"In a spirit of openness, we explore how we are classified, stratified, ignored and singled out under the law because of our race, sex, gender, economic class, ability, sexual identity and the multitude of labels applied to us. . . . [W]e welcome all viewpoints and ideas that are expressed with respect and collegiality. . . . [W]e are a journal that promotes living discussion."

This blog is the brainchild of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice at the University of Iowa College of Law. It is intended as a forum for people to discuss their personal views concerning topical issues. Posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily the Board or the Student Writers as a whole. We encourage well-rounded debates and discussions.


Progress for Women in the Military

-Jennifer Wang, JGRJ Student Writer 2009-10

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Recently, the Department of Defense decided to stock emergency contraception to dispense to members of the military in hospitals and health clinics around the world. This occurred during the aftermath of several Bush Administration attacks women’s health, including federal regulation that gave health care workers the ability to refuse to dispense medication or provide medical care in situations that they found to be morally objectionable. This included the ability to refuse to provide reproductive health services for family planning and to rape victims.

Women serving in the military have fought long and hard battles to be recognized as equals and treated with respect and dignity. Countless women are raped and sexually harassed and have had trouble seeking support and assistance from their military counterparts. Countless rapes and instances of sexual assault occur in the military that never get reported. Women serving in the military are at an elevated risk of experiencing discrimination, outright sexual assault, and sexual harassment while serving their country. This has included the problem with disciplining men who rape women in the military, as many ignore the pleas of women who are survivors of rape and sexual harassment.

Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after pill,” or more commonly, “Plan B,” is effective at preventing pregnancy when taken within seventy-two hours of a sexual encounter. Most physicians and much of the medical community view emergency contraception as a safe and effective way to protect women’s autonomy, particularly in situations of rape. However, certain political communities are of the opinion that emergency contraception is abortion, which is a view that has never been proven or supported by the medical community. However, emergency contraception, like abortion and other reproductive health care measures like comprehensive sex education, are under constant attack.

It is exceptionally crucial that rape victims have access to emergency contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Further, since women make up a considerable amount of military personnel, and since they have historically experienced prejudice, increased levels of sexual violence, and discrimination, it is of the utmost importance that female survivors of rape and sexual assault have the critical medical treatment that emergency contraception can provide in times of crisis.

The recent decision to provide emergency contraception to women serving in the military will have a widespread effect on the status and autonomy of female troops. The policy has the potential to affect over 350,000 women, and it stands as a beneficial change to the multitude of barriers that women currently experience while serving their country. It is a policy that will undoubtedly contribute to ending gender discrimination and violence against women.

State of the Union

-Kapri Saunders, JGRJ Student Writer 2009-10

Friday, February 05, 2010

Many things came out of the President’s State of the Union Address last week. Too much for a single blog post, here are some of my favorite stories since the speech. In a sentence : The President is non-black man who loves gay people, wants Americans to be able to work, and dissed the Supreme Court – right in front of them.

We’re definitely in a post racial society… right?
“I forgot he was black for an hour” – MSNBC Host Chris Matthews re: President Obama delivering the State of the Union
We’ll leave this comment alone, but I would like to point you to this ABC News article. It discusses several non-post racial comments about President Obama from politicians and other prominent individuals. It has the original comment coupled with the cover up comment or apology, if one was available. Wow!

Ask! Tell! You’ll just have to wait over a year.
Supporters of gay rights were ecstatic to hear the president promise the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. The policy, promulgated during the Clinton Administration, bans individuals from being openly gay in the military, but also bans inquiry into one’s sexuality. This is one blemish in recent American legislative history to which Bush can’t be linked. While it is time to rejoice, it is also a game of hurry up and wait as well.

A study about the impact of allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military is underway, and the Department of Defense has 45 days to study the regulations used to implement the law and present solutions for a more humane enforcement of the law. However, the Secretary of Defense announced that it will take more than a year to lay the groundwork for a repeal of the policy. But in the meantime, the military will “start enforcing the policy in a ‘fairer manner’.” I am not sure what that means.

As a result of the policy, “more than 13,500 service members have been discharged.” One of those members is Lt. Dan Choi, who will be the keynote speaker at our 14th Annual Symposium Feb. 25-26th, Race, Gender, And Class At A Crossroad: A Survey of Their Intersection in Employment, Economics, and the Law. We’ll just have to wait and see if the promise is kept.

Jobs for the People in America … except the Mexicans on the West Coast
President Obama also focused on creating jobs … not everyone is too keen on the idea.

Growing up in Arizona, I am no stranger to seeing mostly Mexican, immigrant workers standing on the corner waiting for work. Every morning, you can visit certain street corners and find Mexican men waiting for someone, usually a white man in landscaping or construction, to offer them day labor. The exchange is simple: I’ll work for you, you pay me money. It’s a win-win for both parties (leaving out the comments about how there is a little bit of the hiring party taking advantage of the worker).

