TUESDAY, Oct. 29 AT WESTBETH THEATER
Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dicky Barrett and Jen Trynin Will Co-Host Show Marks Upcoming CD Release on November 5
NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 1996- Morphine, Letters To Cleo, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, Fuzzy and Gigolo Aunts will perform a concert to mark the release of Safe and Sound: A Benefit in Response to the Brookline Clinic Violence, on Tuesday, October 29 at the Westbeth Theater in New York City. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dicky Barrett and Jen Trynin in will co-host the show. Safe and Sound (Big Rig/Mercury Records: release date: Nov. 5) is a CD compilation featuring tracks donated by l6 Boston-area artists, including Letters To Cleo, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Morphine, Tracy Bonham, Aimee Mann, Deluxx Folk Implosion and Juliana Hatfield The disc and the concert will benefit the National Clinic Access Project.
Safe and Sound began as a fundraising project established by Boston-area musicians in response to the shootings of Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols at two women's health care clinics in Brookline, Mass. on December 30, 1994. Shortly after the deaths of Lowney and Nichols, Safe and Sound organized nine sold-out benefit concerts. in February 1995, featuring 37 artists that played five nights in seven Boston clubs. The grassroots effort raised more than $38,000 and garnered national attention, including coverage from Rolling Stone, MTV, SPIN and other media outlets.
“We want to be a champion of human rights and defend women's access to health care and the ability to make a choice. As soon as abortion becomes illegal, women's health care will follow suit" said Letters To Cleo vocalist Kay Hanley who helped organize the Boston benefits. "Everyone should have the right to safe healthcare," added Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert. Big Rig is the Mighty Mighty Bosstones label.
The National Clinic Access Project is a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation and is the largest clinic access project in the nation, leading efforts to keep women's health clinics open in the face of violence and harassment by abortion opponents.
Today's announcement that the Food and Drug Administration has found mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) "approvable" for early medical abortion represents a hard-won victory for the U.S. feminist movement, for the scientific and medical community, and, most importantly, for the women of this nation.
The FDA has put science ahead of politics. This milestone marks a giant step forward both in making mifepristone available to American women and in assuring the conduct of desperately needed research on the non-abortion indications of this life-saving medication.
The FDA has confirmed what women in Great Britain, France, and Sweden already know: Mifepristone is safe. It is effective. And, it's availability greatly benefits women.
For eight long years, the Feminist Majority Foundation has fought to bring mifepristone to the United States. We have worked to remove roadblock after roadblock to introduce this medical breakthrough into this country.
Again and again, the strength and breadth of support for mifepristone has dwarfed anti-abortion opposition. The Feminist Majority Foundation has delivered over 700,000 petitions to Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst AG urging release of the compound. We have organized meetings between the European pharmaceutical firms and delegations of feminist leaders and prominent scientists. We have won support for mifepristone from every major women's rights organization and medical and scientific association. Over 66% of women and men believe mifepristone should be available to women in the United States -- an unprecedentedlevel of support for a medication which is still not available.
The FDA's "approvable" rating -- which is the typical next step in the approval process -- moves us closer and closer to the introduction of mifepristone in the United States. With the continued vigilance of pro-choice organizations, we hope that final FDA approval will come quickly.
On Monday (4-8), Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers sent an unsolicited letter to University System Chancellor Stephen Portch directing him to eliminate affirmative action programs for minorities at each state college and university. One of the missions of the university system is to make public colleges accessible to minorities, Portch said in a statement. "We are committed to providing a level playing field ¼ aimed at ensuring that all Georgia students can come to our colleges and universities with and equal opportunity to succeed," Portch said. He did, however, indicate that he would consider the recommendation.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference denounced Bowers' move as "an unsolicited, unwarranted intrusion by an obviously ambitious politician into efforts of the academic community to be just and inclusive in its educational agenda" and said these "political games" were a "disservice to the state." The 34 states schools have 206,000 students enrolled, 25 percent of whom are black or Hispanic.
Over one hundred prominent women in the music and entertainment industries raised almost $19,000 for the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Defense Project at the annual Women's Health Luncheon 1996 held at Sony Music Studios. The gathering honored The Feminist Majority Foundation and Rock for Choice".
Hosted by Michele Anthony, Executive Vice President of Sony Music Entertainment, and by Rosemary Carroll, attorney, Gendler, Codikow, and Carroll, the event featured speakers Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, owner and medical director of Mountain Country Women's Clinic in Bozeman, Montana.
"The monies raised for the Feminist Majority Foundation, home to Rock for Choice, have enabled it to fund its National Clinic Defense Project," said Carroll, "which is dedicated to fighting anti-a bortion violence nationwide by training pro-choice volunteers, securing injunctions to prevent violence, and by monitoring and alerting federal and local law enforcement agencies to antiabortion violence."
