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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 use 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 authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome.

 

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#WhyIDidntReport

Posted By Jenn French, Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A few weeks ago, the President of the United States mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on his Twitter feed. In response, women throughout the country began to share their #WhyIDidntReport stories. Padma Lakshmi courageously shared her story in the New York Times. I shared mine too, on Twitter and Instagram. And nearly every single woman I know chimed in with #MeToo, with stories ranging from sexual assault to gender discrimination. I wish I could tell you this was my only #MeToo experience.

In the early months of 1999, I had just returned back to campus after winter break. I was newly single, having just broke up with my first “real” boyfriend in college, and the first person with whom I’d had sexual intercourse. I was briefly living in what we called a “single double” - my roommate had moved out the previous semester and my new roommate had not yet moved in. Ironically, I lived next door to the resident advisor.

I don’t remember much about that night. I know it was cold, and I’m pretty sure there was snow on the ground. I remember walking across campus to a fraternity house with two male friends. I know that I drank a lot that night. I was trying to hang with the guys, and my newly-single-self wanted to have fun. I’d met my ex-boyfriend in the first few weeks of college, so this was the first time I felt like I could really let loose. I was a “high functioning drinker” – I didn’t slur my words and stayed reasonably coherent, which meant that my friends often didn’t realize how drunk I really was.

One of the guys I was with that night was not drinking at the party. I had met him a few times but didn’t know him well. Due to the passage of time, and the alcohol I had consumed, I am hazy on the details. (This is a blessing and a curse.) What I do know is that he walked me back to my dorm room, just the two of us. I remember snapshots of what happened next. The blasting heat in my Wisconsin dorm room in sharp contrast to the cold winter air blowing in from the slightly open window. Trying to explain that I didn’t want to have sex. That I’d only done it with one person. I remember him telling me that it was okay. Everything was okay. He was a nice guy. We were friends. We were just having fun. What I don’t remember is whether he used a condom. I hate that I can’t remember this detail.

The next day I woke up confused and sore. I couldn’t understand why I would have had sex with him. It wasn’t in my character, but I was so drunk. I barely remembered the walk back to my dorm room. I don’t remember using my key to open the door. I don’t remember ever consenting, and I know today that I was too drunk to be legally capable of consent.

I went to a very small school, and within twenty-four hours, everyone knew what had happened. A “friend” I had met through my ex-boyfriend started rumors about me. She told everyone about what happened with this man and called me a slut. I was mortified and ashamed. But the worst part is that I believed her. I thought it was my fault. I was drunk. No one forced me to drink. We went to a party together. I assumed that I let him into my room, although I didn’t remember.

I didn’t tell a soul about what really happened. I ended up transferring to a different school and becoming a bartender, which opened me up to a whole other world of sexual harassment and assault. In late 2002, I finally sought therapy. I am forever grateful to my counselor, Lynn, for helping me see, for the first time, that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t consent.

I was raped.

Why didn’t I report what happened to me? Surely this is a rhetorical question after the confirmation of sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh to our nation’s highest court. I was drunk, he was sober. I didn’t remember the details. I couldn’t tell you the exact date that it happened. I don’t even remember his last name. People saw us leave together and “I seemed fine.” And before I had a chance to think about reporting, everyone already heard a different version of the story: that I was a slut who wanted it to happen.

Why didn’t I report what happened to me? I knew that no one would believe me.

When I shared my story on social media, a well-meaning male friend commented that I could still report; even though the statute of limitations had run out, at least the man who raped me would have that on his record. This is something I never would have considered before Dr. Ford’s testimony, and something that I would never consider after the hearing. I went to college in a small town in Wisconsin. I can only imagine the jeering questions I’d get calling from California to report a 19-year-old sexual assault.

Like many women, I am shaking with anger at the outcome of this nomination process. I am outraged by the women, like Senator Susan Collins, who continue to prop up the patriarchy. These women enable sexual predators by saying things like, “boys will be boys” and “she must be confused, poor thing.” I am furious that 50 senators voted yes for a man who lied under oath, who was credibly accused of assaulting several women, whose demeanor revealed that he is objectively unfit to hold judicial office. And I am furious that those in power pushed this nomination through in record time with the specific intent to circumvent the November 6th election and to prevent Americans from weighing in on this crucial nomination—especially after what happened with Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. The hypocrisy is astounding and infuriating.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: I’m glad that I finally shared my story. I’m not sorry that I did so, even though it didn’t prevent the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. I feel free, I feel lighter. And I feel solidarity with so many of my sisters who shared their stories and all those who are still too afraid to do so. I know that our conversations are not in vain, and I hope that, through these conversations, we can change this culture of toxic masculinity so that our daughters can say #NotMe, instead of #MeToo.

To my fellow survivors: I see you. I hear you. I believe you. You are not alone. And we will take back our government from those who believe that women’s lives are not as valuable as men’s lives. Please make sure that you are registered to vote, and vote for pro-choice candidates who will fight for equality on November 6, 2018. And after you’ve taken the time for self-care, please join us as we Demand Equality. The Women’s Advocacy and Reproductive Justice Committees provide excellent opportunities to channel your rage and disappointment into action.

Jenn French owns her own practice focused on civil litigation and handles pro-bono asylum cases through Casa Cornelia Law Center and co-chairs San Diego Lawyers Club’s Reproductive Justice Committee with Brigid Campo.

 

Tags:  Christine Blasey Ford  demand equality  Kavanaugh  MeToo  rape  reporting  reproductive justice  senate  sexual assault  Supreme Court  survivor  whyIdidntreport  women’s advocacy 

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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.

