NewS and Press
Today, Legal Voice joined National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) and 98 other reproductive justice, drug policy reform, women’s rights, and civil liberties organizations in filing an amicus brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Lacy Weld.
Ms. Weld pled guilty to the crime of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, but was given an enhanced sentence of an additional six years in federal prison because she was pregnant at the time she committed the crime. We argued that subjecting women to harsher and unequal sentences because of pregnancy is profoundly discriminatory, violates multiple constitutional guarantees, and, if allowed to stand, would establish precedent that undermines maternal, fetal, and child health. The brief also challenges inaccurate medical claims regarding pregnant women and drug use.
Earlier this year, we also joined NAPW in sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Department of Justice to renounce these types of enhanced criminal penalties.
Today, Legal Voice joined the National Abortion Federation, the Center for American Progress, and 84 other pro-choice organizations in signing a letter to President Obama urging him to remove restrictions on abortion services and coverage in his budget for the 2016 fiscal year.
The letter specifically requests that the budget not include the Hyde Amendment, a rider law that has been included in every annual budget since its inception in 1976. The Hyde Amendment prohibits abortion coverage through Medicaid, while similar restrictions affect women who receive federally sponsored healthcare through their federal jobs, or through programs such as Medicare, the Veteran’s Administration, and the Peace Corps.
In September, we worked with the Seattle City Council to pass a resolution supporting the repeal of all bans on public insurance coverage of abortion.
Withholding coverage for abortion care creates profound hardships for millions of women and families, particularly for those who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality health care, such as low-income women, immigrant women, young women, and women of color. We hope President Obama will take a stand with us in believing every woman should be able to access safe, affordable abortion services regardless of her income, zip code, or source of insurance.
You're the best! Because of your support, #GivingTuesday was a huge success! We set a goal of $1,000 in donations, but you ran circles around that goal and helped us raise a whopping $5,210! Thank you for believing in us and investing in our work. Together, we can make change. With the help of your donation dollars, that's exactly what we're going to do.
Last Thursday, a pregnant woman in Spokane received notice of a court order—an order entered without giving her any notice or an opportunity to be heard—that was granted to her former partner six days prior. The order completely violated her rights as a woman, as an expectant mother, and as a domestic violence survivor, while granting rights to a man who has not been legally established as her expected child's parent.
The court had ordered her to:
- immediately contact her former partner when she went into labor and tell him where she planned to give birth
- allow him and his parents to be at the hospital when she gave birth
- allow him and his parents to visit with her child in the hospital
- not enter any contract to have the child "sold"—an offensive and unnecessary provision that appeared to be based on negative stereotypes about her Romani origin
This order offended so many of her fundamental rights: her rights to procreative and medical privacy, her right as a parent to decide who has access to her child, and her right to gender equity. And because she is a domestic violence survivor, the order significantly increased her vulnerability by requiring her to notify her former partner of her location when she gave birth and to permit him and his family access to her newborn child.
When we learned of this case last Friday afternoon, we knew we could not let it stand. With her due date rapidly approaching, we had to act quickly. So we spent the weekend drafting a response to the court's order, working with co-counsel from the YWCA Alternatives to Domestic Violence program in Spokane.
We appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on her behalf, and we are pleased to say that the Court agreed with our arguments and struck down the requirements that she notify her former partner when she went into labor and allow him and his parents access to the hospital and to her child. The Court also struck the offensive provision about "selling" her child and cautioned her former partner against invoking negative stereotypes.
For years, sexual assault survivors and advocates have worked to change the legal system’s response to sexual violence. We’ve fought to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are able to report crimes without fear that their conduct will become the focus of the case. But today’s ruling by the Washington Supreme Court threatens to move us backward.
In its decision in the case of State v. W.R., the Court reversed 25 years of Washington precedent concerning the burden of proof in rape cases. The Court held that if a defendant is charged with rape by forcible compulsion and asserts that the victim had consented, the State must now bear the burden of disproving the victim’s consent beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant will no longer have any burden of proving a defense of consent.
Legal Voice joined with our allies at the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and the Sexual Violence Law Center to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in this case. We argued that requiring the prosecution to disprove that the victim had consented would turn the clock back by shifting the focus of rape cases to the victim's actions, rather than on the defendant's conduct. Justice Susan Owens agreed with our argument in a powerful dissent, which was joined by Justices Steven González and Charles Johnson.
Today, Legal Voice—in coalition with National Advocates for Pregnant Women and 46 other reproductive justice, drug policy reform, women’s rights, and civil liberties organizations—sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to renounce enhanced criminal penalties for women on the basis of pregnancy.
The letter stems from a case in which Lacey Weld pled guilty to the crime of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, but was given an enhanced sentence of an additional six years in federal prison because she was pregnant at the time she committed the crime. Handing down an enhanced sentence based on pregnancy is contrary to rational and just sentencing policies, as well as to the health and well-being of children and families. The principle that women who become pregnant may be subject to separate, unequal, and harsher penalties than other persons is discriminatory, and it violates the fundamental principles of human rights and reproductive justice.
We urge the DOJ to renounce its position supporting enhanced penalties for pregnant women in Ms. Weld’s case and other cases.
Just over a year ago, Judge G. Todd Baugh in Billings, Montana sparked a national outcry when he sentenced a teacher who raped a 14-year-old student to just 31 days in jail, while making comments that blamed the victim for the crime. Today, a new judge in Montana finally handed down a sentence that takes the crime seriously.
This spring, we successfully advocated in the Montana Supreme Court to reverse the original 31-day sentence and to have a new judge assigned to the case. In a separate disciplinary proceedings, the Montana Supreme Court also reprimanded the judge and suspended him from the bench for 31 days. And now, the new judge assigned to the case has sentenced the teacher to 10 years in prison—15 years with five years suspended.
While we are grateful that justice has finally been served in this case, we know it was not an isolated incident. That is why we must continue fighting to end myths about sexual assault and to stop victim blaming practices in our courts, in law enforcement, and in our communities.
Today, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling on federal lawmakers to repeal all bans on public insurance coverage of abortion, including the Hyde Amendment. This makes Seattle the sixth jurisdiction in the country—and first in the Northwest—to declare its support for repealing the Hyde Amendment and restoring access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for every woman.
The Hyde Amendment, adopted in 1976, prohibits abortion coverage through Medicaid—a program through which nearly nine million American women of reproductive age are insured. Washington is one of only 17 states that fill the critical gap in funding created by the Hyde Amendment by providing abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients through state funds. Yet even here, women who receive federally sponsored healthcare through Medicare, the Veteran’s Administration (VA), the Peace Corps, and other programs are left without coverage for a full range of options when facing an unintended pregnancy.
Another Step Forward for Transgender Health Benefits
Washington’s Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) voted unanimously to provide inclusive health benefits for transgender people covered by PEBB plans.
The board approved providing coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria, a well-recognized medical condition in which the sex a person is assigned at birth does not match the gender they know themselves to be. Plans will cover non-surgical services to treat gender dysphoria by January 1, 2015, with coverage for surgical services to begin on July 1, 2015. Washington will become the fourth state in the country to provide inclusive coverage for these services for state workers, joining California, Oregon, and Maryland.
Legal Voice is proud to be a founding member of the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare, a diverse group of organizations and individuals working to end discrimination in health care against transgender people in Washington. We testified before the PEBB several times to urge them to provide inclusive coverage in PEBB plans, and we will continue working with the Coalition to achieve equality in all Washington health plans.
- Read the press release
Legal Voice has joined the National Women’s Law Center and other women’s rights organizations to file an amicus brief in a case challenging Idaho’s ban on marriages of same-sex couples. This case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The amicus brief argues that laws banning marriage of same-sex couples violate the equal protection guarantees of the United States Constitution. The brief also argues that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation must be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny because they rely on gender stereotypes and expectations of roles played by men and women within families.
The Ninth Circuit will hear arguments in this case on September 8, along with a similar lawsuit challenging Nevada’s ban on marriages of same-sex couples.
Legal Voice is pleased by the Washington Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case of In re Marriage of Chandola. Legal Voice and several of our allies submitted an amicus brief in the case, which concerned the ability of courts to restrict a parent’s residential time with a child.
The case involved a parenting plan for the child of a different-sex couple, both of Indian descent. The mother was the family's primary income-earner, and cared for her daughter after coming home at night. While the mother was at work, the child's grandparents provided much of her care.
After the couple separated, the trial court held that the child should live most of the time with the mother. The court restricted the father's residential time due to multiple parenting deficits that adversely affected the child. The father appealed, suggesting that the ruling impacted his constitutional rights as a parent and that the court was culturally insensitive.
The Supreme Court largely rejected the father's arguments. The Court held that the restrictions on the father's residential time were well-supported by the evidence, and flatly rejected arguments his constitutional rights were impacted. The Court also dismissed the notion that the parenting plan’s restrictions reflected cultural insensitivity. By a narrow 5-4 margin, the Court reversed only one restriction that the trial court had imposed—a restriction which the mother had not even requested.
Legal Voice has long worked to make sure the family law system treats both women and men fairly. In cases involving children, we believe the focus must be on developing individualized parenting plans that protect the best interests of the child—while recognizing the reality that women continue to provide the majority of care to children in many families. We are pleased that the Court’s ruling upholds those principles, and we applaud the mother for her courage in pursuing justice for herself and her daughter.
Legal Voice, our partners in the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare, and transgender Washingtonians won an important victory today when Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler made an announcement clarifying that health insurance policies sold in Washington State cannot discriminate against transgender people.
Though insurance discrimination based on gender identity has been banned in Washington since 2006, private health insurance policies routinely include clauses that specifically prevent transgender people from having the same medical and mental health care coverage that is allowed for other policy holders. Commissioner Kreidler clarified that these exclusions are illegal under Washington's non-discrimination law and the federal Affordable Care Act. These clarifications mean that private insurance providers must cover the same services—including mental health care, cancer screenings and hormone therapy—for transgender people as for non-transgender individuals.
This announcement is an important step to help ensure that all Washingtonians have access to medically necessary health care without discrimination.
- Read Commissioner Kreidler's letter
- Read the Coalition's press release
- Read the Coalition's statement
- Transgender discrimination is illegal, state reminds health insurers The Seattle Times 6/25/2014
Today, Legal Voice submitted an amicus brief urging the Washington Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ decision in Brooks v. BPM Senior Living Company, a case regarding workplace discrimination and retaliation based on pregnancy and maternity leave. This case presents issues of significant public interest to Washington’s women workers, who frequently are subjected to changes in their working conditions after becoming pregnant or giving birth.
Elizabeth Brooks had an excellent employment record and had never received negative feedback or criticism. Shortly after announcing she was pregnant, her employer, BPM, began criticizing her work. Once the baby was born, she took maternity leave, but cut it short when she received multiple indications, beginning just four days after she gave birth, that her job was in jeopardy. Her employer told Brooks she would be fired, and then withdrew the threat. Her work conditions suddenly became more demanding, with the employer scrutinizing her work more closely and increasing travel demands. As a breastfeeding mother, her milk began to dry up from stress and, ultimately, she separated from her employment within less than six months of having her baby.
Experiences such as Ms. Brooks’ are not uncommon, as women make up roughly half of all U.S. workers, and the majority of mothers work outside the home. However, the trial court ruled against Brooks on her claims. Even though BPM warned her that her job was in jeopardy, the court held there had not been adverse action, so her discrimination and retaliation claims failed. Further, because BPM’s communications were not “abusive,” the court held Ms. Brooks did not establish a hostile working environment. In addition, because she had been able to take leave, the court held BPM had not “interfered” with her right to take maternity leave. Brooks also brought a disability discrimination claim because the stress from BPM’s imposing increased travel requirements caused a decrease in her breastmilk.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, and Ms. Brooks has petitioned the WA Supreme Court to review the case. Legal Voice’s brief urges the WA Supreme Court to accept review to assure that proper standards for determining claims of sex discrimination, hostile work environment, and interference with family leave are applied in this case, as well as in future cases.
Today we received a favorable ruling from the Washington Supreme Court in a case involving a claim of religious discrimination, Kumar v. Gate Gourmet. The plaintiffs are employees of Gate Gourmet, Inc., which makes meals for airline passengers. Their religious practices included dietary restrictions, but these employees were required to eat meals provided by Gate Gourmet that did not comply with their religious restrictions. The trial court dismissed the employees' religious discrimination and other claims, holding that the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)'s prohibitions on religious discrimination did not include a duty to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's religion.
Today's decision reversed the trial court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims, and agrees with the arguments in Legal Voice's brief, particularly in these respects:
- The majority of the Court interpreted the WLAD to include an employer's duty to accommodate religion, reasoning that the Court must interpret the WLAD to draw on the legislative intent, which includes prohibiting religious discrimination.
- The Court established the elements of a claim for failure to accommodate religion, but acknowledged that such a claim has limits.
- Importantly, the Court acknowledged that an "undue hardship" results whenever an accommodation requires an employer to bear more than a minimal cost and that a "reasonable accommodation" need not be the precise accommodation the employee requests.
- Citing cases presented in Legal Voice's amicus brief, the Court also noted that an undue hardship may be something other than a financial burden: "[a]n employer can defeat a religious accommodation claim by showing that valid concerns other than money - e.g., legal obligations or the interests of clients or other employees - would be unduly burdened by an accommodation."
This case makes clear to Washington employees, employers, and trial courts that while there is a duty to accommodate religion in the workplace, that duty is not without limits. The right to religious accommodation is not a license to discriminate against other employees, clients, or the public.
Thank you to Legal Voice cooperating attorneys Tana Lin and Benjamin Gould of the law firm Keller Rohrback for their work on our brief - and to YOU for supporting us in speaking out in support of laws that appropriately balance religious freedom and protecting employees and others from discrimination.
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Legal Voice joined other women’s rights organizations to file an amicus brief in support of the challenge.
Our brief argued that Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is an unconstitutional form of sex discrimination because it prohibits couples from marrying because of their sex. We also argued that banning marriages of same-sex couples impermissibly perpetuates gender stereotypes.
