Gender & Sexuality

Roe v. World

It's a myth that the Supreme Court got ahead of public opinion when it legalized abortion in 1973.

As the Prospect 's Gabriel Arana correctly noted yesterday, the litigation challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8—the voter referendum that banned same-sex marriage in California—has become the high-stakes battle it was originally intended to be. The Supreme Court is almost certain to hear the case, which means either the biggest progressive legal victory in many years or a terrible precedent like Bowers v. Hardwick , which upheld a Georgia ban on sodomy in 1986. Ian Millhiser adds a couple of more important points. First, although the bad guys won, the decision to allow Prop. 8 supporters to defend the constitutionality of the bill was correct. Contrary to the claim of some conservatives that it was somehow tyrannical for the Obama administration to refuse to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, or for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to refuse to defend Prop. 8, there's nothing wrong with an administration signalling it doesn't support a law by...

Lies, Damn Lies, and Adoption

Over the past two months, I’ve posted a few items about fraud and corruption in international adoption, a subject I’ve reported on extensively . Of the many articles I wrote on the topic, one story in particular broke my heart—and illuminated how such frauds occur. I’ve just heard, again, from one of the principals in the situation, and I’d like to post his letter. Before I do so, here’s a summary of—and links to—the articles that offer background. In brief: In 1998, Americans adopted 29 children from a town in Sierra Leone whose birth families now say they were stolen. At the time, the Americans believed they were saving desperate orphans from a brutal civil war. But the birth families have now testified that they were offered a free education for their children and were never told that those children would leave the country—much less that the children would be permanently taken away by foreigners. In reporting that story, I ended up talking to people at every stage of the adoption...

Prop. 8 Challengers Have Standing

The California Supreme Court has ruled that, in its view, the people who brought Proposition 8 to the ballot -- the initiative that halted California's same-sex marriages -- have the "standing" to back that law in court. Exactly what does that mean? It's complicated. Learn more from Chris Geidner, here .

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 2, Executive & Legislative Challenges

Executive. There’s a campaign under way to get President Obama to say he supports marriage equality; he hasn’t gone that far, claiming instead that his position “continues to evolve.” He has said that he opposes DOMA—which means little, in practice, for all the reasons we know from middle-school civics classes. Because it’s Congress’s job to make laws and the executive branch’s job to enforce them, the president can’t just stop enforcing DOMA: Same-sex couples still have to file taxes as single, and so forth. However, the executive branch does have some discretion. To wit: In February 2011, Obama’s administration made big news when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his office would no longer defend DOMA in court—because they believed it was unconstitutional, for the reasons listed in the lawsuits below. This was controversial. However: The U.S. has stopped some deportations of a binational married couple’s foreign-born spouse, saying that getting rid of people who are here...

DOMA, DOMA, DOMA: 1, Judicial challenges

Last week, while men in power were getting called out for behaving badly (see under: Cain, Herman; Penn State football), the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) behaved well—by voting out of commmittee a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. As I mentioned last week , no one expects the repeal bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, to actually come to the Senate floor this year. But that’s not really the point of the SJC’s action. DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act ) is under attack on quite a few fronts. At every front, those involved are looking over their shoulders and watching what’s happening elsewhere—which means that while no single success brings it down, each one reverberates and affects the chances in the next battle. In theory, every branch of government is independent; in reality, they’re always watching each other. The SJC’s vote affects the other branches, just as the various lawsuits against DOMA surely gave the senators on the committee the courage to...

Putting Marriage Rights to a Vote

The country's gradual movement toward marriage equality took a step further last week. Democrats in Iowa won a closely contested special election, which allowed the party to maintain their senate majority and essentially assured that no amendment to overturn same-sex marriage will be put to a vote until 2015 at the absolute earliest. That followed a New Jersey court's decision to hear a case that might replace the state's civil unions provision with full marriage rights. But a bit of bad news snuck through as well. Basic Rights Oregon—or BRO, a delightful acronym for the state's leading LGBT rights group—announced that they would abandon their goal of putting a pro-marriage measure on the ballot in 2012, with their sights now set on 2014. "It is not a question of if we will cross this threshold, but when," the group's board wrote in a release . "We have considered the possibility of putting this issue on the ballot for the 2012 election. However several factors, including the expense...

