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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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A Roadmap for Balancing LGBTQ+ Protections with Religious Freedom

Posted By by Tristan Higgins for Lawyers Club's LGBTQ Committee, Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2019

At Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s 19th Annual Women and the Law Conference, The Way Forward: Gender, LGBTQIA Rights, and Religious Liberties, on February 1, 2019, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecturer was former EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum. Feldblum was raised an Orthodox Jew, but at 18 lost her faith. She is also a “practicing lesbian” and joked that she would like to continue “practicing for as long as possible.”


To Feldblum, there are two important, and sometimes conflicting, principles in the workplace: 1) to ensure religious liberty in both religious practice and pluralism, and 2) that everyone has the right to live an honest life, free from discrimination and harassment. Feldblum encouraged us to engage in this discussion with a “generosity of spirit,” regardless of the emotions invoked.


She laid out four “locations” that justify different outcomes for LGBTQ+ employee protection and religious freedom:

  1. Individuals seeking protection in the public sector from an employer’s requirement [e.g., an employer bans any head coverings and an employee wants to wear a hijab at work];
  2. Religious individuals who provide a service to the public seeking an exemption [e.g., a baker asserts religious beliefs as the basis for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple];
  3. Religious institutions seeking an exemption [e.g., the Catholic church refusing to hire a trans priest]; and,
  4. Institutions controlled by a religious institution or beliefs [e.g., a Yeshiva Day Camp denying admission to Christian children].

In the first location, the employer should accommodate the employee’s request for an exception to the employer’s requirement as long as it does not place an undue burden on the employer. If the employee can still get their work done, why shouldn’t the employer grant a religious exemption? That said, this protection for the religious employee does not grant that same employee license to harass, say, LGBTQ+ employees at work—because the religious person’s right to free speech does not outweigh the LGBTQ+ person’s right to be free from harassment.


In the second location, Feldblum argues that the balance should be in favor of the LGBTQ+ individual. It is key to our society that people are free from harassment and discrimination. It is not enough to tell the LGBTQ+ individual to go to another bakery. Rather, if the baker works in a bakery that is open to the public, they should bake the cake regardless of their religious beliefs. Feldblum commented that if the baker worked in a bakery with 50 employees (instead of only a handful), perhaps that employee could be excused from baking such cakes. The LGBTQ+ couple need never know there was an issue. A balance can, and should, be struck.


It is not controversial that a religious institution be allowed to select only ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams that embrace the tenants of its religion. It is crucial to that religious organization that it be allowed to pass on its teachings unobstructed by anti-discrimination laws. This need outweighs my need as a lesbian to serve as a minister in a church that believes being a lesbian is a sin.


The last location is tricky. Feldblum argues that if that location wants to discriminate, it needs to be consistent. For the Yeshiva Day Camp to keep out a Christian child, they need to only allow Jewish children, and employ only Jewish employees. If their religious beliefs are so crucial to them that they cannot allow a Christian child to attend, they better mean it and prove it with consistency.


As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and an atheist with a long and storied background in religion, I very much appreciate the framework that Feldblum set forth. Members of both the LGBTQ+ and faith communities need to understand that a balance must be struck between, for example, my right to be a proud lesbian free from harassment and discrimination and my friend’s right to practice and celebrate sincerely held religious beliefs. The balance will not always be the same, but if we discuss these issues with a generosity of spirit and profound respect for each other, we can work to create an equilibrium.


Editor’s Note: Feldblum explains the concepts summarized above, and more, in her recent post, which you can read here: What I Really Believe About Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights.


Tristan Higgins, who wrote this post for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is a seasoned lawyer specializing in diversity and inclusion speaking and consulting.

 

 

 

Tags:  Chai Feldblum  churches  discrimination  diversity  EEOC  exemptions  LGBTQ  LGBTQ+  pluralism  religious freedom  schools 

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Women of Color Reception – Recognizing Role Models for Women of Color in the Law

Posted By Elidia Dostal for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

As the youngest and scrawniest of six siblings, my fast talking was my best defense. As far back as I can remember, my family told me, “You talk so much, you should be a lawyer.” So it was determined. But when I finally decided to apply to law school, I planned on going to the local law school in Sacramento. Applying to the Ivy League law schools never even occurred to me, even after I received my LSAT scores and understood that I’d scored in the top 1%. But then my coworker’s sister, a Latina who attended Cornell Law School, heard about me and insisted that I apply to the Ivy Leagues. Still I resisted, counting all the reasons I wouldn’t get in. Once she helped me understand what was possible – because she was an example – I applied to and graduated from Yale Law School. This is the power of seeing someone like you ascend to positions you had not even considered for yourself. It is the power of the Lawyers Club Diverse Women’s Committee (DWC). This is true for whatever “like you” means to you. It is important that we all have role models that we can relate to, and that we can see ourselves emulating.