In February, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s marriage ban was unconstitutional. The Fourth Circuit is hearing the state’s appeal of that ruling.
The Fourth Circuit (which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina) is the second federal appellate court this year to hear a challenge to a state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard arguments in lawsuits challenging marriages bans in Utah and Oklahoma.
Legal Voice was joined in filing this brief by our allies at the California Women’s Law Center, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Organization for Women Foundation. Attorneys at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles served as cooperating counsel.
Celebrate women, athletics, and equality as we kick off the summer with an evening at the WNBA's Seattle Storm Opening Night!
Friday, May 16, 7pm
Seattle Storm v. Los Angeles Sparks
Key Arena, Seattle
Join Legal Voice friends,
family, and supporters as we cheer for our fabulous home team and
celebrate our accomplishments! We will also be participating in a 50/50 raffle
at the game benefiting Legal Voice and our fight for equality and justice for women in the Northwest.
May 16th is also a celebration of Seattle Storm's 30th Anniversary! Be one of the first 3,000 people in the arena and receive a commemorative t-shirt!
Tickets available! $25 each or $100 for a group of 5!
P.S. Don't forget to get your Legal Voice "Fights Like A Girl!" t-shirt to wear at the game!
THANK YOU! GiveBIG was a tremendous success throughout our region
Thanks to you, GiveBIG raised almost $12.9 million for 1,600 regional nonprofits yesterday during their one-day, online, charitable giving event. Legal Voice is honored to have received more than $29,000 from our donors.
It’s because of you that we can continue to fight for justice and equality for women and families in the Northwest. We’re honored to be a part of this amazing regional effort and deeply thankful for your support.
You may remember us telling you about a horrific case in which a Montana judge issued a 31-day jail sentence to a teacher who raped a 14-year old student – while making statements that blamed the victim for the crime.
We’re glad to report that the Montana Supreme Court today issued a unanimous opinion agreeing with our position that the sentence was illegal under Montana law, which requires a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 4 years for such crimes. The Court also agreed with our arguments that the case needed to be reassigned to a new judge for re-sentencing.
In its decision today, the Montana Supreme Court held that “Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice.” The Court further held that “the idea that [the victim] could have ‘control’ of the situation is directly at odds with the law” and “disregards the serious power disparity that exists between an adult teacher and his minor pupil.” In addition, the Court found “there is no basis in the law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s ‘chronological age’ and [the trial court’s] perception of her maturity.”
Anti-LGBT violence remains a horrifying problem. To stop such violence, courts must treat threats and attacks against LGBT people seriously — and hold perpetrators accountable.
That is why Legal Voice represented Dave Christensen when an Oregon court denied him protection. And we’re glad to report that the Oregon Court of Appeals recently issued a decision that will help protect Mr. Christensen and others who face anti-LGBT threats and violence.
In the summer of 2011, Mr. Christensen’s neighbor, Breck Carter, threatened him on multiple occasions. Carter told Mr. Christensen he “didn’t like having queers living next door,” physically threatened him, repeatedly swore at Mr. Christensen and his partner using homophobic slurs, and told Mr. Christensen he would “be dead” if he remained on the neighborhood homeowners’ association board. After Mr. Christensen reported threats to the police, Carter approached him with clenched fists and told him “you better watch your back.”
But when Mr. Christensen went to court to seek a stalking protection order against Carter, the court denied his request, finding that it was not “objectively reasonable” for Mr. Christensen to believe he was going to be harmed by Carter. The court also denied Mr. Christensen a stalking protection order against another neighbor, Robert Bosket, who had physically attacked him — even though Bosket was arrested and faced criminal charges -- because Oregon law requires a person to commit at least two “unwanted contacts” for such an order.
Legal Voice appealed, and the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of a protective order against Carter. The Court of Appeals agreed with our argument that it was reasonable for Mr. Christensen to believe he would be harmed by Carter, particularly when considered in context with Carter’s repeated use of homophobic slurs against Mr. Christensen.
As for Bosket, while the Court held that a stalking protection order was not available because such orders require repeated misconduct, Bosket separately agreed to the entry to a criminal no-contact order, which bars him from having contact with Mr. Christensen for five years.
Now there should be no question: The type of behavior Mr. Christensen endured — including repeated use of homophobic slurs — is sufficient to establish an “objectively reasonable” fear of harm justifying a protection order. And Mr. Christensen now has protection against further threats and violence; we applaud his courage in pursuing justice for himself and for other LGBT Oregonians. Special thanks to Jessica Skelton of Pacifica Law Group, who served as Legal Voice’s cooperating counsel in this case.
FIGHTS LIKE A GIRL.
Show off your feminist superpowers with your very own Legal Voice "FIGHTS LIKE A GIRL." t-shirt! Available in women's, men's, and youth sizes in charcoal or orange (youth sizes only available in orange). Get yours today!
More than 325 supporters, advocates, volunteers, colleagues, moms, sisters, brothers, husbands, partners, neighbors, and friends joined us for an evening to celebrate women's rights and raised $34,000 to enable us to do our work. We were overwhelmed by all of the support we've had for the last 35 years. For 35 years, you have stuck with us through thick and thin, through wins and losses, through laughter and tears. You truly make it possible for us to do what we do every single day. We're proud of the work we do and we're fortunate to have you with us!
Legal Voice joined with other organizations serving sexual assault survivors to file an amicus brief urging the Washington Supreme Court to reject imposing additional requirements of proof in rape cases.
This issue was presented to the Court in the case of State v. W.R., which was argued on March 20. The defendant was convicted of second-degree rape by forcible compulsion. One question raised in the case is whether the State must not only prove forcible compulsion by the defendant, but must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not consent.
Legal Voice joined an amicus brief filed by the Sexual Violence Law Center, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. The amicus brief argued that the law requires the State to prove the defendant’s use of forcible compulsion, and does not impose an additional requirement for the State to prove the victim’s lack of consent.
The brief emphasized that adding such a requirement would improperly shift the focus in rape cases to the victim’s conduct, rather than the assailant’s conduct. This would turn back the clock on Washington rape laws by scrutinizing the actions of the victim instead of the actions of the defendant, which would open the door for victim-blaming and reliance on myths about rape.
The brief was written by Emily Cordo of the Sexual Violence Law Center and Rebecca Roe of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender.
Oregon’s AG & Governor are refusing to defend the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples – meaning that if the federal judge in Oregon strikes down the ban, there may not be a defendant who would have standing to appeal the decision. That could mean that marriages would start in Oregon immediately if the judge strikes down the ban as unconstitutional – unless the judge decides to stay the ruling to see how the Ninth Circuit or US Supreme Court rule on the issue in other marriage equality cases.
And if marriages start immediately, then it’s not clear whether Oregon United for Marriage will continue to pursue the ballot measure in November.
There are a lot of “ifs” here – so stay tuned! The federal court in Oregon is hearing oral argument in the case on April 23.
- In Oregon gay marriage case, Judge Michael McShane faces several key decisions The Oregonian 3/19/2014
Legal Voice has long worked to ensure that the family law system treats women fairly. That is why we recently filed an amicus brief in the Washington Supreme Court in the case of In re Marriage of Chandola, which was argued on March 18.
The case concerns a parenting plan for a three-year-old child. After a seven-day trial, the Superior Court held that the child should reside the majority of the time with her mother. The court also restricted the father’s residential time with the child, based on findings that his conduct was adverse to the child’s best interests.
This case raises questions about the ability of courts to order restrictions against parents under Washington’s Parenting Act of 1987, a law that Legal Voice helped write. We argued that courts must have discretion to order restrictions when the evidence shows that a parent’s conduct is adverse to the child’s best interests.
We also argued that the restrictions ordered by the court in this case were justified for many reasons, including substantial evidence that the father prioritized his needs ahead of the child’s, failed to set age-appropriate boundaries and routines, undermined the mother’s parenting efforts, did not learn how to parent without the assistance of the paternal grandparents, and engaged in abusive use of conflict.
In addition, our brief responded to assertions that mothers frequently make false claims about child sexual abuse to gain an unfair advantage in divorce cases. We explained that false allegations of child sexual abuse are rare, and that mothers who have reason to suspect sexual abuse of their children must be able to raise such concerns without fear that they will be penalized in a parenting plan for doing so.
Legal Voice’s brief was joined by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Battered Women’s Justice Project, and advocate Ginny Nicarthy.
Legal Voice has joined the National Women’s Law Center and other women’s rights organizations to file an amicus brief in cases challenging laws in Utah and Oklahoma that ban marriages of same-sex couples. Both cases will be heard next month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
The amicus brief argues that laws banning marriage of same-sex couples violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. In particular, the brief urges the Court to recognize that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation must be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny because such laws rely on gender stereotypes about the roles that women and men should perform within marriages.
The Tenth Circuit will hear arguments in the Utah case on April 10 and in the Oklahoma case on April 17. In both cases, federal trial courts held that the laws were unconstitutional.
Today, Legal Voice—in coalition with the National Women’s Law Center and five other women’s rights organizations—provided input to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in a letter outlining our recommendations and proposed next steps.
The Task Force was established last month by President Obama with a mandate to strengthen federal enforcement efforts and provide schools with tools to combat sexual assault on their campuses. Upon its formation, the Task Force requested a 90-day review period for stakeholders—such as Legal Voice and the other collaborating organizations on this letter—to provide input on its priorities. Our letter outlined, in detail, eight specific recommendations for the Task Force, including ensuring that campus complaint procedures are explicit, clear, and widely disseminated, creating a “one stop” website that students can use to understand their schools’ obligations under Federal law, and ensuring that investigations of sexual assault are comprehensive as well as sensitive to survivors.
On February 19, 2014, the Washington Court of Appeals for Division II heard arguments in State and A.W. v. Finch, a case in which a court ordered a sexual assault survivor to take a polygraph examination. Legal Voice filed an amicus brief in the case to argue that courts should never order sexual assault survivors to undergo polygraph exams.
We argued that forcing sexual assault survivors to take polygraph exams treats survivors like suspects and discourages crime reporting. We also presented research indicating that polygraph examinations are inherently unreliable and are particularly likely to reveal “false positives” when administered to sexual assault survivors. Our amicus brief was joined by the Sexual Violence Law Center and the National Crime Victim Law Institute. Mary Przekop and Antoinette Bonsignore provided research assistance with the brief.
In Washington State, the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against someone based on age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, veteran status, or disability – but the statute exempts religious nonprofit employers from its requirements not to discriminate.
On February 6, 2014, the Washington Supreme Court decided a case that challenged this exemption as unconstitutional, holding that a hospital employee whose job was not related to religion could proceed with his claims of race and disability discrimination. The case, Ockletree v. Franciscan Health System, involved claims by a hospital security guard who had been terminated after he suffered a stroke. Ockletree argued that the religious employer exemption violated both the WA Constitution’s religious freedom clause and the privileges and immunities clause.
Legal Voice, along with the Washington Employment Lawyers Association (WELA), submitted an amicus brief arguing that the religious employer exemption implicated the fundamental right to be free from discrimination and violated the state constitution’s privileges and immunities clause (art. I, section 12).
The Court issued three separate opinions, none of which garnered a majority of the votes. However, a majority did agree to this narrow but important proposition: “When the exemption is applied to a person whose job qualifications and responsibilities are unrelated to religion, there is no reasonable ground for distinguishing between a religious organization and a purely secular organization.” Thus, the plaintiff in this case, who was a security guard for a nonprofit religious hospital, will be able to pursue his claims.
We are pleased that the majority ruling was based on arguments made in the Legal Voice/WELA brief that protections from discrimination are fundamental rights, and that the legislature cannot grant immunity to one class of corporations (religious nonprofits) unless there are reasonable grounds for not extending it to others (secular nonprofits) as well. The exemption affects a broad range of religious nonprofits – including universities, elementary schools, community service organizations, YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army, as well as churches, synagogues, and mosques.
While there remains some uncertainty as to which positions will be deemed related to an employer’s religious mission, the Court opened a path previously believed to be closed for many employees subjected to discrimination based on a protected status such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Legal Voice joined the National Women’s Law Center and sixty-seven other organizations in an amicus (friend of the court) brief filed yesterday with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage provision. The provision requires employers of a certain size to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives with no out-of-pocket costs. Two for-profit companies challenged the provision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, claiming the owners had the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees by refusing to provide comprehensive health insurance that includes birth control coverage.
The cases both challenge the contraceptive mandate, but in Hobby Lobby, the issue is whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s provision that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” applies to secular, for-profit corporations. The Conestoga Wood case raises the much broader question of whether business owners have First Amendment free exercise rights.
The amicus brief argues that neither the Constitution nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows individuals to exercise their religious beliefs to the detriment of others. Employers have no right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees’ personal health care decisions. Contraceptives are a key component of preventative health care for women. The ACA provision requiring insurance plans to cover birth control promotes public health and gender equality – both of which are compelling and important government interests.
The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in both cases on March 25.
Thanks to generous donations from our supporters, we’re thrilled to be able to reduce the price of the handbook to make it more accessible to everyone. Printed copies of the Senior Legal Wellness Handbook are $10. CDs are $5. Includes shipping.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on McCullen v. Coakley, a challenge to a Massachusetts state law that protects patients by making it a crime for anyone (except employees) to enter and remain within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. Opponents, a group of “pro-life counselors,” claim that the law violates their First Amendment free speech rights, but the lower courts upheld the law.
Legal Voice joined the Victim Rights Law Center and many more organizations in an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting the law as necessary to protect victims of rape. The brief argues that these victims have an urgent need for care at the reproductive health facilities in the days following the attack and are especially vulnerable and traumatized by the violence they have suffered. Individuals who stand outside these facilities, regardless of their purpose, deeply threaten the victim’s need for privacy, physical integrity, and personal security and will discourage victims from seeking the medical care they require. We argue that the law should survive a free speech challenge because it is crucial for the government to fulfill its compelling interest in ensuring patient’s have unimpeded access to healthcare and in protecting the most vulnerable—victims of rape.