A Reading Assortment for 11/11/11

Occupy Harvard's signs say "We want a university for the 99 percent!" Umm, where I come from, we call those "state schools." #justsaying The U.S. Census reports that half of working women have no paid maternity leave. And guess whose jobs are least likely to offer paid leave? The 50 percent who need it most. Hope Yen's article for the AP includes this: Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits. That’s the widest gap over the past 50 years. Women with no more than a high-school diploma saw drop-offs in paid-leave benefits from the early 2000s to the period covering 2006 to 2008, which includes the first year of the recession.... The analysis highlights the patchwork of work-family arrangements in the U.S., which lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, unlike most other countries. There’s a longer-term trend of widening U.S. income inequality caused by slowing wage growth at the middle- and lower-income...

Penn State Rallies for Victims

AP Photo
Why does the Penn State community cheer for Joe Paterno? We’ve seen nearly a week’s worth of rallying in support of the legendary football coach after a grand jury indictment made plain that Paterno enabled his longtime assistant’s sexual abuse of children. While the university’s Board of Trustees almost certainly gave Paterno the opportunity to resign immediately, he opted instead to announce his retirement at the end of the season (three regular games and a postseason away). This forced the board’s hand, leading it to fire the coach, along with university president Graham Spanier, Wednesday night. Student rallying turned feverish, and the night ended with rocks and bottles thrown, a lamppost dismantled, and a news van overturned. All of this to protest the firing of someone who could have intervened in the pattern of abuse of young boys by Jerry Sandusky—and did not. The shouts of Penn Staters protesting Paterno’s firing Wednesday night prompted the rest of the nation to look on in...

Penn State, Sexual Assault, and the Abuse of Power

A lot has confused me about the outrage about Penn State's apparent cover-up of its former assistant coach's serial molestation and assault of children. Football is lousy with entitled rapists. No, I'm not saying that all football players rape. But I am saying that we hear football-rapist stories regularly. Most women know someone who was (or were themselves) groped, date-raped, or sexually assaulted by a high school or college football player who thought he owned whatever walked by. Consider what commentator Michele Weldon wrote in the Chicago Tribune : In late October, a Texas youth football coach in Abilene was arrested on charges of sexual assault with a child and two counts of indecency with a child. This past summer, a Rhode Island youth football coach was arrested on sexual assault and child molestation charges. A few weeks after that, an Omaha, Neb., youth football league organizer was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a girl. A youth soccer coach from a south...

Q&A: Protecting Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa

AP Photo/Brian Ray
A little-noticed special election earlier this week in Iowa had far-reaching consequences for the future of marriage equality. Liz Mathis's victory will keep Democrats in the majority, ensuring that same-sex marriage will not be overturned anytime soon. The Prospect spoke with Troy Price, executive director of One Iowa, the state's leading LBGT-rights organization. Why was the race important, and how was One Iowa involved? The race was incredibly important because it was going to decide the outcome of who would control the senate. Being as that's the only chamber that is controlled by Democrats, it had huge implications for the future of public policy in the state. From the LBGT community's perspective, this was a very important race, because the senate is controlled by the fair-minded majority. We have been very supportive of them because they have been very supportive of us. They were able to stop the discriminatory anti-marriage amendment that was moving through the legislature. I...

Good Ol' Boys' Good Ol' Cowardice

The men who covered up Jerry Sandusky's crimes aren't necessarily evil; they're part of a powerful network that values conformity. 

