However you feel about Catherine MacKinnon — I happen to like her even while I disagree with a lot of her legal goals — her Obama op/ed is awesome.
Women are at a crossroads in our struggle for legal equality as a means to social equality. Having women in politics matters, but it is crucial to have the policies women need. At this moment we risk losing ground gained, but we also have the opportunity to advance. At stake in this presidential election are the federal courts.
Despite inroads, women’s status remains characterized by sex-based poverty and impunity for sexual abuse from childhood on. The next president will appoint scores of lower court federal judges who will have the last word in most cases. One, perhaps three, justices may be named to a Supreme Court that in recent years has decided many cases of importance to women by just one vote. Equality can be promoted in employment, education, reproductive rights and in ending violence against women — or not.
The equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution is stalled. The fate of affirmative-action programs that have helped open doors for qualified women of all races may be vulnerable. The scope of Congress’s power to legislate — key to what a majority of Congress can accomplish for all our people — has become uncertain.
Existing laws essential for women’s economic survival have often been regressively interpreted. Women on average remain poorer than men, largely because of unequal pay. Recently, the Supreme Court held in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. that plaintiffs must sue as of the first unequal paycheck, when they might not even know that their pay is unequal. Barack Obama supports restoring the rule, followed for decades, that allows suit for all the wage discrimination as of the last discriminatory paycheck. John McCain opposed this in the Senate.
We talk a lot of about the Supreme Court, but as MacKinnon points out, the lower courts are crucial too — and Bush strategically stacked the federal bench with right-wing judges. That’s going to pose long-term problems for our country’s legal system, and it’s going to be further exacerbated if another Republican gets into the White House. Women’s rights are in jeopardy across the board, and this election is a crucial one.
So check out MacKinnon’s op/ed, do what you can to help, and vote.
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