Today is the first day of the Washington State Legislature's 2014 session. And right out of the gate, the legislature has the opportunity with the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA), introduced today as House Bill 2148, to ensure that every woman has the opportunity to make a choice about her pregnancy that is right for her and her family.
First introduced in 2011, the RPA would ensure that all private insurance plans cover abortion if they cover maternity care. Simple as that.
Washington has a long history of placing our trust in women to make reproductive health care decisions that are right for them. Washington voters affirmed these values by passing Initiative 120 in 1991, which put into state law that every woman has the right to reproductive privacy. And by including Medicaid coverage for abortions, our state has also long ensured that a low-income woman can make a decision about her pregnancy that is right for her - and not have the decision made for her because of her insurance.
Every woman in Washington should have that same ability to make a personal decision about her pregnancy. And up until recently, that was the case for women with health care insurance. Every carrier and nearly every insurance plan in Washington State included abortion coverage. But now, after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, the health care landscape has changed. Other states have passed laws banning coverage of abortion in private plans.
Let's make sure Washington is not one of those states. At least two plans offered on the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange don't cover elective abortion. And in other plans, it is unclear what is covered. A woman should be able to count on her health insurance to cover a full range of pregnancy-related care.
No one - not a legislator, an insurance plan, or an employer - should presume to be able to decide is what is best for a pregnant woman and her unique situation. And we're going to fight to make sure it stays that way.
Follow the RPA and other important legislation by signing up for Legislative Updates here.
The 2014 Washington State Legislative Session starts today! As always, Legal Voice will be in Olympia throughout the session to fight for women and their families. Our legislative advocacy covers a wide range of issues, including reproductive rights, violence against women, LGBT rights, family and employment law, women's access to health care, and economic justice and equality.
To follow what's happening this session, join our email list here and be sure to check "Legislative Updates" to stay up to date. You'll receive an email about every two weeks during the session letting you know the status of legislation affecting women and their families in Washington state.
We would love to see you at Cocktails for a Cause and at the Legal Voice Auction this year. These two events are great times to catch up with friends and colleagues, engage with other folks who also believe that the law can improve the lives of women and families, and learn what Legal Voice is doing with your help!
Legal Voice and other women's rights organizations filed an amicus brief urging the Montana Supreme Court to reverse this extraordinarily lenient sentence and to assign a new judge to the case.
The victim, C.M., committed suicide before the case could be tried. When Judge G. Todd Baugh handed down the sentence to defendant Stacey Rambold, the judge stated that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and was "probably as much in control of the situation" as Rambold, her 49-year old teacher. Judge Baugh also remarked to the press that the crime "wasn't this forcible beat-up rape."
Judge Baugh apologized for his comments following a public outcry, acknowledging that his remarks were "demeaning of all women" and "irrelevant to the sentencing." The case is now on appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
Our brief argued that Judge Baugh's sentencing decision was based on long-discredited myths about rape. The judge's statements blamed the victim for the crime, ignored the obvious power disparity between the victim and the rapist, and trivialized rape. We believe reliance on rape myths is a form of gender bias and discourages sexual assault survivors from reporting crimes.
To help restore confidence in the judicial system, we urged the Montana Supreme Court to reassign the case to a different judge when it is sent back to the trial court for resentencing.
Special thanks to an outstanding team of attorneys at Stoel Rives who served as Legal Voice's cooperating counsel in the case, including Vanessa Soriano Power, J. Will Eidson, Rebecca Gobeille, Kiran Griffith, Kara Morse, and Alyson Palmer. We were joined in filing this brief by our allies at Legal Momentum, Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, the Women's Law Project, and the Sexual Violence Law Center.
When you shop through AmazonSmile, 0.5% of your sales can be donated to a charity of your choice – including Legal Voice! Keep us in mind this holiday season!
- Amazon to make charitable donations when customers buy USA Today 10/30/2013
The fight for marriage equality in the western United States is headed to a federal appeals court! On October 25, Legal Voice and other women’s rights organizations filed an amicus brief in two marriage equality cases pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Our brief argues that laws banning marriages of same-sex couples in Nevada and Hawai'i constitute sex discrimination and deny equal protection under the law.
In addition to Legal Voice, the amicus brief was joined by our allies at the California Women’s Law Center, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Legal Momentum, and the National Organization for Women Foundation. Special thanks to cooperating counsel at the law firm of Irell & Manella for drafting the brief.
Legal Voice Files Amicus Brief in Washington State Supreme Court in Religious Accomodation Case
On September 20, 2013, Legal Voice filed an amicus brief in the Washington State Supreme Court in Kumar, et al. v. Gate Gourmet, Inc. This case raises the issue of whether the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) includes an implied duty for employers to accommodate religion. Legal Voice filed a brief to help protect full access to health care and other services, without discriminatory refusals based on a service provider’s personal beliefs.
The plaintiffs are employees of Gate Gourmet, Inc., which makes meals for airline passengers. Plaintiffs’ religious practices included dietary restrictions, but plaintiffs were required to eat meals provided by Gate Gourmet that did not comply with their religious restrictions. The trial court dismissed the employees’ religious discrimination claim, holding that the WLAD’s prohibitions on religious discrimination did not include a duty to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religion.
Legal Voice’s brief argued that WLAD should be interpreted to include a duty to accommodate religion, to further the statute’s purpose of eradicating discrimination. However, we argued that such a duty should be narrowly circumscribed, so as to avoid discrimination under the guise of religious belief. For example, reasonable accommodations do not require that employers enable their employees to offend or degrade others, and they do not allow employers to discriminate based on race, sex, or sexual orientation. Moreover, reasonable accommodations cannot bar equal access to health care services for all patients, including reproductive health care and health care for LGBT patients. The Washington Supreme Court heard oral argument in October 2013, and a decision is expected in early 2014.
Senior Legal Wellness Contract Positions Available at Legal Voice
Legal Voice is pleased to announce two contract positions to support the Senior Legal Wellness Program. Legal Voice is designing and will provide a series of educational sessions (between eight and ten in year one) to help seniors and caregivers understand those legal rights and learn about some of the resources available to them.
Please see the two positions below and follow the instructions to apply, if interested.
Available Contract Positions
This year’s Women’s Equality Day marked the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which extended the vote to women -- a major victory for women's rights and gender equality. Legal Voice and other organizations in the Equal Pay Today! campaign celebrated by hosting a tweet chat at #EqualPay.
The average Washington woman working full time, year-round was paid just 77 percent of what the average man earned -- a wage gap of 23 percent – placing Washington 35th out of 50 states for pay equity in the nation. The Seattle metropolitan area has the largest pay gap of all the country’s top 50 metropolitan regions; Seattle women on average are paid 73 cents for every dollar paid to men in the area, amounting to a yearly gap of $16,346.
Legal Voice and advocates from around the country were joined by Governors and others showing support, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who issued a proclamation acknowledging the wage gap and Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who announced appointments to a state Equal Pay for Equal Work taskforce.
- Read the Governor's Proclamation here.
- Find out more about the Equal Pay Today! campaign.
- See the City of Seattle's Proclamation here.
Legal Voice is delighted that today Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has affirmed in a formal opinion what we’ve always known: that a public hospital district that provides any maternity care services, must also provide equivalent benefits, services, or information to patients who decide to terminate their pregnancies. The voters of Washington have said so repeatedly, and our Attorney General has emphasized that today.
- Read the full press release from Legal Voice
- State AG on Public Hospital Mergers: If You Offer Maternity Services, You Must Offer Abortions The Stranger 8/21/13
- Read the Attorney General's opinion
After nearly three years, Bei Bei Shuai of Indiana is finally free. In 2010, while suffering from depression, Ms. Shuai attempted suicide while she was pregnant. Although she survived, her child was delivered prematurely and died a few days after birth. Instead of helping Ms. Shuai recover from her ordeal, the state charged her with murder and attempted feticide and imprisoned her without bail.
Legal Voice wrote an amicus brief in the Indiana Court of Appeals to urge the dismissal of charges against Ms. Shuai – and at a minimum to allow her to be released on bail before trial. While the Court of Appeals did not dismiss the charges, it ruled that Ms. Shuai had been improperly denied bail and she was released from jail pending trial.
On August 2, the state finally agreed to resolve the case by accepting a plea bargain in which Ms. Shuai pled guilty to criminal recklessness, a misdemeanor. While the plea agreement allows Ms. Shuai to go free and dismisses the most serious charges against her, the case represents a shocking abuse of Ms. Shuai’s rights – and it is part of a frightening trend toward making pregnant women criminals.
Across the country, women have faced similar criminal prosecutions for taking actions during pregnancy that may pose a risk to their health. These prosecutions do nothing to help pregnant women, nor do they help promote healthy birth outcomes. Instead, they deter at-risk pregnant women from seeking appropriate help and medical care. These prosecutions unlawfully assert the state’s control over pregnant women and their bodies – and they must end.
Legal Voice will continue fighting for the rights of pregnant women and to ensure that what happened to Ms. Shuai never happens again to another woman.
Today's rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court are milestones in the fight for LGBT equality!
The Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor strikes down Section 3 of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) as unconstitutional. This ruling means the federal government may no longer refuse to recognize marriages of same-sex couples who are legally married under the laws of their home states - including thousands of LGBT couples in Washington.
The impact of the Windsor decision is enormous. It means that married same-sex couples in Washington and other marriage equality states will have the more than 1,100 rights, benefits, and obligations that federal law provides to married couples.
Marriage equality has also been restored to California following the Court's decision today in Hollingsworth v. Perry. After five long years, the infamous Proposition 8 has been relegated to the dustbin of history where it belongs! The Court's decision will have the effect only of extending marriage equality to California and will not change the marriage laws of any other state.
While the fight to achieve full equality for all LGBT Americans must continue, today is a historic day.
- Community Gathering to Celebrate:
United States Courthouse, 1010 5th Ave, Seattle
(Spring/Madison, across from the Central Library)
Legal Voice and the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently joined to file an amicus brief in Hundtofte v. Encarnación, a case before the Washington Supreme Court that concerns preserving housing opportunities for tenants who are wrongfully sued for eviction by the landlords. The mere fact that a tenant has been sued for eviction can have a severe impact on her ability to obtain rental housing in the future. This is because tenant screening companies use electronic court records to report whether a prospective tenant has ever had an eviction action filed against her. Many landlords will refuse to rent to people who have been sued for eviction, even if the lawsuit was meritless.
The Washington Supreme Court will decide whether courts can protect tenants in these situations by only listing a tenant’s initials (rather than her full name) when recording the eviction case the court’s electronic index of case records. Our amicus brief argues that courts should be able to take this commonsense step when a tenant is wrongfully sued for eviction. Women are often subject to meritless eviction lawsuits by landlords. For example, some landlords illegally try to evict women simply because they are victims of domestic violence, even though the law prohibits such discrimination. Tenants also may face wrongful eviction actions because they are LGBT, are pregnant or have children, or have complained about landlord’s sexual harassment. The case was brought by our allies at the Northwest Justice Project and was argued in the Washington Supreme Court on June 13, 2013.
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This landmark piece of federal anti-discrimination law was one of the very first to address gender-based pay disparities. However, 50 years later, we still have a long way to go.
Legal Voice, along with other women’s rights organizations, will launch the Equal Pay Today Campaign which calls for national and state action to end the following practices contributing to the gender wage gap:
- Less pay for the same job: Women are paid less than men in nearly every occupation
- Job segregation: Sex role stereotypes lead to women being segregated into female-dominated jobs
- Retaliation against workers for discussing their pay: A majority of employees report that they are either prohibited or actively discouraged from discussing their pay.
- Pay reductions due to pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities. Employers pay women less from the moment of hire and deny them promotions because they automatically presume women will have children and then will commit less time and dedication to their jobs
- Wage theft: Women in many industries are being paid less than the minimum wage, being shorted hours, being forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime, or not being paid at all.
Legal Voice kicks off summer with Seattle Storm
Winners all around! Not only did the Seattle Storm beat the Phoenix Mercury 75-72 yesterday in a fantastic game, but Legal Voice raised $2,731 in the 50/50 raffle during the game (half of which we kept)!
A huge thanks to our friends, supporters, and volunteers for making this a high-energy event and so much fun!
Today, Legal Voice filed a brief as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) along with the Northwest Justice Project, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Washington Women Lawyers, urging the Washington Supreme Court to affirm the jury's verdict holding the City liable for negligence. We argue that police must have the duty to exercise reasonable care in serving protection orders that separate intimate partners. Failure to do so will place even more women's lives at risk.
In 2008, Ms. Roznowski was murdered in her Federal Way home by her intimate partner, Paul Kim. Ms. Roznowski was killed by Mr. Kim shortly after Federal Way police served him with a protection order she had obtained. The order required Mr. Kim to stay 500 feet away from her home.
When Ms. Roznowski filled out the required paperwork for the protection order, she specifically informed the police that Mr. Kim was likely to react violently when he was served. She also indicated he would need an interpreter.
But when the police came to Ms. Roznowski's home to serve the protection order on Mr. Kim, the officer did not make sure Mr. Kim complied with the order by leaving her home. The officer also did not bring an interpreter. In fact, the officer did not even read the paperwork that Ms. Roznowski had completed. Instead, the officer did little more than hand the protection order to Mr. Kim and walk away, leaving Mr. Kim alone with Ms. Roznowski in her house - in direct violation of the very order that the police had just served - and leading to her death at Mr. Kim's hands.
Ms. Roznowski's estate and her daughters sued the City of Federal Way for negligence and won a jury award of over $1 million. The City appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict. Now the case has reached the Washington Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on June 25.
The police failed Ms. Roznowski. Instead of protecting her, the officer's actions placed her in even greater danger. We need to make sure that what happened to Ms. Roznowski never happens to another woman.