A child rapist and those who knowingly let his offenses go unpunished may not be moral equivalents, but, as we’re learning this week from Penn State, inaction can have dire consequences. I’m sickened by the abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky, but frankly, reading the grand jury report, I’m even more disturbed by the number of people who witnessed everything—from blatantly criminal activity (anal rape and forced oral sex) to highly suspicious behavior (a man in his 50s and 60s giving bear hugs to naked boys in the shower)—and never reported a single incident to the police. No one blew the whistle. In order to enable Sandusky to continue abusing boys for nearly two decades (and those are just the times we know about) a shocking number people had to turn a blind eye or leave the situation for someone else to handle. But that’s exactly what so many did. Numerous people along the way—from the janitor who discovered Sandusky pinning a boy against a shower wall and performing oral sex on...

In Which DOMA Crumbles Just a Little Bit More

Has anyone been trying to keep score at home on the many attacks on the Defense of Marriage Act ? There are so many different ways it could fall. Today’s news came from the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Sen. Feinstein’s Respect for Marriage Act, referring it to the full body. The RMA would repeal DOMA, thereby enabling same-sex couples who are legally married in their home states would be treated as married by the federal government as well. (Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently marry same-sex couples; see the map here .) That means, for instance, that my wife would stop paying thousands of dollars in federal taxes for listing me on her health insurance; a New Hampshire man married to a Brazilian, say, could sponsor his foreign-born husband for legal residency or citizenship. The discussion in the committee was short, nothing like the full theater of the July 20 hearing on the bill, in which everyone said the same things as they did back...

Marriage Rights Safe in Iowa

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/3410726792/sizes/l/
Iowa Democrats held on to a key state senate seat yesterday. Liz Mathis defeated Republican Cindy Golding by a 12-point margin, allowing Democrats to maintain their 26-24 majority in the chamber. If Golding had come out ahead, the two parties would have negotiated a power-sharing system, granting the GOP the leverage they would need to introduce their favored bills.* The result of this single election is a monumental win for same-sex marriage advocates. It means that Iowa's marriage law can't be overturned for at least the next five years. Unlike in other states, amending the state constitution in Iowa is a long, arduous task; it requires the legislature to pass the amendment in two consecutive sessions interspersed with a general election, then be passed by a public referendum. Even if Golding had won, 2014 would have been the earliest point a referendum could appear on the ballot. With Democrat Mike Gronstal—a staunch defender of the state's current marriage laws—still at the helm...

Sexual Assault Versus Harassment

So now there's a fifth allegation against Herman Cain—and we can see exactly why women have been loath to come forward and be dragged through the mud. I don't know what Cain did or did not in fact do to Sharon Bialek, or Karen Kraushaar, or to the other three women who've decided to protect their sanity and jobs by keeping their names private. I am sure that some dedicated reporters are doing their best to double-check the accusations—and since attorney Lin Wood is implicitly threatening the news media with the possibility of libel lawsuits, you can be sure that litigation-averse major media outlets will triple-check to see that every fact is sourced, checked, nailed down, and lawyered up before you see it in print or pixel. But all that aside, one misunderstanding of Sharon Bialek's allegations startled me. Let's review the allegation, as reported in The New York Times : In her statement to the press, Ms. Bialek said that she had been fired at the association after about a year...

Is There a "Bradley Effect" for Abortion?

Amendment 26 supporter Sandy Comer puts out a campaign sign at the polls at the Chamber of Commerce in Oxford, Mississippi, on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Mississippians go to the polls today for state and local elections, as well as referendums including the so-called personhood amendment, a referendum on whether to define life as beginning at conception. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)
Yesterday, Mississippi voters soundly defeated Amendment 26, an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would have altered the state's constitution to define personhood as beginning at fertilization. Going into the election, a survey from Public Policy Polling showed 45 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed, and 11 percent undecided—much closer than the vote turned out to be. A personhood amendment like the one in Mississippi has never been enacted and would have had radical implications, even in a strongly pro-life state like Mississippi. Not only would it have banned all abortions without exception, but popular forms of contraception like the morning after pill, IUDs, and even the pill would have been outlawed as well. In addition, miscarriages could be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter. But Mississippians won't have to deal with any of that, because Amendment 26 lost 58 percent to 42 percent. The discrepancy between what the polls said going in and the results means that...

Pages