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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We will be using this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs, and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the author and not Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to respectfully participate in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog, and guest writers are welcome.

 

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Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name

Posted By Molly Toronski Wescott, Friday, December 8, 2017

Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name

 

Although I have been absent from the Lawyers Club Blog (LCB) for some time, I have nevertheless been chasing my own last wave on the path to realizing my true, feminist self. My journey recently culminated with a legal name change, as reflected by my new last name. I have come to think of my recent experiences as “reclaiming my original name.”

 

When I married young decades ago, I took my husband’s last name without giving it a second thought. That is what women (or at least the vast majority of women) did at that time. That married name became my professional name as well as my personal/family name. At one point, I recall pondering the question of why women continue to take their husbands’ names, a tradition rooted in patriarchy and property rights, as we lawyers know. It is, of course, more convenient for couples/parents and children to have the same last name, but why in heterosexual marriages do couples always assume the man’s last name? (I recognize that some couples join and hyphenate their names, but that can be problematic in many ways.) If men took women’s names in equal share, then the practice of a shared last name would seem fairer and more in line with my feminist thinking.

 

When I found myself starting a new chapter of life in San Diego (no longer married), I began to think about not retaining my married last name. I was not eager to retake my maiden name (which I had been using and continue to use as my middle name), as it is not the easiest name to spell or pronounce. Moreover, that name harkens back to who I was at a much younger age, and I’m not that person anymore. I then began to think about taking an entirely different last name. I read an article about women divorcing later in life and taking a new last name entirely of their own choosing. One day it came to me that I would take my mother’s maiden/adopted last name of “Wescott.” I had always loved that name and when I mentioned the idea to my mother who just turned 94, she felt honored and thrilled.

 

And so I began the legal process of petitioning to change my name. After filing the petition and arranging publication, I was required to appear for a court hearing on a Friday morning calendar. While I was not sure what to expect at the hearing, I found a diverse group of people changing their names for various reasons and a judge who treated the proceedings as wholly celebratory! I walked out of her courtroom feeling happy and complete, and feeling like I had somehow reclaimed my original name. The process of then changing my last name (and email) on numerous accounts and in every place that my name exists has been a time consuming one, but not as daunting of a task as I had feared. The process proved liberating, and it is now essentially complete.

 

We assume many different “names” and titles during our lives, and many are temporary. Often it is necessary to let go of one form of name or one chapter of life in order to move on with life in a deeper way. Letting go of my former last name and assuming a name once held by my mother has allowed this new chapter in my life to take hold in a much deeper way while allowing me to reclaim something I had thought lost.    

 

As we chase the last wave of feminism, I hope we will figure out a better solution for “naming” ourselves, our spouses and our children, so that we can all retain our original name. 

 

 

Molly Toronski Wescott, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law, is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.

 

 

Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  name  women 

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Guest Blog - Leading Lawyers: Choosing Vulnerability

Posted By Guest Blogger, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Leading Lawyers: Choosing Vulnerability 

This summer, someone I knew took his life – the brother-in-law of one of my best friends. I did not know him well. I know his wife better, and have watched his teenage kids grow up over the years. I became peripherally involved at the last minute: Asked to assist with legal insight and advice navigating work-related litigation; talking and texting with his concerned and anxious wife; determining if I could possibly help relieve his fears and anxiety.

I never ended up actually communicating with him directly. Instead of making our scheduled call, he chose to opt out of life. His family had been worried. They knew he could be at risk. They tried to get him to seek help – not simply legal, but psychiatric. As I understand it, he refused, not seeing an avenue out other than the one he chose. 

When something this sad happens, it leaves everyone with questions. A main one for me: Why is there such a continued stigma in our society about seeking support for depression, mental illness, or for a really bad, it-just-keeps-getting-worse time in life?

Particularly in the legal culture, heaven help those who show vulnerability. We are a culture of advocates, warriors, and, quite frankly, bullies. The old “take no prisoners” mentality gets equally applied to those within our firms and sometimes families. It happens all the time; I know from decades of personal experience and observation.

For our own health and the well-being of our profession, that antiquated mentality needs to change. Yes, we are tough—tough enough to make it acceptable to ask for help and support when we need it, without the accompanying stigma and shame. We lose too many brilliant lawyers every year. Even more suffer silently from depression and substance abuse issues. We all know the statistics.