Women in attendance included Sylvia Rhone, head of the record label Electra; Polly Anthony, chair of 550 Music; Judy McGrath of MTV; Brigitte Wright of Curtis Entertainment; Ina Meibach, entertainment lawyer; Staci Slater, manager of the band Presidents of the United States of America; Maggie Gurewitz, longtime Feminist Majority Foundation supporter; Barbara Krueger, feminist visual artist; Wendy Laister, manager of the band Aerosmith; Barbara Skydel of Premier Talent; Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro; and Donita Sparks, lead singer of L7.
Association For Women Journalists Releases Survey:
"Washington Reporters' Experiences And Perceptions:
Does Gender Matter?"
By FMF Special Correspondent Francine Haber, Colorado Woman News
On August 26, the opening of the Democratic National Convention, the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists released the results of its survey on differences between male and female reporters in Washington DC. The project "Washington Journalists' Experiences & Perceptions: Does Gender Matter?" was conducted by the Northwestern University Survey Laboratory.
Male and female journalists in Washington were found to work for the same kinds of news organizations, cover the same beats, feel the same about their supervisors, and write the same kinds of stories. Their profiles are similar in age, race, education. They are highly satisfied with their work and consider themselves well paid.
But women reporters are more likely to see gender as a powerful force affecting their careers. More women than men agreed that men reporters:
Are more likely to be recognized at press conferences, more likely to get information from government officials and lobbyists, and more likely to get leaks from sources.
Get easier assignments and are less qualified, when holding positions of authority, than their female counterparts.
Are less likely to be harassed by sources and are more likely to be sought for advice on coverage or for speaking engagements.
Have a different reporting style from that of women reporters.
On issues of gender and family, the survey shows that women have made different choices for their personal lives. Nearly half (45%) of the women reporters said they had never married, compared with less than one- quarter (22%) of the men. Nearly three-fourths of men reporters (72%) said they are now married, compared with 48% of women. Nearly two-thirds of women said they had no children. And, when reporters with children were asked how much a child hampered a reporter's career, women were almost twice as likely as men to say that a child hurt their career at least "a fair amount." Different standards apply, depending on the reporter's gender. "Men who leave work early on some afternoon or skip a day and use the honest excuse of a child's performance or a sick child or a ball game get the Alan Alda award for being a good parent," one male reporter said. "They're seen as a '90s dad, living the rhetoric. Women who do the same things are sometimes thought to be not as dedicated to the job."
Women reporters of the same age and experience as their male counterparts tend to be paid less on the job. For women, the midpoint for salary fell between $40,000 and $60,000. For men, the midpoint fell in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. "Although it appears women journalists in Washington have made some great strides, the gains have also come with a trade-off in their personal lives," said Susy Schultz, president of the Association for Women Journalists' Chicago chapter.
Following the release of the study, leading women journalists took part in a panel to discuss how their personal experiences reflected its findings. Molly Ivins, author and syndicated columnist; Star Jones, senior correspondent for Inside Edition; Carole Simpson, senior correspondent ABC News; Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio; Nancy J. Woodhull, executive director of the Media Studies Center; Eleanor Clift, contributing editor at Newsweek; Ellen Hume, commentator for CNN and PBS; and Susy Schultz of the Chicago Sun-Times were joined by Congresswomen Enid Greene of Utah and Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut. More women of diverse economic backgrounds should be brought into journalism, the panel agreed.
The Association for Women Journalists is dedicated to supporting women in journalism and promoting respectful treatment of women by the news media.
For more information contact the AWJ at (312) 321-2146.
Approximately 62,000 women between the ages of 50 - 79 have volunteered to participate in the first long-term study to seek ways to prevent health problems affecting post-menopausal women, including heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and osteoporosis. The project, which is predicted to cost $628 million, is being funded by the National Institute of Health. There will be 40 sites across the country and 10 will be dedicated to minority and low income groups. The project's organizers hope to find solutions that will lead to healthier and longer lives for women. Volunteers will be observed for 9 years, beginning 3 years after they start the program. Researchers will study the effects of diet on breast and colon cancer prevention and the use of calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis and colon cancer. They will also track the effects of hormone pills on the prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis.
6/28/1996 - Students Denied Confidentiality and Abortion Counseling, Access to Birth Control Information
Students in Prince William County, Maryland will be denied accessibility to abortion counseling on school property next fall, and if students discuss topics like pregnancy or drug abuse with school employees, their parents will be notified. This unanimous decision was made Wednesday evening (6-26) by the Prince William School Board. The members justified their decision to take away students’ right to confidentiality with the rationale that the parents had the right to know about their children's lives.