But yet another city in California doesn’t think so. Costa Mesa banned citizen from soliciting work on the street; since prostitution is already illegal, this is obviously targeted at the day laborers. A group of day laborers filed a suit against the city asserting that the ordinance violates their civil rights. The theory is that forbidding people from seeking employment (specifically, soliciting employment on street corners) violates their free speech rights. The ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit, the eighth in twelve years, most being settled or won by workers. Read the full story here.

So maybe it’s better to say jobs for Americans. Let’s hope this one works out too. There are far too many intelligent, educated, hard-working people without a job, some of them are in school and afraid to leave, and others are scrambling to find a way to support their children.

Dissing the Court
Of course, the President would not be happy with the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. I appreciate his honesty in mentioning the issue (see Alito’s reaction here), I just feel bad for the Court. President Obama’s ability to get the American people to contribute money to his campaign was one of the many things that Obama’s campaign did right. Allowing corporate entities to contribute to political campaigns in an unlimited manner changes the rules of the game… hundred year old rules. Many scholars have predicted that this will lead to corporations buying elections. The candidate with the bigger stock portfolio and corporate baking may be the winner (we’ll be mad at more than the banks for inappropriate spending). Though what I am really interested in (because my law school brain has been trained to think about hypotheticals that will never materialize) is: if the Court granted a corporation the same First Amendment rights as an individual, what does the world look like if the Court grants all of the individuals’ rights to a corporation? I’ll save that for another entry.

Solomon Amendment

- Kristen DePena, JGRJ Student Writer, 2008-09

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Many U.S. soldiers serving in Vietnam returned to the United States in the face of criticism, blame, and disrespect from Americans in disagreement with the war. Fortunately, our country since recognized the importance of positive American bipartisan response to soldiers and their continued bravery, selflessness, and commitment to our country and soldiers are highly regarded and widely respected across the political spectrum.

However, criticism exists regarding the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass” policy toward homosexuals, passed by Congress in 1994. This policy is based on extensive Congressional findings detailed in §654, Policy Concerning Homosexuals in the Armed Forces. Among other findings, Congress points to the importance of discipline, high morale, character, and unit cohesion as persuasive reasoning for the law. The armed forces maintain personnel policies that exclude persons whose presence in the armed forces would create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces good order and discipline and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability. Findings conclude that the presence in the armed forces of individuals who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts create an unacceptable risk to the standards of the armed forces. Policies enforcing these findings include prohibitions on homosexual/heterosexual conduct or intimate relations and declarations of homosexuality or homosexual marriage outside of the military.

The anti-discrimination policies in effect on most campuses conflicted with the military policy and many institutions of higher learned began banning military recruiters from their campuses and some sought the removal of resident ROTC programs as a means of remedying the conflict. Congress responded to such attempts by passing the 1996 Solomon Amendment. The Amendment, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, gave the Secretary of Defense the ability to deny federal funding to institutions of higher learning if they chose to prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus.

The Supreme Court of the United States settled the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment with its decision in Rumsfeld v. FAIR. The Court decided no First Amendment violation existed because higher institutions retained the freedom to voice their opposition to the military’s policy through means such as peaceful protest or informative tabling. As a result, any school banning recruiters on campus or the removal of ROTC programs result in the loss of millions of dollars of federal funding. In response, select students attending the University of Iowa College of Law recently organized a peaceful protest to display their disagreement with the J.A.G Corps’ controversial policy toward homosexuals that contradicts the anti-discrimination policies of the law school, while many of their fellow classmates interviewed on-campus with J.A.G. Corps recruiters.

It is important to note that Congress and the military believe that homosexuals may serve and do serve in the military honorably. Protestors are free to protest military recruitment, and homosexuals that feel the need to declare their sexual preferences are free not to join the military. Is it possible to feel that both sides may be correct? Negative discrimination is a societal atrocity and should not be accepted in any circumstances. However, it is arguable that the policy of the military is not a discriminatory policy per se, but rather is the best policy on the table. Despite many societal advances regarding the acceptance of particular heterosexual and homosexual behaviors, it seems unlikely that we can change the military policy in light of previously cited Congressional findings without facing detrimental consequences. Furthermore, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allows for the ability of anyone to join the military in an attempt to incorporate all walks of life willing to commit to serving our country. Hopefully, the law will serve to protect rather than constrict homosexual identity within the military and in time, the need for protection will disappear. In a perfect world, everyone will become accepting, tolerant, and comfortable with the choices and lifestyles of everyone. As it stands in this case, the military, too, has a side.