Vulnerability is strength.

How as a leader in your life and law firm do you embrace and model vulnerability? How do you acknowledge that it is acceptable to be human and still be a strong, brilliant advocate? How do you show up for others by demonstrating with your mere honest presence that they do not have to do life alone?

Somehow, in the legal culture, we need to accept and acknowledge that it is okay to be vulnerable. That in our vulnerability, contrary to popular opinion, we actually demonstrate strength – a strength of perseverance and surrender that opens the door to true meaningful connection with others, a connection that might just help us heal, that might just help us find a path forward out of the dark, both as individuals and in the collective.

The fact is, we all need help at one time or another. Unless you live in a Teflon bubble, life gets the best of everyone at some point. Sometimes our only way through is by accepting that we cannot do it alone. It is too big. Too messy. Too unknown. Just plain too much. And, that has to be acceptable.

A paradigm shift starts with individual leaders. Begin to be brave and dare to challenge the idea that vulnerability means weakness and failure. We are all human and imperfect, accept that fact and life gets easier. It just does. 

My heart goes out to my friend, her family, the kids, and loved ones. Take time to care for you and yours. Remember, success is a team sport – you don’t have to do it alone.

Michele Powers, Esq., wrote this for the Leadership Development Committee and is the owner of Elite Lawyer Coaching (www.elitelawyercoach.com).

Tags:  authentic  career  guest blogger  LCB  leadership  legal profession  strength  vulnerability 

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Guest Blog: Women's Voices

Posted By Diana Rabbani, Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Women’s Voices

What was once a silenced and nearly invisible mass of people is now rapidly scaling the walls that kept them hidden away: Women.

Even after women received the right to vote in 1920, they faced an uphill battle trying to make their voices heard. But in recent years, women have created space for themselves and have become much more active participants in the political arena—calling attention to women’s issues and general political issues of interest.

Women are advocating more than ever. They are taking it to the streets; they are taking it to Congress, to local movements, and to social media. The premiere example of all these efforts was the Women’s March, held the day after the 2017 presidential inauguration. Women all over the world used social media to plan what turned out to be one of the largest single-day protests in U.S. history. Not only did women attend the flagship march in Washington, D.C., but the march also turned global. Women used this march to advocate for causes such as human rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, religious freedom, environmental awareness, LGBTQ rights, and racial equality. The prowess behind January’s Women’s March arguably inspired protests and marches that occurred afterwards such as “A Day Without a Woman” and the “March for Science.”

Social media has been a huge factor in bringing women from all over the world together to stand up for causes in which they believe. It creates a common platform for women to plan events, hear from other women, and publically broadcast their views on certain topics. For better or worse, social media allows a person to let the world in on their thoughts the moment they occur.

Female attorneys already have the advantage of being trained in the law and knowing the steps that must be taken to turn a mere hope into law. Therefore, it benefits the goal of women’s advocacy for female attorneys to use social media to express their thoughts and hear from each other to learn about the issues that are collectively important to women. Social media can then be used to plan events, such as the widespread Women’s March. Planned events need not be at such a grand scale in order to be effective. Arguably one of the most effective methods of advocacy would be for women to get together and reach out to local political officials to have their interests represented.

In the age of social media, which connects a person to the world with just few clicks of a smart phone, women are using this method to band together and speak. It is of utmost importance that women continue to advocate and use their voices to raise awareness and fight for important causes. Not even 100 years ago, women’s voices were all but silent. It is time to speak. It is time to advocate. 
   

Diana Rabbani graduated from Notre Dame Law School in May 2017 and is currently a post-bar clerk at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. 

Tags:  Advocacy  LCB  social media  speech  vote  women’s advocacy 

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My So-Called First World Problems: Meet Tim Murphy

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Wednesday, November 1, 2017
My So-Called First World Problems: Meet Tim Murphy

A day before his life imploded, (former) Congressman Tim Murphy, a longtime member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, cast a vote in favor of a bill banning all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.


(Former) Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA)’s was forced to announce a hasty resignation from office when his mistress’ divorce proceedings revealed that:


a) Congressman Tim Murphy was engaged in an extramarital affair with one Dr. Shannon Edwards;

b) Dr. Edwards experienced a pregnancy “scare” as a result of her relationship with Murphy; and,

c) Murphy’s response to the pregnancy “scare” was to encourage Dr. Edwards to abort.