A number of officials expressed concern about the decision including the county's Health District Director and the Head of the Department of Social Services who believe that this decision may harm the health of the students because the students may be reluctant to seek help on critical issues. Social Services Director Ricardo Perez conveyed concern that the students will seek other, less reliable sources of information on abortion. Susan Lamontagne, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood's national office believes the measure will be an obstacle for students "...who are in trouble...it could increase the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of sexually transmitted diseases."
In an unrelated decision in Virginia, Fairfax County School Board members voted 11-1 Thursday (6-27) against a proposal to have classroom displays about birth control methods to which students are normally exposed through outdated documentaries. In May, an advisory committee overwhelmingly approved the displays, to be done only by a visiting public health nurse who could answer questions about birth control, but the committee reversed itself two weeks later amid questions about the proposal. School Board members said in Thursday’s decision that parents should be in charge of teaching their children about birth control methods. Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a restructuring of health and biology classes for 9th and 10th graders and a series of health and sex education videos.
The government reported earlier this week that the teen birth rate had declined for a third straight year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, for teenage girls aged 15-19, the birth rate of 59.6 births per 1,000 in 1993 has dropped to 58.9 per 1,000 in 1994. However, the 1994 rate was still higher than it was in the years between 1974 to 1989, according to health officials. This information was part of an annual health report on birth statistics to monitor maternal and infant health and to keep a record of general birth data in the United States. The report also said that there was a decline of pregnant women smoking and that 80 percent of mothers during their first trimester were receiving prenatal care. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala commented that the decline of the teen birth rate "is another piece of good news in the battle against teen pregnancy, but we still have a long way to go."
6/28/1996 - Senator Urges Research on Heart Disease in Women
Because studies on cardiovascular disease have traditionally been male-centered, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation Thursday to increase spending on research on heart disease in women. The leading cause of death for women and men in the U.S., heart attacks kill 235,000 women each year, 49 percent of the 485,000 people who die from the condition every year, according to the American Heart Association. Boxer said, "For years women have been under-represented in studies conducted on heart disease and strokes," and added that doctors do not diagnose heart disease in women quickly enough.
Boxer’s bill would earmark $140 million beginning October 1 to the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for expansion of research and education programs on heart disease in women. The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health, the organizer of the "Healthy Women 2000" conference, issued a statement saying, "Women have less aggressive diagnosis and treatment workups for heart disease than do men." Because the body sizes, percentages of body fat and metabolism rates of women differ from those of men, and because post-menopausal women have an increased risk of heart disease after they stop producing estrogen, doctors say more study is needed to treat female patients.
6/28/1996 - Rape Defined as War Crime by Tribunal
On Thursday (6-27), the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague announced the indictment of eight Bosnian Serb military and police officers in connection with the rapes of Muslim women in the war in Bosnia. After two years of investigations, the announcements mark the first time sexual assault has been considered separately as a war crime. A spokesman for the court noted the importance of the decision, saying it "illustrates the court’s strategy to focus on gender-related crimes and give them their proper place in the prosecution of war crimes." Postwar courts in the past have treated rape only as a secondary offense, tolerating it as part of general abusive behavior by a soldier. According to the New York Times, court officials said the indictment gives "organized rape and other sexual offenses their due place in international law as crimes against humanity."
Bosnian Serbs were the main perpetrators of using rape as a strategy to terrorize people, according to investigators of the European Union and Amnesty International who estimate that 20,000 Muslim women and girls were raped by Serbs in 1992. Many women and girls as young as 12 were detained in prison camps where they were forced to cook and clean for soldiers during the day and were gang raped every night over a period of several months. None of the eight Serbs accused of rapes committed between April 1992 and February 1993 has been arrested.
Also on Thursday, the tribunal began public hearings against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic whom the prosecution is accusing of being responsible for the deaths, rapes and torture of thousands of Bosnian Serbs and "the ultimate crime of genocide."
Lars Bildman, Chief Executive of the Astra USA, has been fired following a suspension and an investigation of allegations of sexual harassment and embezzlement. Company officials said executives first learned about allegations of years of sexual harassment in April, and Bildman was suspended April 28 after 16 employees complained of sexual harassment. Bildman was accused of replacing married mothers and older women employees with "stunningly attractive" younger women and of pressuring female employees to have sex. C.G. Johansson, Executive Vice President of Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astra AB said the investigation was closed, but six former employees filed a federal lawsuit last month claiming that Astra executives created "an organized pattern of sexual harassment -- in order to satisfy their personal desires." Bildman and the company are being questioned about the complaints by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer for Astra said 12 former employees have settled sexual harassment suits against Astra.