We've been waiting for this day! Last year, we told you about our client Abeda Jafar, who sought to have her rights, and those of her son, upheld in court. She filed for a parenting plan, in part because she feared for her son's safety. Her monthly income was $385, and her monthly expenses were $380. Yet when she asked the court to waive her filing fees, it granted only a partial waiver of the mandatory fees and required her instead to pay $50 in surcharges within 90 days - or it would dismiss her case.
We argued Ms. Jafar's case before the Washington State Supreme Court in March and this morning, the Court agreed with us, ruling unanimously that access to courts for all means just that - for all.
Courts, like everyone these days, may be cash-strapped, but that doesn't mean it is acceptable to balance the courts' budget on the backs of poor people - especially in cases in which people are required to use the courts to exercise their fundamental rights - for example, to dissolve their marriages, to seek relief from domestic violence, or to determine child custody issues.
The Court held that court rules require that if a person is indigent, all fees and costs must be waived, noting, "We fail to understand how, as a practical matter, Jafar could make the $50 payment now, within 90 days, or ever. We have no record supporting the trial court's reasoning and its evident conclusion that Jafar could afford to pay any amount based on her financial situation. Such a construction of the rule ... is an unacceptable one."
Washington has long held firm to the principle that access to justice for all is a fundamental right: the administration of justice demands that the doors to the justice system be open to low-income people, as well as those who can afford to pay the costs of seeking judicial relief. That promise is a reality today for Ms. Jafar and all people in Washington.
- Read the Press Release
- Read the opinion
- WA Supreme Court Bars Legal Fees for Poor Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law 5/31/2013
Coalition of HealthCare Advocates Raises Concerns about Proposed UW Medical Center and PeaceHealth Affiliation
Legal Voice, in collaboration with health care advocates from around the state, expressed concern at the news of the strategic "affiliation" between the University of Washington Medical Center and PeaceHealth, a Catholic health care organization. An affiliation of this size affecting the state’s major research, training and trauma care facilities – including the UW and Harborview Medical Centers, Valley Medical Center, Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians, UW School of Medicine, and Airlift Northwest – should be carefully scrutinized to ensure patients will continue to receive appropriate care free from the influence of religious doctrine…
Legal Voice is a part of a regional coalition of diverse organizations carefully monitoring hospital mergers and their effect on women’s reproductive health care, end of life care, and other access to care issues.
Legal Voice, along with ACLU of Washington and other civil rights and health care advocacy organizations, urge Governor Inslee to take immediate action to protect Washingtonians’ access to health care. In a letter the governor, we have asked him to enact a six-month moratorium on any decision by the State Department of Health on proposed or pending applications related to hospital ownership, operation, or management. The letter states that “patients are at risk of being denied medically appropriate health care due to the unprecedented number of medical facilities in Washington that are considering or planning mergers with religious health care corporations. When such mergers take place, secular hospitals are required to follow religious doctrine, resulting in patient care dictated by someone else’s religious beliefs, not the patient’s needs or interests.”
Thank you for being a part of the GiveBIG challenge—what an amazing outpouring of community support! You, together with other very generous people in the region, donated more than $11.1 million to area non-profits (more than 54,500 donations were made!).
Legal Voice supporters contributed a combined total of $49,380 to Legal Voice. These donations will also be proportionally matched by the stretch pool put together by the Seattle Foundation. All of these funds support our vision of a world where every woman and girl enjoys economic, social, and political equality.
Thank you to all of our friends and supporters, near and far, for making this year's GiveBIG one to remember.
From the moment she was hired (and even before, when she was a 1960s radical), June Krumpotick committed herself to access to justice – before we used that term. She has always kept the needs of pro se litigants, especially low-income women and their families, at the top of her mind.
June’s absence in the legal aid, non-profit, and progressive communities will be felt profoundly. We’re all a little sad this month, but also eternally grateful for the progress June has brought about for pro se litigants and the community as a whole. And though June is leaving her post at Legal Voice, we have no doubt whatsoever that she will keep helping people, advocating for social justice, and causing trouble where it is most needed.
Please join us for June’s retirement party on Wednesday, June 19th! Contact Michelle Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-682-9552 ext 113, for more information.
- Long‐time staff linchpin June Krumpotick is retiring! Say it isn’t so!
- Energizer Bunny of the Access to Justice Community KCBA Bar Bulletin June 2013
- IOLTA and Legal Aid: Recognizing the Good Work of Non-lawyers NWLawyer June 2013
We invite you to be a part of the GiveBIG Challenge this year on May 15, 2013. GiveBIG is a one-day, online charitable-giving event sponsored by The Seattle Foundation. This challenge is especially important because when you make a donation on that day through The Seattle Foundation website, your gift will be matched proportionally. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make your passion for your causes go further!
Make a gift of any size to Legal Voice
and any of your other favorite local charities
any time on May 15, 2013 through The Seattle Foundation website
By participating in the GiveBIG Challenge, you can help us reach our goal of $35,000!
What to do today:
- Add GiveBIG on May 15, 2013, to your calendar
- Set a reminder to GiveBIG that day
- Learn more about GiveBIG and The Seattle Foundation
Save the date! Only donations made on May 15, 2013, count toward the GiveBIG Challenge and are eligible for the proportional match.
Legal Voice, along with the Washington Employment Lawyers Association (WELA), last week filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Supreme Court of Washington in a case challenging a provision of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) that exempts religious employers from being held liable for discrimination.
Larry Ockletree, worked as a security guard at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. His duties involved checking ID badges and issuing name tags to visitors at a desk. In 2010, Mr. Ockletree suffered a stroke which caused the loss of use of his left arm. Franciscan Health Services (FHS), the Catholic-affiliated organization that owns St. Joseph’s, fired Mr. Ockletree, claiming he could no longer do his job. Mr. Ockletree filed suit under federal law and the Washington Law Against Discrimination, claiming he was fired because of his disability and because he is African-American.
FHS, claimed immunity from the claim under WLAD because the statute contains an exception for religious employers. Courts have typically protected religious organizations from liability for discrimination when an employee’s duties are “ministerial” in nature – i.e., related to the employer’s religious purpose – under the theory that government cannot interfere in the practice of religion under the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. But the scope of this protection is less clear when the employee’s role is secular, such as a security guard.
If religiously-affiliated employers are exempt from the WLAD, thousands of people in Washington could be subject to discrimination and fired. Religiously affiliated organizations like FHS employ thousands of people in Washington and generate billions of dollars in profit. Medical centers like St. Joseph’s operate almost exactly like secular non-profit and for-profit hospitals. Thus, Legal Voice and WELA argue that the WLAD’s exception for religious employers violates Article I, Section 12 of the Washington State constitution, the “privileges or immunities” clause, because it provides special protections and immunity for a powerful minority special interest. The case has broad implications for Washington employees who work for religious employers and suffer discrimination, since they currently have no recourse under state anti-discrimination law.
New Data Show Seattle’s Wage Gap Is Highest of Nation’s 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas
Seattle, Washington – Today is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into 2013 women must work to be paid what men were paid in 2012. And this year, new data show that of the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Seattle has the worst gender-based wage gap: Seattle area women are paid just 73 cents for every dollar a man is paid. This is lower than the national average wage gap of 77 cents.
Legal Voice filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving claims of gender discrimination based on a female professor’s failure to act according to gender stereotypes. Dr. Isabelle Bichindaritz was an assistant professor at the University of Washington Institute of Technology when she applied, and was rejected, for tenure. This case and Legal Voice’s brief both highlight the difficulties of challenging gender discrimination, especially for women in male-dominated fields, because of poor understandings on how gender stereotypes operate in the workplace.
Nationwide, women earn almost half of all doctorate degrees, but hold only 30% of tenured faculty positions. Even more striking, women earn 40% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering and yet comprise only 28% of tenured or tenure-track faculty. When Dr. Bichindaritz joined the faculty at UW-Tacoma’s Institute of Technology, all of the tenured professors were men.
Although Dr. Bichindaritz had an impressive research record, the University denied her application for tenure. They cited “poor teaching” and “lack of collegiality” as reasons for denying tenure, even though other male candidates with similar teaching records were granted tenure and the University had a policy barring “lack of collegiality” as a reason to deny tenure. Consequently, Dr. Bichindaritz filed a Title VII claim, stating that the University’s denial of tenure was based on gender discrimination. Supporting this claim, evidence showed that the Institute was not welcoming to women faculty and that the Institute’s Director acted in ways that demonstrated his bias against women. Yet, the district court dismissed Dr. Bichindaritz’s claim, holding that any animosity in her tenure review was not based on sex. Legal Voice’s brief explains that “lack of collegiality” actually masked the real motive for denying Dr. Bichindaritz tenure – discrimination based on a woman’s failure to act according to gender stereotypes.
Cooperating counsel Kathy Barnard of the law firm Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt LLP authored the brief on behalf of Legal Voice and the Washington Employment Lawyers Association.
Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Jafar v. Webb, our challenge to state courts’ practice of denying waivers of mandatory court filing and other fees to low-income persons, despite proof of indigency. Requiring court filing and other mandatory fees creates a barrier to low-income individuals’ ability to access courts and is particularly problematic when a person is required to go to court to seek relief – for example, to dissolve a marriage or to determine parentage or child custody issues.
Client Abeda Jafar filed an action in Snohomish County for a parenting plan with her child’s father, in part because she feared for the child’s safety. She had an annual income of $4620 (just 30% of the federal poverty guideline for a family of two) and was eligible for a free legal service provider because of her low income; thus, she undisputedly met the definition of “indigent” as defined by state court rule GR 34. Yet when Ms. Jafar asked the court to waive her filing fees, it granted only a partial waiver of the mandatory fees and required her to pay $50 in surcharges within 90 days – or risk dismissal of her case.
Cooperating attorney Brian Buckley of Fenwick & West presented a powerful argument that courts’ failure to grant waivers of fees required to access the courts violates the federal and state constitutions, as implemented by state court rule GR 34. Mr. Buckley asked the Court, “If a court can find that a person is unable to pay and require them to pay, how can that not be unconstitutional? ... If the right of access means anything, it must mean that.”
He concluded, “When it comes to access to justice, we are failing our poor. What we need is a statement that is definitive, that is affirmative, that says, ‘You are welcome in our courts, regardless of how much money you have.’ And that’s what we’re asking you to do today.”
We now await a decision by the Washington Supreme Court. You can view the entire oral argument here.
A federal judge in Idaho held yesterday that many of Idaho’s anti-choice laws are unconstitutional. The trial judge found that the laws Ms. Jennie Linn McCormack challenged place an undue burden on her right to choose whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term. Legal Voice is proud to be supporting Ms. McCormack, who was arrested and prosecuted for inducing her own abortion in 2010. In a related proceeding, Legal Voice filed an amicus curiae brief arguing the laws are unconstitutional.
Today, Legal Voice joined the National Women’s Law Center and other women’s rights organizations and scholars to file an amicus brief in the marriage equality cases pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. We argue that marriage laws that discriminate against same-sex couples are based on gender stereotypes and must be subject to heightened constitutional scrutiny, like laws that discriminate based on sex.
Olympia—Today, Senators Steve Hobbs and Steve Litzow have again introduced the Reproductive Parity Act in the Washington State Senate with the hope that this third introduction of the very same bill, with the same 23 sponsors, can be given a hearing. The previous Reproductive Parity Act versions, SB 5009 / SB 5576, were referred to the Senate Healthcare and Senate Law and Justice Committee, but neither committee has scheduled the RPA for a hearing.
"Senator Tom gave me his word that the Reproductive Parity Act would receive a hearing," said Senator Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, "I realize that there are internal conflicts within the Republican caucus which are complicating matters, but that matters not to the millions of Washington women whose reproductive rights are at stake. If Senator Tom can't find a committee chair to hear the RPA, I gladly offer up my committee, Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance, to help Senator Tom around the problem of his caucus."
KOMO News - On February 15, legislators in Olympia will take up a bill that would extend the waiting period for married couples who want to get divorced.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver...wants to extend the divorce waiting period from 90 days to a full year. The bill, called the Family Second Chances Act, argues that divorce causes poverty and lower achievement. Benton believes reducing divorce rates would benefit families.
Women's rights advocates see it differently.
"Arkansas has an 18-month waiting period and its divorce rate is the second or third highest (in the nation), said Lisa Stone, the executive director of Legal Voice.
Stone said domestic violence victims could be especially at risk.
"So what this does is put the person in an abusive relationship who wants to get out, wants to move on, wants to get her children to safety at more risk and more delay," she said.
The bill's sponsors say domestic violence victims would be protected, but opponents argue that it's not enough.
"This is the legislature saying, we know it would be better for every couple to stay together longer and it's just an absurd premise, frankly," Stone said.
Lawmakers: Should couples have to wait longer to get a divorce? KOMOnews.com 2/14/2013
- Read the bill: SB 5614 Encouraging reconciliation and nonadversarial approaches to dissolution
Under current law, incarcerated parents, including many mothers, permanently lose their rights to their children if they are incarcerated for more than 15 months. This has a devastating impact on incarcerated parents and their children. To address this problem, Legal Voice is seeking passage of HB 1284 to provide courts with authority and guidance to delay proceedings to terminate parental rights when a parent is incarcerated, as long as the parent maintains a meaningful role in the child’s life and it is in the best interest of the child to delay termination proceedings.
State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) announced the 2013 launch of the Reproductive Parity Act which will ensure women in Washington have ability to make their own medical decisions free from political interference. Senator Hobbs was joined by women’s health advocates, including Legal Voice, ACLU, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and by Nicole Fallat, a 35-year-old Washington woman who is planning to purchase health insurance on the State Exchange.
- Press Release: Sen. Steve Hobbs Re-Introduces Bill To Protect the Freedom and Privacy of Women’s Pregnancy Decisions in Washington 1/10/2013
- So much for avoiding social issues: Abortion coverage back on table The Seattle Times 1/10/2013
- The Reproductive Parity Act Rises Again! The Stranger 1/10/2013
Today, on December 6th, one month after Washington voters approved the state’s marriage equality law (by 7.4%), same-sex couples in Washington state will be able to apply for marriage licenses… Couples like Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer and Major Margaret Witt, both decorated military veterans who fought for years to help topple the nation’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy l so that lesbian and gay service members could serve their country in the military, will each be first in line to get married to their partners of many years.