I have long imagined that the pro-life community harbored those who, when push came to shove, would avail themselves of the safe, legal abortion they spent so much energy railing against. But I was caught off-guard when an eight-term U.S. congressman and enthusiastic House Pro-Life Caucus member was exposed for having encouraged his own sexual partner to abort.


Murphy, a sexagenarian, (was) a full-time federal employee and a practicing psychologist. His mistress, age 32, is likewise a psychologist. These are people who can afford their co-pays, who can afford travel, who would never have to sleep in their car if forced to travel to obtain a medical procedure. There was no sexual assault. No incest. These were not lusty teenagers. There was no apparent concern about maternal health or fetal abnormalities. These people are not impoverished, and (former) Congressman Murphy’s only child is grown, so it is doubtful that he is currently overwhelmed by the demands of parenting. 


This is a case of two highly educated, older adults, with the ability to self-determine, to choose whether to engage in sexual activity (extra-marital or otherwise), and finally, these are people with the freedom to choose whether to embrace the unintended consequences of their sexual activities or not.


I mention this because a recent 14-country study showed that most women report seeking abortion because of socioeconomic reasons, because they want no more children, or because they wish to space their children.


It’s not for me to dictate the circumstances under which someone else should be able to obtain an abortion, and I recognize that the circumstances of Edwards’ putative pregnancy were less than ideal. But, it is difficult to imagine a greater act of hypocrisy than encouraging your mistress to abort while devoting much energy to making abortions more difficult to obtain. The cherry on top is that a mere day before the revelations about the affair, the pregnancy, etc. broke, (former) Congressman Murphy voted to ban all abortions after 20 weeks.

When a pregnancy is inconvenient for the man, let's allow abortion with impunity. When the pregnancy impacts the woman's life plans, throw as many barriers in her way as possible. Liberal men certainly have their share of sex scandals. (Remember San Diego Mayor Bob Filner?) But, these men don't flout a philosophical adherence to puritanical sexual mores, nor do they publicly advocate putting the kibosh on a woman's ability to self-determine. Or, as Jennifer Weiner puts it, they are not, "pro-life in the streets, pro-choice in the sheets."

So, to (former) Congressman Tim Murphy: Good night, sweet prince. And may flights of angels sing thee to thy departure from public life.

 

Rebecca Zipp co-chairs the Women's Advocacy Committee, serves as Lawyers Club Board Secretary, prosecutes securities fraud at the San Diego District Attorney's Office, and recently began composting.

Tags:  abortion  abortion access  anti-abortion  Bob Filner  congress  hypocrisy  LCB  reproductive rights  Tim Murphy 

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Guest Blog: Combatting Sexual Harassment

Posted By Guest Blogger, Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Combatting Sexual Harassment

 

Daily news feeds are filled with stories of women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment in a variety of industries. Allegations in the tech and entertainment industries have made headlines, but these issues equally impact attorneys.

Several issues contribute to sexual harassment in the legal profession:

o   36% of attorneys are women

o   18% of law firm equity partners are women

o   18% of managing partners are women

o   24.8% of general counsels at Fortune 500 companies are women

o   19.8% of general counsels at Fortune 501-1000 companies are women

o   31.1% of law school deans are women

  • Pay Inequity:  Pay inequity persists. Some female attorneys at high-profile firms have filed claims (and won settlements) alleging they are not paid equally despite the same level of experience, output and contribution. 
  • The Continuing Prevalence of Unchecked Behavior:  Over the last 12 months, public scandals in the technology and entertainment sectors reveal a pattern of powerful men engaging in offensive behavior. Several stories involve enablers who sat by silently--or worse, helped or rewarded harassers. The Harvey Weinstein scandal shows that many in Hollywood knew about his abhorrent behavior, but kept it a secret. Fox News renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract amid the Roger Ailes scandal, even after O’Reilly allegedly settled a harassment claim for $32 million.
  • Weak Attempts to Address the Issue:  Claiming a “commitment to a harassment-free workplace” will not cut it. Simply implementing requirements that a law firm will not tolerate unlawful behavior fails to address the underlying issue – that harassment thrives in cultures that turn the other way when allegations are raised. Decision-makers must stop viewing human resources as the department that exists to “protect the company.”