The board voted unanimously to fire Bildman, and two other executives were fired after having been suspended on sexual harassment claims. Another executive, Anders Lonner who allegedly knew about the pattern of harassment but failed to make a report, also resigned.
In order to raise home ownership rates among women, the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to give $250,000 to a coalition of groups to set up education and counseling programs for potential women home buyers. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros announced Wednesday that HUD will also make information about home ownership accessible to women on a toll-free telephone line to be publicized at home buying seminars this summer. HUD is implementing the measures with the goal of achieving home ownership of an all-time high of 67.5 percent by 2000. In 1995, 65.1 percent of all households owned homes, but only 49.5 percent of women-headed households had ownership of their homes.
At a news conference, Cisneros cited barriers to women looking to buy homes including the fact that mortgage lenders often dismiss women as not being credit-worthy or refuse to acknowledge alimony, child support and earnings from part-time jobs as income.
6/27/1996 - Congresswomen Call for Monitor on Mitsubishi
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and three other Democratic Congresswomen met with officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Wednesday (6-26) to urge the EEOC to closely monitor Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. The EEOC has filed a sexual harassment case on behalf of hundreds of women employed at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. The lawmakers expressed disappointment that Mitsubishi "doesn’t appear to be in any kind of settlement mode, instead a total denial mode," Schroeder said. Schroeder said some congresswoman who have spoken out against Mitsubishi have received phone calls from individuals telling them to end their involvement in the issue.
Meanwhile, National Organization for Women vice president Rosemary Dempsey met with a Mitsubishi official Wednesday in Tokyo and was optimistic about the organization’s campaign for a settlement of the case. Dempsey led a picket of the annual shareholders meeting Thursday (6-27), calling for a settlement and a commitment by the company to implement a program to increase opportunities for women and minorities.
Charging that Mitsubishi created a "hostile and abusive work environment" where female employees were fondled, grabbed and threatened with retaliation if they reported the incidents, the EEOC suit seeks back pay with interest and benefits. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages up to $300,000 each for as many as 500 women.
Officials at Virginia Military Institute have said they may relinguish public funding and become a private institution rather than admit women, as the Supreme Court required in its 7-1 ruling Wednesday (6-26). The Citadel, the nation’s only other state-supported all-male military academy in South Carolina, has said it will obey the law.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the all-male policy of the state-supported Virginia Military Institute violates women’s constitutional rights to equal protection. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said, "One more male bastion bites the dust. At last, ‘separate but equal’ for women and girls in the military goes to the dust bin of history -- where it belongs." The Court ordered VMI to admit women because the separate program at the private Mary Baldwin College is not an equivalent education. However, the Court did not upgrade the level of scrutiny in sex discrimination cases to the same strict legal standard used in race bias cases, keeping the standard at mid-level and allowing government to treat men and women differently if the treatment is "substantially related to an important objective." The Clinton administration had asked for the scrutiny level to be raised to strict.
VMI and South Carolina’s The Citadel are the only all-male, state-supported military colleges in the U.S. VMI and Virginia were sued by the federal government in 1990 for unlawfully discriminating against women with VMI’s all-male policy in effect since the school was founded in 1839. The Supreme Court ruling overturns an earlier ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which held that the opportunities offered men and women need only be "substantively comparable" but not the same. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that "Virginia has not shown substantial equality in the separate educational opportunities" and that "Virginia’s remedy affords no cure at all for the opportunities and advantages withheld from women who want a VMI education and can make the grade."
The ruling is also expected to apply to the Citadel. Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in the case because his son attends VMI, and Justice Antonin Scalia was the lone dissenter.
Suspending a new Virginia law which requires mothers seeking welfare benefits to identify the fathers of their children, a federal judge in Charlottesville ruled against allowing the state to cut off the benefits of two women challenging the law. Enforcement of the law against other women will continue, but the women’s lawyers feel U.S. District Judge James H. Michael Jr.’s temporary injunction against state welfare officials could be cited as a precedent in similar cases to come. According the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the group which brought the suit on behalf of the women, the judge’s language was strongly favorable to their clients although he did not make the case a class action representing all women whose benefits could be cut off under the law.
The state law, which went into effect July 1, 1995, requires mothers give first and last names of fathers as well as social security information or places of employment. Both women, who had given birth to their children years ago fully cooperated with social workers to determine the paternity of their children, including having blood tests done on former partners. Despite their efforts and their testimony in front of state judge that they did not know the names of the fathers of their children, the women did not meet state guidelines for welfare benefits.