Legal Voice and allies urge the House to pass law permitting abortion coverage for rape survivors in the military. Read our letter of support.
- Abortion For Military Rape Victims Amendment Passes Senate Huffington Post 12/5/2012
From King County, Seattle, WA
Voters in our state made their voices heard on Election Day, and made marriage equality the law of the land. The first day that marriage licenses can be issued to same-sex couples is Thursday, December 6. The King County Recorder’s Office will open at 12:01am that day to begin issuing licenses. This will be a historic, but monumental event, and King County is asking for volunteers to assist couples applying for licenses.
Volunteers will be needed for a wide variety of tasks, including greeting arriving couples, providing directions, assisting with forms or questions, managing the lines, taking photos, and much more.
Can you help?
- Training will be on 11/28 and 11/29 from 6-7:30pm
- Many shifts and times are available morning, afternoon, and evening
- See more information, dates, times, and contact/sign-up information
Legal Voice has created a memo, Questions and Answers: Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Washington, to answer many frequently asked questions regarding marriage in Washington. Take a look!
- Q&A: Marraige for Same-Sex Couples in Washington (updated 11/29/2012)
Just moments ago, Washington United for Marriage declared victory for all lesbian and gay loving couples in Washington! We join 8 other states - and only the third approved by popular vote - to say no to discrimination and YES to the freedom to marry.
What a journey it has been - from our work decades ago fighting sexual orientation discrimination, through our efforts to get family recognition rights for all couples, and our lawsuit for marriage equality, it came down to the people of Washington standing up for equality.
We have so many people to thank - including the thousands of volunteers who made 1.2 million phone calls to voters, having personal conversations trying to change their hearts. Many more worked to get out the vote in the weeks leading up to the election, and canvassed communities large and small throughout Washington. And the support of our community has been astounding. Washington United for Marriage received support from iconic, large corporations like Microsoft, and from your neighborhood bakery - from very wealthy business leaders, and from individuals like you and me.
Legal Voice, along with many of our allies in the coalition, has been working for many years to make the freedom to marry a reality. And though I knew this day would come - I'm completely overwhelmed and proud.
Thank you for standing with us - not only these last few months - but since our founding. We could not do this work without you.
The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce will receive the 2012 Jeanette Williams Award in the Bertha Landes Room at City Hall, 600 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, in recognition of the group’s organizing efforts to pass the Ordinance.
Thanks to a broad coalition of supporters, including many Seattle businesses, the City of Seattle has become the third city in the United States to mandate paid sick and safe time for employees who work within Seattle city limits. A lack of paid sick and safe time disproportionately impacts women, children and communities of color. Seattle came together to implement this critical protection for workers and their families, and now it is time to celebrate everyone’s hard work.
Join the Seattle Women’s Commission to thank the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce and other supporters on Monday, October 29 at 6 pm at City Hall for making Seattle’s new Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance a reality. The event is free and open to the public.
- Read the Press Release
- For more information about the event or to RSVP, contact email@example.com
Handbook for WA Seniors now available!
For over four years, a special workgroup of Legal Voice volunteers and staff have been researching the legal needs of our elders. This is a population that is dramatically underserved and faces very complex legal issues. We discovered that there was no comprehensive, easy-to-understand resource or set of resources for women (or men) who must deal with pensions, age and disability discrimination, consumer issues, end-of-life issues, elder abuse, and the myriad other subjects and challenges our elders face.
So we did what we usually do: with the help of our supporters, volunteers and community, we set out to fill that gap. We collaborated with many wonderful organizations serving seniors, and have brought our unique expertise , in the law, to bear on these important issues.
As a result of this hard work, we are excited to announce the availability of our latest publication, Handbook for Washington Seniors: Legal Rights and Resources. The book (or searchable CD version) covers the following topics:
- Health Care
- Long-term Care
- Financial Benefit Programs
- Planning for the Future
- Dealing with Death
- Consumer Guide
- Family Relationships
- Personal Finances
- Age and Disability Discrimination
- Elder Abuse
- Legal Help
- Other Resources
Written by Washington State attorneys and reviewed by staff at community organizations, this handbook is an outstanding resource for seniors, caregivers, and service providers.
Legal Voice Auction was a huge success!
Wow – what a fantastic evening! Though the official numbers aren’t in yet, Legal Voice friends, family and colleagues, raised more than $140,000 to support Legal Voice's work at their annual auction. We’re grateful to belong to such an amazing and supportive community. Be sure to check out our flickr page for pictures from the event in the next few weeks.
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a strong ruling protecting pregnant women and their choices in the case McCormack v. Hiedeman. In the first decision of its kind, the Court affirmed the trial court’s preliminary injunction preventing the state from using Idaho’s criminal abortion statutes to prosecute a woman for seeking abortion care, finding her constitutional challenge was likely to succeed on the merits.
The decision was hailed by Legal Voice and National Advocates for Pregnant Women, who along with the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Jennie McCormack. Kathleen O’Sullivan, Breena Roos, and Ashley Locke of the law firm Perkins Coie filed the amicus brief on behalf of the organizations.
- Read the Press Release
- Idaho Abortion Ruling States Pregnant Women Can't Be Prosecuted For Having Abortions Huffington Post 9/11/2012
- Finally a Limit Is Reached: Ninth Circuit Rules McCormack Can't Be Prosecuted For Her Abortion RH Reality Check 9/12/2012
- Legal Voice Files Amicus Brief Challenging Idaho’s Laws Criminalizing Abortion 2/7/2012
On Wednesday, September 5th, David Ward and June Krumpotick met with a delegation from Afghanistan who is visiting the U.S. under the auspices of the World Affairs Council. Three women and three men, including a defense attorney, a chief judge on the Appellate Court, a family court judge, a juvenile court judge, a representative of the Independent Human Rights Commission, and a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s office, met at our office. We explained how and why Legal Voice brings impact litigation, lobbies, and provides self help information to advance the rights of women.
The group was especially interested in our efforts to eliminate violence against women and surprised that there is still a need for this work in the U.S. David gave as one example our client who was fired because she took time off work due to domestic violence. They were also interested in the dissemination of information about legal rights and options, a huge need in Afghanistan.
We learned that citizens in Afghanistan who feel they were treated unjustly by any segment of the legal system (law enforcement, prosecutors, judges), may file a complaint with the Independent Human Rights Commission, which will investigate and follow up to make sure the issue is resolved.
David responded to questions with his extensive understanding of the law and Legal Voice work, with the help of three interpreters. Our time together was too short, but June and the three women hugged and expressed their pride in each other’s work at the end of the session.
After careful research and deliberation, Legal Voice has endorsed Initiative 502, which will legalize adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in Washington. In doing so, we have joined the NAACP, ACLU, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, other legal organizations and scores of individuals who believe that current U.S. drug policy is not only unsuccessful, it harms women, men and families.
Over the past 25 years, state and federal drug laws have led to a dramatic increase in the number of incarcerated women. While drug use by women actually declined from 1986-1996, the number of women incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses increased by 888% during that time, compared to a rise of 129% for non-drug related offenses.
Reducing incarceration of women for drug offenses would reduce the separation of women from their children and families. In Washington, the rate of imprisonment of women increased by 84% from 1995-2005, largely as a result of changes to our drug policy. Nationwide, an estimated 85% of women who are incarcerated are mothers, and more than half have children under 18. What’s more, many women arrested for drug-related offenses are not users. The war on drugs reaches many individuals who are not knowingly involved in drug-related activity, including women in abusive relationships with partners or family members who use or sell drugs.
By moving to transform drug policy to a public health matter, rather than the current harshly punitive approach, we can reduce the number of women and their families whose lives are thrown into chaos and despair.
Legal Voice joined our allies at the California Women’s Law Center and Legal Momentum to file an amicus brief on July 10 in a case challenging the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). The case (Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management) challenges Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing legal marriages of lesbian and gay couples.
Our amicus brief argues that the Court must subject DOMA to heightened constitutional scrutiny because discrimination against lesbians and gay men is a prohibited form of sex discrimination. We argue that DOMA discriminates on the basis of sex because it denies federal protections and benefits to lesbians and gay men based solely on the sex of the person they marry.
The case is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, with oral arguments scheduled for September. Thanks to the lawyers at Irell & Manella who wrote the brief and to our friends at Lambda Legal for representing Karen Golinski, the plaintiff in this important case.
Last Friday, July 6, 2012, Legal Voice filed a brief as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) asking the Washington Supreme Court to grant the petition for review in State v. Robert Besabe.
The petitioner, Robert Besabe, was convicted of two counts of murder after he fired a single shot that killed a woman who was 7 months pregnant. The fetus was delivered via emergency C-section and survived on life support for approximately 2 days before dying.
Mr. Besabe seeks review of (among other issues) the Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the word “person” in the murder statute to include the unborn child as a victim, adopting the common law “born alive” rule. Legal Voice’s brief in support of Besabe’s petition argues that the Court of Appeals’s decision was an unwarranted departure from existing law, and, thus, raises significant issues of public interest.
The interpretation of a statute is best left to the legislature, which has declined to add unborn children to the class of victims in the murder statute. Also, the Court of Appeals’ decision represents a departure from longstanding constitutional, federal, and WA state law recognizing and protecting reproductive privacy. Legal recognition of fetal personhood presents dangerous precedent for protection of women’s bodily autonomy. We now await the Court’s decision whether to accept review of the decision below.
121 Legal Voice supporters cheered on the Seattle Storm at Sunday’s game v. Phoenix Mercury. Through our 50/50 raffle, we took in $3126, raising $1563 for Legal Voice and sending the same home with one lucky raffle winner!
Thanks to everyone who came out in support of Legal Voice and Seattle Storm. What a great time spent with our supporters!
Legal Voice, Allies, Take a Firm Stand on Individuals’ Rights; Rejects Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law
Legal Voice is proud to be in the coalition of allies, coordinated by the ACLU of Washington, to take a firm stand on the rights of all individuals in the U.S. to have the protection of law – and for that law to be just and uniform. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law is heartening, but we all know the fight for immigrants’ rights continues.
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Title IX, forty years to celebrate, challenges remain
By Gov. Christine Gregoire and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles
(excerpt) This month marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funding. Today is a time to celebrate how much this civil rights law has done for young women and girls and men and boys — and roll up our sleeves for the work that remains to eliminate barriers to educational equity.
There’s no question that Title IX has played a critically important role in advancing educational equity, and thus, life opportunities for female students. Yet still, forty years later, thousands of schools across the country are not in compliance with the law. Young women and girls continue to experience the effects of gender discrimination on their education.
So, while we celebrate the advances Title IX has brought over 40 years, we hope the next forty years will be committed to tackling and overcoming those challenges that remain. Then, perhaps, we will have achieved Title IX’s goal of gender equity in education. Maybe then we will be able to celebrate not needing a law like Title IX any longer.
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- Governor's Official Proclamation
- Title IX: undeniable progress for women (and men), but challenges remain Seattle Times 6/22/2012
Olympia - David Ward watched as opponents of marriage equality turned in more than 200,000 signatures to put Referendum 74 on the ballot. That means marriage for loving lesbian and gay couples, which we fought so hard for, will be on the ballot this November.
We always expected our opponents to get enough signatures put our marriage equality law to a public vote - especially after they resorted to using paid signature gatherers. And now it's our time to make history in Washington state.
To keep our marriage equality law, we must Approve Referendum 74.
But we need your help. We know our opponents will raise millions of dollars. We need to match or beat them at every turn.
Legal Voice is proud to be on the governing board of Washington United for Marriage, the campaign to defend our marriage equality law. Here are three things you can do right now to help:
- Show your support for ALL families by donating to Washington United for Marriage
- Sign up to attend the Gala on Saturday, June 9 at the Washington Convention Center to raise funds for Washington United for Marriage.
- Volunteer to march with us in the Seattle Pride Parade on Sunday, June 24. Legal Voice will be marching with Washington United for Marriage. It's a fun and festive way to show your support and reach out to the community. If you and your family are interested in joining us, please send an email to info@LegalVoice.org and we'll send you the details.
- Opponents' petitions block debut of gay-marriage law Seattle Times 6/7/2012
Celebrate love, commitment, and equality with Legal Voice as wekick off the summer with an evening with the WNBA's Seattle Storm!
Sunday, July 8th - 6 p.m.
Seattle Storm v. Phoenix Mercury
Key Arena, Seattle Center
Join Legal Voice friends, family and supporters as we cheer for our fabulous home team and celebrate our accomplishments! We will also be participating in a 50/50 raffle at the game benefiting Legal Voice and our fight for marriage equality.
Come out and cheer with old friends, make new friends, and help us protect the equal rights of all loving, committed couples.
July 8th is also Sue Bird Bobblehead Night! Be one of the first 3,000 people in the arena and receive a Sue Bird bobblehead!
Washington Community Leaders to Meet with White House about America’s Judicial Vacancy Crisis
Washington, DC Legal Voice Executive Director Lisa M. Stone and Frank Shoichet, member of the American Constitution Society Judicial Nominations Task Force (and a Legal Voice supporter), will be in the nation’s capital today to meet with White House officials about the vacancy crisis in America’s federal courts. Nearly one out of every ten federal judgeships remains vacant, and more than 250 million Americans live in a community with a courtroom vacancy.
Legal Voice was founded on the principle that law is one of the most powerful tools in a democratic society; we use the courts to advance women’s rights. Without an effective judiciary, women and their families cannot count on the rights they are already entitled to, and increasing those rights becomes that much harder.
Ms. Stone and Mr. Shoichet will join 150 community leaders from 27 states in a day of discussions with White House staff. A deal between Senate Republicans and Democrats to allow at least some judicial nominations to proceed in the Senate expires May 7th, and the community leaders are urging the Senate to hold final up-or-down votes on all pending nominees.