Continuing DWC’s tradition of recognizing women of color in the law who are breaking barriers and serving as important role models, Janice P. Brown will be the honoree at the seventh annual Women of Color reception being held February 6, 2019. Janice P. Brown is the founding partner of Brown Law Group and is the first African American woman to serve as the Board Chair for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC). She is an ideal leader for EDC’s inclusive growth initiative, which aims to close the minority achievement gap and equip small businesses to compete.

The Diverse Women’s Committee Women of Color reception will take place on February 6, 2019 at Procopio’s downtown office from 5:30-7:30 p.m. I will be there to learn from and be inspired by Ms. Brown. I hope you will join me.


Elidia Dostal wrote this for the Lawyers Club’s Diverse Women’s Committee, and she is an environmental and land use partner at Vanst Law—a law firm committed to changing law firm culture for the better, one attorney at a time.

 

Tags:  diversity  DWC  Janice Brown  role models  WOC  Women of Color reception 

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Now, More Than Ever – Diversity and Women’s Leadership in the Law

Posted By Marni von Wilpert, Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The mission of the Diverse Women’s Committee is to discuss how women as attorneys, particularly women of color, can become leaders and utilize their legal position to support human rights and demand equality and inclusivity for all. The keynote speaker for this year’s Diverse Women’s Committee luncheon is Mona Pasquil, an incredible woman who has spent her career in public service, most recently as California Governor Jerry Brown’s Appointments Secretary since 2011.

Today’s headlines highlight the discrimination women continue to face, especially women of color, as we attempt to gain an equal foothold in our workplaces and the economy. Stories abound of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and gender pay inequality from Walmart to Wall Street. And those are only examples of gender-based discrimination; women of color also face implicit and sometimes overt racism and bias in the workplace daily. Despite facing these challenges, women of color continue to lead the charge toward greater equality. Indeed, in 2015, years before the national conversation on the “MeToo” hashtag emerged, a courageous group of Latina women started a movement that paved the way to a new California law targeting sexual harassment and assault in the janitorial industry. Indeed, the coining of the term “MeToo” to help survivors of sexual assault find support was created by an African-American woman nearly a decade ago.

In the current political climate and the U.S. Senate’s judicial confirmation hearings for nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, I’ve often heard it said that diversity and women’s equality matters “now more than ever.” Maybe in this moment society is listening to women more than ever, but the leadership and diverse voices of women have always mattered in the fight for human rights, equality, and inclusivity for all. It mattered just as much in 1955, when Dolores Huerta began her career as an organizer, eventually co-founding with Cesar Chavez what would become the United Farm Workers’ Union to advocate for the economic and social rights of farm workers. It mattered just as much in 1964, when Fannie Lou Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, challenged the state’s all-white delegation, and unmasked racial segregation and voter suppression in her speeches at the National Democratic Convention. It mattered just as much in 1991, when Anita Hill testified before the U.S. Senate, detailing her experiences of sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas when he oversaw her work at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And it mattered just as much in 2009, when Mona Pasquil became California’s first Asian, first Filipina, and first female lieutenant governor.       

Please join the Diverse Women’s Committee for our luncheon on Thursday, October 18, 2018, as we continue our conversation to identify, confront, and address particular challenges that women of color, as double minorities, continue to face in the legal profession and society. Mona Pasquil is an incredible speaker and is a woman using her voice and leadership to promote equal access to opportunity for all. Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there – register now

Marni von Wilpert is a Deputy City Attorney in the Civil Litigation Unit of the San Diego City Attorney's Office, and wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee.




 

Tags:  appointments secretary  diversity  Dolores Huerta  equality  Fannie Lou  Filipina  Jerry Brown  luncheon  Mona Pasquil 

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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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Chasing the Last Wave: "What's Diversity Got to Do With It?"

Posted By Molly Tami, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What’s Diversity Got to Do With It? 

  

      Throughout the history of feminism, women as a group have been the “other” gender fighting for equal rights and equal opportunities. While women make up almost half of total law school graduates, the data confirms that women are not equally represented in law firm partnership, in corporate counsel offices, on the bench or in other leadership positions in our profession. We are all familiar with the explanations and reasons given for this, and we continue to struggle to change this reality.

 

     Our hope for change is fueled in part by the notion that legal employers want to boast of a “diverse” workforce to attract diverse candidates as well as to meet their clients’ expectations and demands for a diverse group of people to work on their legal matters. The arguments for diversity are indeed compelling. But isn’t it perplexing that women, particularly those with family responsibilities, feel at times that they have to stake their claim to executive positions or positions of leadership in the name of diversity rather than equality?