The #metoo campaign enabled millions to share their personal stories. This is a wake-up call.


Now is the time for solutions. Lawyers Club is hosting a Solutions Summit on November 3rd. The event will bring together industry experts, legal professionals, professors and students to robustly discuss these vital issues. The conference will focus on finding practical and viable solutions.

 

Topics that will be covered:

  • How to recruit allies
  • Practical tools and resources
  • How to change workplace culture, with the support of leadership

This is the beginning of a long journey. Join us on November 3rd to be a part of the solution.

 

Guest blogger Patti Perez is the Founder and President of PersuasionPoint Inc.

Tags:  Bill O'Reilly  Fox News  Harvey Weinstein  human resources  LCB  legal profession  metoo  Roger Ailes  sexual harassment  solutions  summit 

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Guest Blog: Living Your Authentic Self in Business

Posted By Marci Bair, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Living Your Authentic Self in Business

 

We have just kicked off the LGBTQ Task Force of Lawyers Club of San Diego. Our primary purpose is to work to identify, acknowledge, and address the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ women in the legal community. In our introductory meeting, we shared standard networking meeting information—our names, businesses, and areas of specialty. What was unique to this meeting was an additional question, “Why are you interested in joining the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force?” Answers ranged from straight allies who had an LGBTQ family member they wanted to support, to members that identified as LGBTQ, to others that were just supportive of the LGBTQ community and wanted to lend their help. Some attorneys shared stories of being LGBTQ but not “out” at work at all, or not being out with clients. They shared their concern that being “out” may hurt their business or work promotion opportunities.

 

After leaving the meeting, I got to thinking about how much more productive and happy a person can be when they are able to bring their whole self to work and live an authentic life.

 

I have tried to live my life authentically inside and outside of the business world, and have always been open and transparent with my clients that I am gay. I don’t waive a rainbow flag as soon as they enter my office, but I proudly display pictures of my wife and kids around my office. I also state on the front page of my website that I work with LGBTQ couples and have an image of an LGBTQ family. Some people in business feel that if their clients find out they are LGBTQ, they may lose business or feel that it is none of the clients’ business. Both of these are very valid points and if you are a private person, you may be more comfortable not talking about your family whether you are LGBTQ or straight.

 

However, living more openly in the business world has allowed me to carve out a niche and a devoted clientele that is also either LGBTQ or progressive. This allows me to build stronger bonds and more trust than I might have otherwise. I am pleased to say that I am celebrating 25 years with my business and the majority of my clients are LGBTQ or referred from the LGBTQ community—showing that you can have a thriving business and be openly LGBTQ.

 

In San Diego, we are lucky to have so many LGBTQ-oriented professional organizations, such as the Tom Homann Law Association, Diversity Supplier Alliance, and Greater San Diego Business Association, in addition to open and inclusive organizations like Lawyers Club where LGBTQ or progressive business owners are welcomed and can thrive.

 

If you want to attract and retain LGBTQ clients, there are simple things you can do, like state on your website that you work with LGBTQ families, or use images of LGBTQ couples to let a prospective client know that your office is a safe place for them to come and feel comfortable. In addition, you can make sure that your intake forms or fact finders are LGBTQ-friendly by not just stating a place for husband and wife, but instead using the term spouse/partner. Also, when a client is single or does not come in with their spouse or partner, don’t assume that they are straight.

We all work with clients at sensitive points in their lives. The more we can make them feel comfortable, the better the relationship will be with them and the more enjoyable the experience.

 

The more you are able to live your authentic life in business, the happier you will be and the more business you will attract because you will be working with your whole self.

 

Marci Bair wrote this for the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force, and as the President of Bair Financial Planning, she has provided financial planning and impact investing for sustainable wealth for the past 25 years.