After the White House meeting, Ms. Stone and Mr. Shoichet will visit the offices of Cantwell and Murray, to urge them to work to end the delays that have plagued the Senate confirmation process since the beginning of the Obama presidency.
On May 2, 2012, Legal Voice supporters raised more than $30,000 through The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG online giving campaign. GiveBIG raised more than $7.43 million (37,800 donations) for area nonprofits. This is an amazing testament to the philanthropic spirit of our community!
Thank you, from all of us at Legal Voice!
- "GiveBIG" Brings in $7.4 Million, Doubling 2011's Results The Seattle Foundation 5/3/2012
On Monday, May 7, Legal Voice's Raise Your Voice Committee, UW Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and UW Medical Students for Choice are screening the documentary "The Good Egg," followed by a panel discussion on the legal, medical, and ethical issues surrounding egg donation.
"The Good Egg" follows a struggling young filmmaker considering egg donation and introduces a variety of perspectives surrounding the practice. Following the film, practitioners from the women's reproductive health and justice communities will engage in a facilitated discussion addressing questions such as: "What are the potential health effects of egg donation?", "What legal rights do donors have and how is this practice regulated, if at all, by law?", and "What psychological effects might women experience as they undergo the process of donation?".
Monday, May 7, 2012, 5:30-8 pm; Program begins at 6 pm
University of Washington School of Law, William H. Gates Hall, Room 133
Helena, Montana. The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments in a case to extend legal protection and recognition to lesbian and gay couples in Montana. Legal Voice joined with the Montana Human Rights Network to submit an amicus brief in this case, which was brought by our allies at the ACLU of Montana.
This lawsuit (Donaldson v. Montana) argues that the state's denial of legal protection to same-sex couples and their families violates the Montana Constitution.
In 2004, Montana voters passed an amendment to their state constitution that restricts marriage to different-sex couples. However, the Montana Constitution also strongly guarantees equal protection and the right to privacy, dignity, and the pursuit of safety, health, and happiness. As a result, the lawsuit argues that Montana must ensure that lesbian and gay couples are able to obtain the hundreds of legal rights and obligations that state law provides to married, different-sex spouses - for example, by providing state-recognized domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
Our brief argues that denying legal protection to same-sex couples violates the Montana Constitution's equal protection guarantee, and explains why laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation must subject to strict judicial scrutiny. Our brief was written by cooperating counsel Vanessa Soriano Power, Gloria Hong, Karin Jones, Erin Lennon, and Alex Oh of Stoel Rives, with assistance from Kanika Chander of Perkins Coie.
- Amicus Brief of Legal Voice and Montana Human Rights Network
- ACLU: Donaldson and Guggenheim v. Montana
You, as a Legal Voice supporter, believe in our mission of pursuing justice for all women and girls in the Northwest, through ground-breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and educational tools to help individuals understand their rights and the legal system.
Together we can further Legal Voice's mission by participating in The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG Challenge on May 2nd!
Make a gift of any size to Legal Voice on May 2nd between 12:01 a.m. and midnight (Pacific time) through the Seattle Foundation Website.
The Seattle Foundation and local businesses will generously match a portion of all donations! So your gift will be stretched with dollars from GiveBIG sponsors.
Throughout the day, donors will be randomly selected to receive a Golden Ticket. If your name is drawn, The Seattle Foundation will give $1,000 to Legal Voice in your name to support our work!
You can also help spread the word so that Legal Voice and the other organizations you are passionate about will benefit: start by RSVPing for the GiveBIG event on the Seattle Foundation's Facebook event page.
Your support is appreciated every day. We already have many supporters pledging to participate in GiveBIG and support our work, whether it is advocating to protect victims of domestic violence in the courts, fighting for your rights to have your prescriptions filled without discrimination or delay, making marriage equality a reality in Washington, or any other women's rights issue.
More than 300 supporters, advocates, volunteers, colleagues, partners, neighbors, and friends celebrated with us Thursday night, and it was a smashing success! We raised more than $35,000 to support Legal Voice pursuit of justice for women and their families. We’re proud of the 35 years we have spent fighting for equality on behalf of all Washingtonians. With your help, we will fight for marriage equality and will work to make sure that if the referendum makes it to the ballot box, it is defeated. We also debuted a video that highlights our fight for LGBT equality in the Northwest.
Legal Voice has been working with legal services and other allies to ensure access to justice – and this at its most fundamental level means access to the courts. Yet as courts are increasingly budget-strapped, they are denying requests by individuals to have mandatory fees waived. Required fees are already hefty; for example, in King County, filing a run-of-the-mill case costs $230. Divorce: $280. Uniform Parentage Act filing: $250. Required family law orientation for pro se litigants: $20. Parent seminar fee: $40.
These people are in court only because they are required to use the courts to exercise their fundamental rights – for example, to dissolve their marriages, to seek relief from domestic violence, to determine child custody issues. And yet even those who are clearly indigent and receiving public benefits don’t always get their fees waived.
Our client Abeda Jafar is one of these people. She has an almost 2-year-old child and filed for a parenting plan with the child’s father, in part because she feared for the child’s safety. Her annual income is $4620 – less than 32% of the federal poverty guideline (for a family of two). And that income consists solely of food stamps and TANF assistance. Yet when she asked the court to waive her filing fees, it granted only a partial waiver of the mandatory fees and required her to pay a $20 facilitator surcharge and a $30 “judicial stabilization surcharge” within 90 days – or it would dismiss her case.
Through cooperating attorneys Brian Buckley and Bradley Meissner at Fenwick & West, we asked the Washington Supreme Court to review this order because we believe it is unconstitutional and violates state law requiring courts to waive fees for indigent litigants. We are thrilled that the Court has accepted review! You’ll be hearing more from us on this as we continue our fight to ensure that all people, regardless of income, have access to our justice system.
In 2008, Ms. Roznowski was killed by her partner after the police failed to enforce a protection order she had obtained against him. Today, the Washington Court of Appeals issued a decision that we hope will prevent what happened to Ms. Roznowski from ever happening to another woman in Washington.
Ms. Roznowski was stabbed to death by her partner, Paul Kim. She was killed less than three hours after City of Federal Way police came to her house to serve Mr. Kim with an anti-harassment protection order that required Mr. Kim to stay 500 feet away from her house.
Ms. Roznowski had alerted the police that Mr. Kim was likely to react violently when he was served with the protection order. She rightly believed that when the police served the order, they would enforce it by making sure Mr. Kim left her house. But the police officer who served the order handed the protection order to Mr. Kim and walked away - leaving Ms. Roznowski alone in her house with Mr. Kim.
Ms. Roznowki's estate and her daughters sued the City for negligence, and a jury awarded $1.1 million in damages. But the City appealed, arguing that its police officers had no duty to Ms. Roznowski to enforce the protection order.
Legal Voice joined with Washington Women Lawyers to file an amicus brief in the appeal. We argued that police have a duty to exercise reasonable care in enforcing protection orders like the one Ms. Roznowski obtained - especially in light of the heightened risk of violence that victims face when they try to separate from abusive partners.
Today, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the jury's verdict and held the City of Federal Way liable for negligence. We hope this decision will help ensure that the police across Washington properly enforce every protection order.
The stakes couldn't be higher. Each year, thousands of women in Washington get protection orders to help keep themselves safe from abusive partners. These orders play an essential role in helping women and their families escape violence. But victims must be able to rely on the police to enforce the orders.
The City may still seek review of this decision in the Washington Supreme Court.
Advocates for patients’ rights today joined the State of Washington in appealing a federal court ruling permitting a pharmacy and two pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception. Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, along with the law firm Perkins Coie, filed the appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Stormans et al. v. Selecky et al.
The ruling being appealed was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton on February 22, 2012, striking down rules passed by the Washington Board of Pharmacy in 2007. Those rules, adopted after extensive public comment and input, require that all pharmacies dispense lawful medications to patients on site, without discrimination or delay. Two pharmacists and a pharmacy sued the State, challenging the rules. Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the State on behalf of seven individuals who feared they would not be able to obtain their medications if the rules were not enforced.
- View Full Press Release
- Wash. to appeal Plan B court ruling Seattle Times 3/21/2012
- State to Appeal Emergency Contraception Ruling Publicola 3/21/2012
David Ward was at the Thurston County courthouse today, where Judge McPhee ruled on the Referendum 74 ballot title. We're pleased with the judge's ruling. The title will read: The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom.
Concise description: This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
We are pleased to have represented the League of Women Voters of Washington and PFLAG Washington State Council in this case, with cooperating counsel Paul Lawrence and his colleagues at Pacifica Law Group, and our allies at the ACLU-WA. Our opposition was also at the courthouse today trying to persuade the judge to allow misleading and confusing language. We were able to prevent that from happening: the language of the ballot title is now fair and accurate. However, this decision means our opponents can now start collecting the 120,577 signatures needed to repeal the law legalizing civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples that Governor Gregoire and the Washington Legislature fought so hard to pass.
Washington United for Marriage will be making an 11-city tour around the state to celebrate wins thus far and to begin the next phase of work to organize and educate communities about the campaign and marriage equality. These meetings will include updates from campaign staff and specific asks from the field team relating to voter outreach and volunteering.
Today, after our efforts fighting for seven years on behalf all Washingtonians to ensure they have access to their prescribed and lawful medications (including emergency and regular contraception), Judge Ronald Leighton of the U.S. District Court in Tacoma ruled that pharmacists could indeed discriminate - against all Washingtonians, but especially against women. In the decision in Stormans v. Selecky, the judge found that the rules violated the plaintiffs' free exercise of religion. In this case, the judge's decision contradicts the 9th Circuit decision from 2009 and long-established Supreme Court decisions.
Today's ruling adds yet another brick into the wall separating women from access to appropriate health care. What's more, it ignores well-established legal principles long ago articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The battle for women's rights, health care, contraceptive access, and over women's bodies continues in legislatures across the country and courtrooms here in Washington. The court's decision is another instance of a vocal minority interposing their beliefs between women and their health care. A refusal to fill someone's prescription for personal reasons can have serious and damaging personal and public health consequences.
We're extremely disappointed - but not surprised - by this ruling. As you may recall, the judge issued a preliminary ruling back in 2007 against the Board of Pharmacy and our clients. But we appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held in 2009 that the rules were constitutional, and that they served to promote access to health care. In 2010, the Board of Pharmacy considered revising the rule to permit pharmacies to refer patients to another pharmacy. After a large public outcry and extensive public comment, the board decided to retain the current rule, reasoning that requiring medications to be dispensed onsite was the best way to ensure patients have timely access to the drugs they need.
Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest have fought alongside our amazing Perkins Coie team of Tom Boeder, Andrew Greene and Katie Bennett. We expect to appeal today's decision back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. And we won't stop until we've until you have the undisputed and unshakeable right to obtain your medications - without discrimination or delay.
- View Full Press Release
- Judge Leighton's Opinion
- Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
- Judge rules state can't force pharmacists to sell 'Plan B' contraception KING 5 News 2/22/2012
- Judge: State can't make druggists sell Plan B contraceptive Seattle Times 2/22/2012
Governor Chris Gregoire has signed the marriage equality bill into law legalizing civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in the state of Washington. After amazing support from both the Senate and the House earlier this month, signing the marriage equality bill late this morning was the next step toward providing equal treatment for all loving and committed families.
Legal Voice has been in the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ rights since our founding. For example, you may remember we represented Col. Grethe Cammermeyer in her fight to remain in the military. Then, eight years ago, we filed Andersen v. King County, a case challenging Washington’s ban on marriages of lesbian and gay couples. When we narrowly lost that case by a 5–4 margin in the Washington Supreme Court, we worked with our allies to pass a comprehensive series of domestic partnership laws—and retained those laws at the ballot box by winning approval of Referendum 71 in 2009.
As written, this law allows all same-sex couples to begin marrying as early as June this year. However, we know our opposition will try to gather the 120,000 signatures to send a referendum of this law to the voters in November.
At 3:30pm, the Washington State House of Representatives voted 55 to 43 to legalize civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in the state of Washington, providing equal treatment for all loving and committed families.
Republican Representative Maureen Walsh so eloquently stated: how could I deny anyone to have the right to such an incredible bond to another individual?
The bill now goes to Governor Gregoire’s desk to be signed.
- Gay-marriage bill passes House, awaits Gregoire's signature Seattle Times 2/8/2012
- Washington State Lawmakers OK Gay Marriage NPR 2/8/2012
Legal Voice, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and National Advocates for Pregnant Women, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case challenging Idaho’s laws criminalizing abortion supporting plaintiff-appellee Jennie McCormack.
Ms. McCormack became pregnant in fall 2010. Already a mother of three children, with no income other than child support payments of $200-250 per month, Ms. McCormack wanted to terminate her pregnancy. However, there were no elective abortion services available in southeast Idaho; the closest place is in Salt Lake City, Utah, but Ms. McCormack lacked resources to travel there for an abortion. With her sister’s help, in December 2010, Ms. McCormack obtained FDA-approved medication over the internet and effected a medical abortion. In May 2011, the State initiated a criminal prosecution again Ms. McCormack for having submitted to an unlawful abortion.
Ms. McCormack filed suit challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of Idaho law regulating abortions. The trial court granted a preliminary injunction, restraining the State from prosecuting women for violating Idaho law that makes it a felony to submit to an abortion or purposely terminate her own pregnancy if not by a physician. The State appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit.
The amicus brief submitted by Legal Voice and its allies argues that historically, abortion laws did not target pregnant women who terminate their own pregnancies, but rather, focused on third parties. Abortion regulations and common law historically have recognized that a pregnant woman’s health is of paramount importance and that pregnancy and childbirth remain life-risking events. It is because abortion was once perilous that women seeking abortions were treated as a group warranting support and protection – not as criminals. Thus, the brief argues, Idaho law permitting prosecution and punishment of pregnant women both in obtaining abortions not authorized by statute and for terminating their own pregnancies is contrary to well-established common law and unconstitutional, because such laws place an undue burden on women’s right to decide to terminate her pregnancy and violate women’s due process and equal protection rights.