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“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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Chasing the Last Wave: "Notorious RBG to the Rescue!"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Notorious RBG to the Rescue!

 

Like many of you, I’m feeling disheartened these days by all the negative news and nasty rhetoric out there, particularly as it relates to women and our place in society. The founding mothers of feminism must surely be rolling in their graves just as we modern day feminists are shocked by what we are witnessing in the presidential election campaign. Need I say more? And at work, my inbox fills with article after article about gender disparity in pay at law firms, women’s underrepresentation in the legal ranks, sexual harassment claims in the legal academy, and so forth. No wonder many women feel discouraged these days, even women in the legal profession who arguably yield great influence and power over their own circumstances and fate.   

 

In the midst of all this bad news and gloom, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG!) came to my rescue. I’ve watched several recent interviews with Justice Ginsburg as she promotes her new book, My Own Words, and I just read her recent New York Times essay entitled Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Advice for Living, adapted from that book. Justice Ginsburg’s personal story inspires me and demonstrates the great progress women have made in the legal profession. But what she shared in the interviews and in the essay about her “supersmart, exuberant, ever-loving spouse,” Marty Ginsburg, struck me the most. “And I betray no secret in reporting that, without him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court,” she writes. Marty Ginsburg secured the support of her home state senator and members of the legal academy and practicing bar to make her nomination happen. It’s apparent that marrying Marty was one of the best decisions of Justice Ginsburg’s personal and professional life.

 

We’ve all heard it said that behind every successful man is a great woman. In the old days, that was generally true. While I don’t subscribe to the notion that every successful professional woman needs a man (or partner) behind her, I firmly believe that for women who decide to marry, choosing the “right” partner is the most critical decision for both personal and career success. I hope many women reading this have chosen well or will heed this advice when contemplating marriage/partnership in the future. And to the many supportive male members of the Lawyers Club, I thank you for being our allies, advocates and in many cases, that “right” partner. 

 

I leave you with the closing paragraph of Justice Ginsburg’s essay, and I thank her for rescuing me and inspiring us all to continue chasing the last wave. 

 

Earlier, I spoke of great changes I have seen in women’s occupations. Yet one must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose “We, the people,” will continue.

 

Molly Tami serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law. She previously designed and taught a course on Law, Gender and the Work/Family Conflict and is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.               

Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  election  feminism  feminist  gender  Justice Ginsburg  LCB  legal profession  marriage  partner  sexual harassment  spouse  Supreme Court  women 

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My So-Called First-World Problems: "June 27, 2016"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Wednesday, August 10, 2016
 June 27, 2016.

When San Diego’s Coalition for Reproductive Justice (formerly the Coalition for Reproductive Choice), scheduled a June 27, 2016 screening of Trapped many moons ago, we were ignorant of the date’s auspices. Trapped follows the travails of abortion providers and their patients following the enactment of HB 2—the 2013 Texas law requiring that (a) doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic; and, (b) each abortion clinic meet standards for ambulatory surgical care centers. Serendipitously, we aired Trapped just hours after the Supreme Court of the United States held that HB 2 unconstitutionally placed an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

A little history: Traditionally, abortion foes prioritized the fetus, whereas advocates of abortion access have prioritized women’s lives and right to self-determination over any competing rights of the fetus.

In the last decade, the right-to-life camp has shifted gears, claiming that they are on the side of women—the more barriers to abortion, the better for women. Abortion, they began to argue, is inherently harmful to the woman physically, emotionally, and mentally. (NB: None of this is borne out by the evidence. Abortion is safer than childbirth. It is safer than a colonoscopy. Safer than liposuction. And, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), abortion does not cause mental health problems for most women.)  

A survey of available data (courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute and the APA) suggests that abortion is not harmful to women. What is harmful is the stigma our society attaches to abortion, and the strategically placed barriers to early abortion access. (Early abortions are safer and less expensive than later ones). What I love most about Whole Woman’s Health is the Court’s refusal to give credence to falsified claims that TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws do anything to help women. Why the refusal? Because the claims are not supported by evidence. We lawyers traffic in facts, and the record in Whole Woman’s Health is chock-full of facts demonstrating that barriers to abortion care are unhelpful and even dangerous.

The Court found the stated justification–keeping women safer–to be seriously lacking, and it found an unconstitutional undue burden. Among other persuasive facts, the Court considered that most abortions are not surgical, but medical (where the woman takes a pill to induce the abortion); thus, repudiating the opposition's assertion that abortions ought to occur at ambulatory surgical care centers.

 

State laws similar to HB 2 have proliferated in the past few years and are expected to face serious scrutiny in the wake of Whole Woman’s Health. As a result, the anti-abortion camp is expected to again revamp its strategy, returning their focus to the rights of the fetus, while reproductive justice advocates will continue to work toward the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls.

The atmosphere at CRJ’s screening of Trapped was celebratory yet somber. In the wake of HB 2’s enactment, Texas lost half of its abortion clinics. Rebuilding will take time, and in the three years it took the case to wind its way through the courts, real women and girls bore HB 2’s consequences. 

This blog was authored by Rebecca Zipp. Rebecca Zipp is the proud owner of a Notorious RBG t-shirt.



Tags:  Abortion  My So-Called First-World Problems  reproductive justice  SCOTUS  Supreme Court  Texas  Texas TRAP laws 

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2019 LC Annual Dinner

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