Tags:  authentic life  business  LCB  LGBTQ  LGBTQ Task Force  out  same-sex couples  straight  Tom Homan 

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I Am Not Your "Sweetheart"

Posted By Whitney Hodges, Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I Am Not Your “Sweetheart”

 

Sometimes sexist behavior that occurs in the courtroom is as slight as a male counterpart refusing to look at a female attorney when she speaks, or as overt as a male judge or lawyer calling a female colleague “honey,” “sweetheart,” or “dear.” I distinctly remember the day the latter happened to me while arguing a motion. Prior to appearing before the judge, opposing counsel asked me if I was my partner’s secretary. I brushed that off as an intimidation tactic, but was absolutely gob smacked when the same counsel called me “sweetheart” in open court. I expectantly looked at the judge, thinking he would, in some way, reprimand opposing counsel. To my dismay, the judge just rolled his eyes and proceeded with the matter as if nothing had happened.  

 

The consequences for attorneys who undertake this despicable behavior have changed, thanks to recent revisions to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (ABA Model Rules) which have been adopted by over a dozen states. These changes make sexist comments and behaviors professional misconduct. Specifically, in 2016, the ABA approved revisions to Model Rule 8.4 providing that a lawyer may not engage in conduct that the lawyer knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or socioeconomic status.

 

Linda Bray Chanow, Executive Director for the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas, and driving force behind the revision, noted that while the entrance rate for women in law has increased over the years, there “continues to be widespread disrespect and harassment for women lawyers.” Susan B. Goldberg, director for Gender and Sexuality at Columbia Law School, noted that such disrespect and harassment can hurt a lawyers’ case. “When a lawyer is addressed in a fashion in open court – these kinds of remarks can affect the way a jury or others in the courtroom perceive the lawyer,” Goldberg said.

 

In response to ABA Model Rule 8.4, the State Bar of California’s Second Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct has proposed to add Rule 8.4.1 to California’s Rules, based upon existing Rule 2-400. Proposed Rule 8.4.1 expands Rule 2-400’s focus on discrimination in the context of employment and representation decisions to encompass harassment and discrimination against any person in the course of a representation. Proposed Rule 8.4.1 also recognizes a much wider range of “protected characteristics” than are recognized by Rule 2-400.

 

Unfortunately, California’s proposed Rule 8.4.1 has not received a resounding endorsement from the State Bar’s Board of Trustees. Board member Sean M. SeLegue expressed concern about, “. . . resource-allocation and institutional competence issues as well as a concern that enactment of the rule would create disappointment and disillusionment with complainants when the State Bar decides it is not the appropriate forum for a particular complaint of discrimination.”

 

The fate of proposed Rule 8.4.1 is now in the hands of the California Supreme Court. Until a decision is made, a female litigator’s primary recourse against inappropriate and sexist behavior in the courtroom may only be a terse, “I am not your sweetheart.”

 

 

Whitney Hodges wrote this for the Lawyers Club Bench Bar Committee, and works as a senior associate in the Land Use and Environmental group based in the San Diego office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP.

Tags:  ABA Model Rules  California Rules of Professional Conduct  gender discrimination  LCB  Rule 2-400  sweetheart 

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Student’s Corner: Reflection on the Las Vegas Tragedy

Posted By Student's Corner, Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Student’s Corner: Reflection on the Las Vegas Tragedy

 

In the midst of the tragedy that claimed the lives of 59 souls in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1, 2017, I wanted to reflect this week on exactly what it means to be alive in this world. We get so wrapped up in our careers, our commitments, and our goals that we lose sight of the most precious gift we are given without trying: life.

 

We wake up each day, hold our friends and family close, and are encouraged to persevere through some of the toughest challenges life throws at us. We lost a member of the legal community and Lawyers Club in this tragic event, Jennifer Irvine. I had the pleasure of witnessing Jennifer speak at a California Western event last year, and I remember her encouraging students such as myself to persevere through the semester. She had taken the time to reach back to her community, and for that I am grateful.

 

I hope that we all are able to come together in this tragic circumstance and find a togetherness as women and as human beings, determined to live our lives with a purpose and a gratefulness like never before.  

 

Ashanti Cole is a 2L and a mother of one who enjoys advancing the mission of civil rights and humanitarian efforts through spoken-word poetry and one day through the legal profession. 

Tags:  Jennifer Irvine  Las Vegas  LCB  life  purpose  student's corner  tragedy 

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167 Years, No Women

Posted By Yahairah Aristy, Thursday, October 5, 2017
167 Years, No Women

 

Growing up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, a kaleidoscope of race, ethnicities and culture was the norm. Being a “woman of color” was not even a phrase in my vocabulary until I became a lawyer. Being a woman of color and an attorney at the same time is no easy feat!