Perkins Coie attorneys Katie O’Sullivan, Breena Roos, and Ashley Locke wrote the brief on behalf of amici.
The Washington State Senate voted 28 to 21 to legalize civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in the state of Washington, providing equal treatment for all loving and committed families. We applaud Senators Fain, Hill, and Hatfield who joined in supporting the legislation tonight.
The bill now goes to the Washington House. The Governor has promised to sign the legislation into law as soon as it reaches her desk.
We are thrilled to be part Washington United for Marriage, a coalition dedicated to making marriage equality a reality for all Washingtonians.
- State Senate approves gay marriage bill Seattle Times 2/1/2012
- WA Senate approves bill to legalize gay marriage KOMONews.com 2/1/2012
Today, we learned that the Washington State Senate has the 25th vote necessary to pass the marriage equality bill. Senator Mary Margaret Haugen joined the ranks of other Washington State Senators who believe now is the time to make marriage equality a reality for lesbian and gay couples in our state. Since Governor Chris Gregoire declared her support for marriage equality in Washington, the momentum has kept building!
There are now enough votes in both the Washington House and Senate to make this landmark legislation a reality. Some Legal Voice staff and supporters are in Olympia today testifying for marriage equality. There are many courageous men, women and children expressing their support.
- Senate has votes needed to pass gay marriage legislation Seattle Times 1/23/2012
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) has scheduled three opportunities in January/February 2012 to hear the public's questions and suggestions regarding implementation of the ordinance, and to make sure that the Rules address these topics. All events are free and open to the public.
SOCR will begin drafting Rules in March 2012, and there will be opportunities for public comment during the Rule-drafting process. Some of the issues not covered in the FAQ document will be addressed in the Rules.
- Frequently Asked Questions posted; Community forums scheduled to discuss the Paid Sick/Safe Leave Ordinance Seattle Office for Civil Rights
- Seattle is getting down to the details on paid sick days – and your input is crucial! Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce
The long, slow trial toward clear protection of patients’ rights continues: Stormans v. Selecky, our pharmacy refusal case in federal court, was scheduled to end with closing arguments on Wednesday, January 18th. In light of the anticipated “massive snow storm” expected in the Puget Sound area, the judge in the case postponed those arguments until Wednesday, February 1st. The judge has indicated he will issue his decision at a later date. When that happens, we’ll be informing our supporters both of that decision, and about our next steps.
At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Rep. Eileen Cody (D-34) announced the Reproductive Parity Act, vital legislation that requires all health insurance policies sold in Washington that cover maternity care to cover abortion care. Rep. Cody was joined by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27), Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33) and fellow pro-choice legislators, as well as an uninsured woman, a health care provider and a member of the clergy, all of whom discussed how this legislation will improve women’s access to basic reproductive health care.
"This bill is about ensuring that all Washington women have health insurance coverage that includes the full range of reproductive health care options, including abortion," said Rep. Cody, prime House sponsor of the Reproductive Parity Act and Chair of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. "As we implement the federal health care reform law, we need to ensure that we have no erosion of our existing laws in Washington that protect women's reproductive rights.” Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) is sponsoring companion legislation in the Senate.
Washington Women Matter, a broad coalition of organizations supporting women’s health, has come together to advocate for the passage of the Reproductive Parity Act, led by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Legal Voice and the National Organization for Women. This coalition is educating Washington’s pro-choice majority about this legislation and generating legislator contacts in support of a fair and equitable health care system that includes access to abortion care for all Washington women.
- View Full Press Release
- Proposal would require private insurers to cover abortions Seattle Times 1/5/12
Washington Governor Endorses Marriage Equality!
Today, Governor Chris Gregoire declared her support for marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in Washington! In this historic announcement, the Governor made a compelling case for why marriage equality matters and why the Legislature should pass it this year. The Governor’s announcement is an important step forward in making that vision a reality in Washington.
- Press release State of Washington, Office of the Governor 1/4/12
- Gregoire proposes legislation to legalize gay marriage Seattle Times 1/4/12
- Washington governor supports gay marriage law Reuters 1/4/12
- Washington Governor Elated After Introducing Marriage Equality Bill: ‘I Feel So Much Better Today!’ Thinkprogress 1/4/12
Legal Voice recently completed the production of an online training webinar “Relocation and Safety for Survivors of Domestic Violence” in collaboration with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) and the Northwest Justice Project.
A 1995 Washington law gives domestic violence survivors the right to file for a sealed name change for herself and her children when it is necessary to change her identity to prevent the abuser from finding the family. Sealing the court order which grants the name change means that there will be no public access to the file, so that no one will be able to make the connection between the victim's former and new name. To be effective, the name change should immediately be followed by a change of Social Security Number. To do this, survivors must apply through the Social Security Administration. In 1997, Legal Voice prepared a packet on Confidential Identity Changes which explains the implications of this action and the procedures to follow. Over the past 14 years, the packet has been updated repeatedly and provided to domestic violence advocates in Washington State who attended a training provided by Legal Voice.
Now legal advocates around the state will be able to access a much broader training on “Relocation and Safety for Survivors of Domestic Violence” at their leisure. This training covers the Washington State Relocation Act, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and Protecting Identity and Location Information. The trainer, Elizabeth Helm, is an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project. She has years of experience working with survivors and training domestic violence advocates, as well as volunteering with Legal Voice. Legal Voice has updated our materials on Confidential Identity Changes and on other safety strategies for survivors; advocates who complete the online training will have access to these materials. Mette Earlywine, Program Coordinator of the Legal Advocacy Project at WSCADV, lent her incredible technical expertise and education skills during the full day of taping.
Advocates who wish to take the free training can access it on WSCADV’s e-learning center. Legal Voice is proud to be part of this collaboration with our sister organizations and pleased to provide a new resource for the much-appreciated domestic violence advocates in Washington State.
This week, Legal Voice joined nine other legal organizations to submit a letter to the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education requesting a Title IX Compliance Review of how Penn State responds to sexual harassment and violence allegations. The letter also called for routine reviews to determine whether schools across the country respond differently to complaints of sexual harassment and violence when athletes and athletic department members are implicated. The request was made by the Women’s Law Project, California Women's Law Center, Legal Voice, Equal Rights Advocates, National Women’s Law Center, Equity Legal, Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center, Women’s Sports Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, and Southwest Women’s Law Center.
What is going on in Washington? What does the Special Legislative Session and 2012 Session mean to you? To our community?
Join Legal Voice staff members on Thursday, December 8th from 12-1:30 p.m. at the Legal Voice office for a brown bag lunch and a lively discussion about the upcoming legislative session. Learn about the bills we’ll be working on and the ones we’ll keep wary eyes on. Find out how the budget is going to affect some of our state’s most vital programs and more!
Bring your lunch – we’ll have beverages and some treats.
RSVP by Wednesday, December 7th to Michelle Johnson or call 206-682-9552 x113.
After more than 7 years of research, advocacy, litigation, appeals, briefing, and yet more briefing, the patients of Washington will finally be heard about their right to their medications. On Monday, November 28th, trial commenced in Stormans v. Selecky, Legal Voice’s case testing the Board of Pharmacy regulation requiring that all patients receive their medications and prescriptions on site, without discrimination or delay.
This case has far-reaching implications for patients of Washington State. And that’s all patients: women who need emergency contraception, persons with HIV/AIDS who must have their prescription regimen filled promptly, diabetics who need syringes—anyone who depends on having their healthcare needs handled with respect and discretion.
Legal Voice has joined with the Montana Human Rights Network to file an amicus brief in a case to extend legal benefits and obligations to committed same-sex couples in Montana. This case, brought by our allies at the ACLU of Montana, is currently pending in the Montana Supreme Court.
The amicus brief submitted by Legal Voice and the Human Rights Network argues that the Montana Constitution requires the state to provide committed lesbian and gay couples the same benefits and obligations available to married, different-sex couples. The brief also demonstrates why discrimination based on sexual orientation must be subject to the strictest level of judicial scrutiny under Montana law.
The Legal Voice/Human Rights Network brief was written by a team of cooperating attorneys led by Vanessa Soriano Power of Stoel Rives. The team included Gloria Hong, Karin Jones, Erin Lennon, and Alex Oh from Stoel Rives and Kanika Chander of Perkins Coie.
Lisa M. Stone and David Ward, both of Legal Voice, attended a press conference this morning announcing the formation of Washington United for Marriage, a new coalition that will work to obtain civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Washington. Legal Voice is thrilled to be a part of the coalition to make this happen! We recognize discrimination when we see it, and we know that extending civil marriage to committed lesbian and gay couples harms no one and only strengthens the institution of marriage.
Support for civil marriage for all loving, committed couples is growing in Washington and around the country, and we believe 2012 is the year we can make it happen. When we win, LGBT couples from Aberdeen to Asotin, Bellingham to Walla Walla, and Omak to Olympia will be able to enjoy the right of civil marriage the same way different-sex couples do today.
Legal Voice has spent the past 10 years at the forefront of fight for marriage equality in Washington. In Andersen v. King County, we challenged Washington’s law that bans civil marriages of same-sex couples. Though we lost by 5-4 at the State Supreme Court, the battle didn’t end there: instead, we turned to the Legislature and worked with our allies to pass a series of domestic partnership laws. And now, we think the climate is right to move forward with our coalition partners to pass marriage equality in Washington—providing equal treatment for all families.
To join the effort, check out Washington United for Marriage, like the coalition on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and stay tuned for more information as we move toward the next legislative session and our continued advocacy for civil marriage.
- Drive to Legalize Gay Marriage Begins Seattle PI 11/14/2011
- New Effort to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage Begins Seattle Times 11/12/2011
The Washington Court of Appeals heard arguments this morning in the case of Washburn v. City of Federal Way. Legal Voice joined with Washington Women Lawyers to file an amicus brief in this appeal to ensure better enforcement of protection orders.
In 2008, Baerbel Roznowski obtained an anti-harassment protection order against her live-in partner, Paul Kim, requiring him to stay 500 feet away from her. As required by law, the Federal Way police served the protection order on Mr. Kim. But instead of making sure that Mr. Kim complied with the order by leaving Ms. Roznowski’s house, the police handed the order to Mr. Kim and walked away—leaving Ms. Roznowski alone in her house with Mr. Kim. Three hours later, the police came back to find she had been murdered by Mr. Kim.
Ms. Roznowki’s estate and her daughters sued the City for negligence, and last year a jury awarded $1.1 million in damages. But the City has appealed, arguing that it owed no legal duty of care to Ms. Roznowski in serving and enforcing the protection order.
The Court of Appeals is expected to make a ruling as early as February 2012.
Early this fall, Legal Voice was pleased to welcome back Lillian M. Hewko as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. Lillian is a former Legal Voice intern and graduate of the University of Washington School of Law where she is a Gates Public Service Scholar.
Lillian began focusing on work with incarcerated women early in her law school career, co-founding the Incarcerated Mother’s Advocacy Project (IMAP). She currently serves on the board of directors for Law Students for Reproductive Justice and reproductive justice collaborative Surge NW. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Legal Voice, she will work to implement a project she developed to provide legal information and education to incarcerated mothers in Washington State to help reduce the chances of permanent family separation. Because greater systemic change is needed, the project will also pursue legislation and impact litigation to create alternatives to incarceration as well as improve child welfare laws to better address the needs of these vulnerable families.
Read her latest blog post, Mothers Sentenced to Lose Their Children.
As lawyers representing the highest-ranking person ever to be discharged from the military because of sexual orientation, we’re proud to have been part of the movement to allow all dedicated citizens to serve our country. One of Legal Voice’s most significant and longest-running cases involved the representation of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was discharged from the National Guard based on the ban on homosexuals in the military. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the federal government's appeal of the district court ruling for mootness because the policy under which Cammermeyer was discharged had been replaced by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The case was remanded to the district court to determine whether to vacate its original order, which reinstated Cammermeyer to her rank as Colonel in the National Guard. By declining to vacate its order, the district court resolved this case once and for all, leaving on the books its opinion that an outright ban on homosexuals in the military violates the equal protection clause of the constitution by distinguishing between straight and gay service members without any rational basis.
The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to become the nation’s third city in which workers have the right to paid sick and safe days!
As a key member of the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, Legal Voice has worked to shape this landmark legislation to help workers and businesses alike to stay healthy. Finally, no longer will workers have to choose between their jobs and caring for themselves or their family members when they’re ill.
Seattle’s ordinance is one of the strongest of its kind and will ensure that workers in Seattle, as well as those who live outside, but work in Seattle, have access to paid sick and safe days. Seattle’s ordinance
- covers all but the smallest businesses (all businesses with 5 or more employees);
- allows workers to access paid sick and safe leave to care not just for their own medical needs, but also for those of their family members, including domestic partners; and
- ensures that survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking have access to paid safe days to secure their safety, seek medical care, and attend to legal needs.
A step forward for Paid Sick and Safe days: Wednesday, August 10, Seattle City Council's Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee voted to move the Paid Sick & Safe Days ordinance forward to the full City Council. Thanks to “yes” votes from committee members Sally Clark, Jean Godden, Mike O’Brien, and ordinance sponsor Nick Licata, a full-council vote is scheduled for September 12th.
Legal Voice filed an amicus curiae brief in the Oregon Supreme Court in a parental termination case that could have grave implications for mothers. In In the Matter of V.L.M. and A.R.H., the trial court permitted the state’s lawyer to inquire into details of the mother’s decision to terminate a pregnancy and her past sexual history. The mother objected to releasing her abortion records, but was ordered by the court to respond. Ultimately, the trial judge found her unfit to parent, relying in part on her sexual history and reluctance to identify the father of the terminated pregnancy as a basis for finding her “not credible.”
Legal Voice cooperating attorneys Laura Clinton, Heidi Craig, Jennifer Addis, and Laura Owens of K&L Gates urged the state Supreme Court to accept review of the case.