 

     I’ve been thinking about that question since spending a weekend with five corporate lawyers, all working in the auto finance field in the mid-west (a male dominated arena). These women are all very accomplished and successful. One of the women in her mid-forties was struggling with a decision about whether to pursue an even bigger job at her company. In reality, she felt that she was already doing most of the duties of the elevated position but not getting the recognition or pay for it. At the same time, she values her current work arrangement which allows her to leave in the afternoons to pick up her child at school, and then return to work either at the office or at home. And on Fridays, she works remotely from home. She wanted to pursue the new position, but did not want to lose this flexibility and ability to manage and enjoy both her work and family life.

 

    She was discussing with our group how she might approach her boss about taking the new position/title while keeping her current work arrangement. Her proposed argument to the boss went like this: the company wants and values “diversity” in executive roles and as a working mother she provides that diversity. My immediate reaction to that argument was this: why do women who have both proven their worth in the workplace and value their family role have to pitch their worthiness for a promotion in the name of diversity? What’s diversity got to do with it? Women are at least half the population in this country, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70% of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. So why do we still view the ideal worker norm as an individual (male or female) whose work life exists in a vacuum void of consideration of family responsibilities?  

 

    This is a difficult issue that I will attempt to explore in subsequent posts. For now I raise it to bring awareness to it as a major obstacle that we must address. When it comes to women being equally represented in leadership positions within the legal profession, we are definitely still “chasing the last wave.”

 

This blog post was authored by Molly Tami. 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:  bias  Chasing the Last Wave  diversity  family responsibilities  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  leadership  legal profession 

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Guest Blog: "Consider the numbers, but let the stories move you"

Posted By Angelica Sciencio, Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I have always strolled peacefully at the intersection of white and black, foreign and homegrown, poor and prosperous. I have heard about many injustices but experienced few.  So like you, I usually scroll through my news feed glancing over lives lost, vocalized racism, masked xenophobia and just plain bigotry. I usually feel sad but somewhat detached from that reality, so I shrug and move on to the puppy videos. But not today.

Today, I cried. I saw the video of Philando Castile bleeding in front of his girlfriend, a child, a cop, and a camera phone. I read about the protests, police officers getting shot and I felt extreme sadness. But what took me over the edge to tears were the excusatory comments from my “friended”, the news headlines, the opportunistic political advances and above all, my own inaction.

I thought about posting #blacklivesmatter on my feed, but I wondered if people would think I was playing victim. You see, I am a foreign-born-woman-of-mixed-race.  My black father was a policeman, who was murdered by a white guy.

Despite that drama, I have always lived in this perpetual middle of the road that has shielded me from extremes. I am black enough to have been made fun of for my hair and to prevent closet-racist friends from using slurs in my presence, but not too black to be stopped and frisked for no reason, to be thrown in jail for minor violations or to be shot in my car. I am foreign enough to have worked long hours at various undesirable jobs for minimum wage and will probably forever mess up my prepositions, but I am not too foreign to make people anxious when I board a plane or to be called a terrorist because of the way I dress or the language I speak. I am poor enough to get my yoga classes on Groupon and to buy dog food on sale, but not too poor to be chastised for using government assistance to feed myself and my family.  I am womanly enough to have been called “doll” and “love” by former male bosses, to have been told to smile more times then I can count, but not a woman who was prevented from getting an education and trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession. And thank heavens I am straight for that I have always been allowed to love and marry (and subsequently divorce) whoever I damned pleased. Don’t get me wrong: it hasn’t been easy, but it has been possible.

My point is: I am part of pretty much every minority group out there, and I don’t even understand what they go through. But I try. When (sometimes unwillingly) I enter into discrimination discussions with more privileged, sheltered friends, I feel the need to formulate arguments based on statistics, logical reasoning and contradictions by the other side. But maybe we shouldn’t have to bring up the numbers to convince. Perhaps, we should just listen and give the other side the benefit of the doubt. 

If you have been blessed with opportunities to succeed, and are tempted to believe that everyone in the world has had the same, do yourself a favor lest you sound like a fool: consider the historical oppression of certain people, the widespread institutional discrimination of certain groups and most importantly, listen to the stories. Then, concoct and implement your own moral affirmative action: give those who have traditionally had less (money, opportunities, freedom, respect, rights) just a little extra love and support.  If we shoot for equity, not equality, we might not need hashtags to shine a light on systemic racism and other inequities. For now, however, #blacklivesmatter, #equalpay, #reproductiverights, #stopbullying, #loveislove. 


This post was authored by Angelica Sciencio, an Immigration Attorney at Law Office of Angelica Sciencio and co-chair of the Diverse Women’s Committee. 

 

Tags:  advocacy  discrimination  diverse women's committee  diversity  guest blogger  LCB  race  social media 

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more Calendar

10/24/2019
Fall Judicial Reception

10/31/2019
COC's Halloween Read-In

11/6/2019
Taste of North County: North and Mid-County Committee Mixer

12/11/2019
Fund For Justice Luncheon

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