In 2012, Ms. Jackie Lacey was the first woman and the first African American elected to be District Attorney for Los Angeles, one of the largest criminal justice systems in California. She was re-elected in 2016 without any opposition. To many, (including me), this formidable achievement is to be applauded; however, it also raises an eyebrow.


The L.A. District Attorney’s office was created in 1850. It took 167 years for a woman and an African American to be elected, in spite of the presence of women and African Americans in all aspects of the criminal justice system and communities. A revelatory illustration that, “Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly.”


In two weeks, I look forward to hearing Ms. Lacey’s advice on how women of color can overcome challenges to advance in the legal profession. As a member of the Diverse Women’s Committee and a woman of color in the legal profession I am well aware that these challenges exist, but also can be overcome.


Join us for this important luncheon on October 19, 2017 –
register now!

 

 

Deputy Public Defender Yahairah Aristy wrote this post for the Diverse Women’s Committee, was born and raised in New York City, and believes diversity and inclusion are a recipe for societal success.

Tags:  diversity  justice  LCB  Los Angeles  Los Angeles District Attorney  luncheon  women of color 

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Passing the Torch

Posted By Holly Hanover, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Passing the Torch

Edith (Edie) Windsor and LGBTQ activism were born in the 1920s. Both remained closeted for decades, but in the 1960s, a seismic event in New York City inspired Ms. Windsor and countless others to say “Enough.” 

Edie Windsor was born shortly before the stock market crash of 1929 and five years after the first U.S. Gay Rights Association. Edie met Thea Spyer at a dance in Greenwich Village in 1963. They danced the night away, and danced often in the years after. By 1967, when marriage – and even a relationship between two women – was illegal in the United States, Thea got down on one knee and proposed to Edie. Rather than risking exposure with an engagement ring, Thea gave Edie a circular diamond pin.

In 1969, the couple returned from a holiday on June 28th to their usually boisterous neighborhood. Edie went out for groceries and saw the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. “There were a lot of cops . . . a very strange kind of feeling,” she observed. The night before, police had raided the Stonewall Inn to harass the gay men inside. Police often conducted raids there, citing the patrons for “offensive” behaviors and beating them during arrests. This time, the gay people fought back.

Before that day, Edie lied to others constantly to hide who she was. She feared being associated with the gay community. That event altered her. “From that day on, I had this incredible gratitude . . . . They changed my life forever.”  

Afterwards, Edie and Thea lived openly as lesbians, and together as an engaged couple for over 40 years. Edie cared for Thea after she contracted multiple sclerosis, leaving her a quadriplegic. They married in 2007 in Canada, because marriage had recently been legalized there. In 2009, Thea died in their home, with Edie by her side.

---

“Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world.

It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.”

- Edith Windsor

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When processing Thea’s estate, Edie learned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevented her from being recognized as a legal spouse. She had to pay $363,053 in taxes, which a heterosexual wife would never have been required to pay. Facing this fundamental injustice, Edie chose to fight back and stand up for herself.

After a 4-year court battle, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor. In 2013, her case, U.S. v. Windsor, became one of three seminal rulings that changed the lives of LGBTQ people in the United States:

  1. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) – Texas law criminalizing "homosexual conduct" is unconstitutional.
  2.  U.S. v. Windsor (2013) – DOMA section 3 is unconstitutional; federal government cannot discriminate against married LGBTQ couples when determining federal benefits/protections.
  3.  Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) – Same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Expanded the Windsor decision, creating protection for same-sex marriage under Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and forcing recognition of marriages performed out-of-state.

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 “Sometimes there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is

rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

- Barack Obama

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The recent progress of the LGBTQ community has suffered numerous setbacks since January. Responsibility now falls to a new generation to continue the persistent fight to allow everyone in the U.S. the same rights and opportunities. On September 12, 2017, Edie Windsor passed away in Manhattan. It is time to pick up her torch and carry it forward. 

 

Holly Hanover wrote this for the Lawyers Club LGBTQ Task Force and runs a Federal Criminal Defense practice at The Law Offices of Holly S. Hanover, representing indigent clients for more than 22 years.

Tags:  activism  Edith Windsor  LCB  LGBTQ  LGBTQ Task Force  same sex marriage  Supreme Court 

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