Legal Voice has an updated brochure on the rights of registered domestic partners in Washington! This brochure is a collaboration by Legal Voice and our allies at Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Washington, Equal Rights Washington, and Q-Law.
All together, more than 18,800 donations totaling more than $3.5 million were made to nonprofit organizations on June 23rd during The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG Challenge. Legal Voice was proud to team up with The Seattle Foundation and be a part of this historic event.
Our amazing community has awed and delighted us once again with their incredible show of support during GiveBIG! Our wonderful supporters not only give their time and money, but also celebrate our victories, give encouragement when we face enormous obstacles, and believe in our vision: A world where every woman and girl enjoys economic, social, and political equality. We couldn't do it without you. Thank you!
GiveBIG is a one-day, online charitable-giving event that will inspire people to donate generously to nonprofit organizations like Legal Voice through The Seattle Foundation. When you make a donation that day through The Seattle Foundation website, your gift will be matched proportionally! It’s a wonderful opportunity to make your passion for your causes go further. We invite you to participate in the GiveBIG challenge!
Make a gift of any size to Legal Voice on June 23rd between 7 a.m. and midnight (PDT) through The Seattle Foundation website.
• Go to the Seattle Foundation website: www.seattlefoundation.org
• Search for “Legal Voice” in the upper right-hand search box.
• Click on “Legal Voice” when it comes up.
• Choose “Donate” to Legal Voice.
Or simply click here: Legal Voice
All funds donated to Legal Voice will be proportionally matched – allowing you to make your donation and your commitment to our work go just a little further! If you have any questions, please contact B. Michelle Johnson at 206-682-9552x113 or via email at mjohnson@LegalVoice.org.
Legal Voice is proud to share news that our very own June Krumpotick, Lead Paralegal and Self Help Program Manager, will be honored with the WSBA Council on Public Legal Education's Flame of Democracy Award. The award will be presented later this year.
The award honors an individual, organization or program in Washington state that has made a significant contribution to increasing the public's understanding of law, the justice system or government.
As we all know, June and the Self Help Program have helped thousands of people in Washington state understand their legal rights. We at Legal Voice are incredibly proud to work alongside June and so happy to see her recognized and honored for her valuable work.
For years, Legal Voice has fought to ensure that the law recognizes and respects the wonderful diversity of today’s families. Yesterday, this goal moved one step closer to reality when Governor Gregoire signed House Bill 1267 into law. This bill, one of Legal Voice’s top legislative priorities this session, makes sweeping changes to modernize Washington’s Uniform Parentage Act.
The new law helps ensure that same-sex parents have the same legal rights and obligations as different-sex parents. In particular, it explicitly provides that when couples in registered domestic partnerships have a child together, both parents are legally presumed to be the child’s parents – the same presumption that applies when a different-sex married couple has a child.
The bill also includes a “holding out” provision to establish parental rights. This means a person will be legally presumed to be a child’s parent if, for the first two years of the child’s life, the person lives in the same home with the child and openly holds out the child as his or her own.
House Bill 1267 recognizes that being a parent isn’t a simple matter of biology. It’s about providing the day-to-day love, support, and commitment that a child needs – regardless of the parent’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic ties to the child. We’re thrilled that Washington has taken this important step toward treating all families equally.
You may recall that the original version of House Bill 1267 also included provisions to allow compensated surrogacy agreements in Washington. However, the surrogacy provisions of the bill were stripped out of the legislation in the Senate. We expect that this issue will be revisited in future sessions, and we will continue working to make sure that any surrogacy legislation respects women’s reproductive autonomy and protects women’s rights.
Please join us on May 11 at 5:00 p.m., at University Christian Church, to share why YOU believe paid sick time is necessary!
Women and their families are often forced to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love. Join Legal Voice, Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce and others for a public forum on paid sick days.
Raise Your Voice hosted happy hour at the Lobby Bar on May 3, to wrap up the 2011 legislative session. Legal Voice lobbyist Pam Crone and staff attorneys Sara Ainsworth and David Ward were on hand to chat about how the session went and give us insight into how our bills fared.
It was a wonderful way to get caught up on the 2011 legislative session details and learn more about what Legal Voice is planning next! If you missed this opportunity to catch up on the Legal Voice priorities, please look for our May newsletter in your mailbox soon!
For regular updates and information via email, please register here!
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed House Bill 1565 into law. The new law helps domestic violence survivors maintain long-term protection orders against their abusers. Legal Voice worked closely with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop and advocate for this bill.
House Bill 1565 puts the burden back where it belongs. To terminate a long-term protection order, the bill requires an abuser to prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances that makes it unlikely he will resume domestic violence. The bill also specifies that a victim has no burden of re-proving her fear of the abuser.
We’re thrilled to get the law changed within a matter of months of the state Supreme Court’s decision. Special thanks to Representative David Frockt for sponsoring House Bill 1565, and for everyone who called their legislators to urge them to support this legislation!
Thank you to all our wonderful friends, colleagues, volunteers and fellow revelers who attended Cocktails for a Cause on Thursday, March 24! It was a fantastic success, raising money to support critical Legal Voice programs.
You can check out anti-bullying information from Safe Schools Coalition's Beth Reis below:
Photos from the event can be found at our Flickr site, HERE!
Thanks again to all our Cocktails for a Cause sponsors.
A bill that would have addressed serious harm to women caused by limited service pregnancy centers has not moved forward in the state legislature. HB 1366, the Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act, was not brought to the House floor for a vote before the 5pm cut-off for bills to pass from their house of origin today.
The parties in the first lawsuit filed under Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act have agreed to a settlement. Legal Voice and Columbia Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm that provides legal services for low-income people, represented Ms. Doe, who claimed she was fired in violation of the law.
Today, the Board of Pharmacy acknowledged both the needs of patients and the public's opinion, and did the right thing: it voted to keep the rules that ensure that patients can get their prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, on site, without delay, and without discrimination. More.
Get educated, get drinks, and get your lobby on with Raise Your Voice, the younger set of Legal Voice supporters and friends. Legal Voice lobbyist Pam Crone will introduce our draft legislative agenda, touching on such issues such as domestic violence, surrogacy, and crisis pregnancy centers. Join us for drinks and preparation for Lobby Day 2011. Raise your voice!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The Lobby Bar
916 E. Pike Street on Capitol Hill
After a bench trial, a federal court in Spokane, Washington, concluded yesterday that treating women adversely because they are pregnant or new mothers is illegal gender discrimination. Legal Voice, along with cooperating counsel Kammi Mencke Smith of Winston & Cashatt, is celebrating this decision as a victory for our client, Norma Maxwell, and for working parents everywhere.
Norma Maxwell was criticized by her employer for having a negative attitude at work during her pregnancy. Despite her past stellar work performance, the employer believed that Ms. Maxwell’s work would suffer “because the children will come first.” A few short weeks after returning from maternity leave, she was fired.
In ruling that the employer had discriminated against Ms. Maxwell, the Court said the employer “type-cast” Ms. Maxwell and “appears to have been convinced that as a new mother Ms. Maxwell would not be as good of an employee as she had been prior to her second pregnancy, regardless of any individualized evidence to the contrary.”
Domestic violence survivor fired for protecting family; Legal Voice sues
An eastern Washington woman was abused and stalked by her husband; when she took time off to get her family to safety she was fired. Today, that woman became the first person to file suit under the Domestic Violence Leave Act, a Washington state law passed in 2008 that requires employers to give employees reasonable time off to attend court, take steps to achieve safety, and ensure the safety of their children if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Legal Voice represents woman fired over pregnancy and parenting
A federal court in Spokane today begins hearing testimony in a case brought by Norma Maxwell against VESi, a software company, for wrongful termination. Ms. Maxwell was fired despite excellent performance reviews, after her employers told her she “had a negative attitude” about being pregnant and that they believed it was “not possible” for a mother to work from home if she had small children.
Legal Voice sues on behalf of former Gonzaga student
Today Legal Voice filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Jane Doe, a former student at Gonzaga University. The suit alleges that Gonzaga’s failure to respond appropriately to Jane Doe’s report of sexual assault violated her federal right to equal access to education.
- Editorial: Marriage is a Constitutional Right New York Times 8/4/2010
A federal court in Tacoma granted an order delaying the trial of the Stormans et al. v. Selecky et al. lawsuit, originally scheduled to begin in late July.
- Press Release
- Plan B Trial Decision Possible Today KUOW 7/12/2010
With comments by Legal Voice Executive Director Lisa M. Stone
Today the State of Washington filed a motion to delay Legal Voice's Stormans et al. v. Selecky et al. lawsuit involving a challenge brought by two pharmacists and a pharmacy to a Washington State Board of Pharmacy rule requiring all licensed pharmacies to fill patients’ prescriptions, regardless of an individual pharmacist’s personal beliefs about a particular medication.
A quarterly update about our work - court cases, legislative advocacy, community outreach and more.
Already in 2010 we have witnessed exciting progress in our cases on abusive litigation and patients' rights to obtain prescriptions. Washington’s recent legislative session saw several battles over women's rights to be safe and healthy. Plus, a bevy of Legal Voice events and new legal information publications are in the works.
For regular updates and information via email, please register here!
Legal Voice is pleased to announce a victory this week in our work to defend women’s rights to be safe wherever they are.
The Washington State Department of Corrections will pay Casandra Brawley, a formerly incarcerated woman, $125,000 to settle a claim that she was restrained while in labor. Legal Voice and Seattle law firm Peterson Young Putra represented Ms. Brawley, who was restrained during labor leading up to the delivery of her baby boy at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma in April of 2007.
This settlement follows Legal Voice’s successful advocacy for a new law in Washington to forbid state prisons, county jails and juvenile correctional facilities from shackling incarcerated women who are in labor or recovering from labor.
- Press release
- WA Gov. Gregoire signs bill barring shackling of pregnant inmates Seattle Times 3/23/10
- Legal Voice’s anti-shackling work
Legal Voice has joined over 200 organizations across the country in calling on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) now. ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity throughout the United States. We need ENDA to stop workplace discrimination - please join us in calling on your representatives in Congress to pass ENDA now!
- endaNOW A coalition of local organizers and concerned citizens committed to the passage of comprehensive federal legislation which protects individuals from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Legal Voice is pleased with today’s decision of the Washington State Supreme Court that a litigant’s immigration status should not have been considered in a civil case. In Salas v. Hi-Tech Erectors, an injured worker sued his employer for severe injuries he suffered when he fell off a defective ladder. The jury, after learning about the worker’s immigration status, found for the employer. Legal Voice filed an amicus curiae brief, as did several immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, and civil rights organizations, urging the Washington Supreme Court to overturn the ruling because immigration status is not only generally irrelevant to a person’s civil lawsuit, but is an extremely volatile issue likely to prejudice a litigant.
In our brief, Legal Voice stressed the impact that admission of immigration status would have on battered immigrant women, for whom fear of immigration consequences is already a powerful disincentive to seeking help from the police and the courts. Allowing admission of immigration status in this context provides an abusive spouse one more tool of control, and puts battered women and their children at risk. Legal Voice applauds today’s decision, and will continue its work to ensure equality and justice for immigrant women.
Yesterday, local media in Seattle reported a story about a mother angry that her teenage daughter obtained an abortion without the mother’s knowledge or consent. Her daughter was apparently referred for the abortion through a health clinic located in, but not operated by, her daughter’s public high school.
Legal Voice is disappointed that the media reported on this story without investigating the law protecting minors’ rights in this state. Whether or not this mother was upset about it, her daughter, like all other minors in Washington State, has the legal right to obtain reproductive health services – including prenatal care, abortion, and birth control – with or without her parents’ knowledge or consent.
- Press Release: Setting the record straight on minors' health care rights
- Self Help Publication: Know Your Reproductive Rights in WA State
Today, Washington became the seventh state to restrict the practice of shackling incarcerated women. The bill, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Washington Legislature, was signed into law by Governor Gregoire.
Today’s bill signing coincides with action in the federal court case brought by Legal Voice in June 2009 on behalf of Casandra Brawley, whose constitutional rights
were violated when the Washington State Department of Corrections, against its own policy, shackled Ms. Brawley while she was in labor.
Join Legal Voice lobbyist Pam Crone and other Legal Voice staff for a lunchtime discussion to wrap up the 2010 Washington Legislative Session. We will celebrate our successes, acknowledge defeats and talk about some of the work that went on behind the scenes during this very intense legislative session.
End of Session Brown Bag Lunch
- Thursday, March 25 2010
- 12:00 noon – 1:30 p.m.
- Legal Voice office
Bring your lunch! We’ll provide beverages and interesting conversation.
Please RSVP to Michelle Johnson: MJohnson@LegalVoice.org
Legal Voice applauds legislation introduced in the Washington State Legislature this week to protect pregnant incarcerated women from inhumane treatment. The bill would limit the ability of prisons, jails, and other Washington correctional facilities to use shackles and other restraints on pregnant incarcerated women. Such practices are especially barbaric during labor, delivery, and immediately after childbirth.
“It defies common sense to risk a pregnant woman’s health, safety, and dignity by shackling her while she is in the process of giving birth,” said Sara Ainsworth, Senior Counsel at Legal Voice.
- Press release
- Bill makes sense for pregnant inmates The Olympian 2/4/10
- A Lack of Restraints: Washington’s Anti-Shackling Efforts RH Reality Check 2/2/10
- WA bill seeks to limit shackling pregnant inmates Seattle Times 1/26/10
Limited service pregnancy centers are non-profit organizations – not medical clinics – that typically offer free pregnancy tests and other pregnancy-related services, but often distribute false or misleading information about abortion, pregnancy, contraception, or sexually transmitted infections.
Today, legislators in Washington State introduced bills that would protect women’s health by improving accuracy, transparency and privacy at limited service pregnancy centers. Legal Voice and other women’s rights advocates are calling the bill long overdue.
For media inquiries, please contact us at info@LegalVoice.org or 206-682-9552.
Women's rights. Nothing less.