by Lisa Bennett-Haigney, Publications Manager and staff contibutors
NOW, Feminists Call for
NOW's National Board voted at the 1998
Women's Rights Convention and Vision Summit in July to join allies
in a renewed effort to press for a women's equality amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. During the 150th anniversary celebrations in Seneca Falls
this summer, the National Council of Women's Organizations presented a
draft of guiding principles for a National Women's Equality Act for the
21st Century. The drafting of the document was led by Eleanor Smeal, former
NOW president and current president of the Feminist
Majority. The act calls for advances in the areas of education,
employment, retirement security, health care, the military, the media,
family care responsibilities and the criminal justice system.
NOW is also demanding equal representation
in Congress. "Women comprise 51 percent of the country. Why aren't we 51
percent of the Senate?" asked NOW President
Patricia Ireland. "Quota queen Bean counters. We'll hear it all.
It won't be any worse than the names thrown at the first feminists when
they issued their unheard-of call for votes for women."
English-Only Education Takes
Effect in California
In a June 2 election, California voters approved Proposition 227 which
amends the California Education Code and eliminates bilingual education.
The current programs will now be replaced by a one-year English-only immersion
program after which limited-English proficiency (LEP) students will be
mainstreamed into English-only classrooms. The following day several opponents
of the initiative filed an action challenging Prop. 227 under federal statutes
and the U.S. Constitution.
Upon hearing the case, U.S. District Judge Charles A. Legge ruled that
the court would not enjoin the implementation of Prop. 227, stating that
federal law did not require bilingual education or prohibit so-called immersion
classes as a way of teaching English. On July 31, the Ninth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals denied, without comment, the request by bilingual education
advocates for an injunction that would prevent the measure from taking
legal effect on Aug. 3 with implementation scheduled for September.
The Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund, along with other civil rights and
education groups, also filed an 11th-hour lawsuit against the initiative
in Los Angeles stating that California school districts were not prepared
to begin teaching children through English immersion in the academic year
1998-1999. However, U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird refused to block
the nation's second-largest school district from proceeding with a new
teaching plan aimed at complying with Proposition 227. This ruling cleared
the way for Los Angeles Unified School District to start a program on August
3 which plans to educate 312,000 LEP students without the benefit of teaching
them in their native languages. And the California School Board agreed
to begin implementation of programs that comply with Prop. 227 at 50 year-round
elementary schools that opened in August.
by Jennifer Becker, Field Organizer
Susan B. Anthony Kicked Off
On July 29, U.S. Treasury Secretary announced that a new dollar coin will
bear the image of "Liberty represented by a Native American woman, inspired
by Sacajawea," thus removing the Susan B. Anthony coin which first appeared
in 1979. Sacajawea was a young Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark
to the Pacific Ocean.
Pennsylvania NOW State
President Barbara DiTullio appeared
before the Dollar Coin Advisory Committee on behalf of the NOW
Foundation to encourage the committee members to put Anthony on the
new coin. As DiTullio pointed out, the Anthony coin was not a success because
of its confusing similarity to the quarter and derogatory publicity upon
its introduction. The NOW Foundation does not oppose issuance of a coin
with the image of a Native American woman selected by Native American groups.
However, none had requested a coin honoring Sacajawea and the Foundation
objects to the use of the abstract "Liberty" in place of a specific woman
leader. Di Tullio's statement noted, "Like the men whose political leadership
is honored by portrayal on U.S. coins, Anthony is to be recognized for
her own achievements as well as representing those of innumerable women
who have participated in the ongoing fight for women's right to equal protection
of the law."
The new coin, which will start circulating in 2000, will be colored
gold and have an edge unlike a quarter in order to avoid some of the problems
the Anthony dollar faced.
Military Reconsiders Adultery
This summer the Pentagon took another look at the Uniform
Code of Military Justice which prohibits adultery by any service member
and relaxed the requirement that any soldier in violation of the code be
court-martialed. A panel convened by Secretary of Defense William
Cohen last year after the Air Force's dismissal of Lt. Kelly Flinn
recommended downgrading the crime.
NOW President Patricia Ireland
faced retired Lt. Oliver North on CNN's "Crossfire" to debate the merits
of rethinking the military's strict standards. While North was gung-ho
for courts-martial across the board, Ireland noted that the military has
thus far been unable to enforce this rule effectively or fairly. Male officers
have frequently been given weak reprimands or no sanctions at all while
Flinn faced court-martial. Ireland expressed her concern that sexual misconduct
rules are disproportionately applied to women, including the so-called
"don't ask, don't tell" policy which has resulted in a much higher ratio
of lesbians than gay men being kicked out of the military.
The new guidelines from the Pentagon state that criminal charges against
the offending party should not be sought unless the misconduct disrupts
the order of or discredits the armed forces. NOW's
Vice President Membership Karen Johnson, a 20-year Air Force veteran,
commented on the military's revised code, "NOW hopes that this change in
policy will lessen the chance of a service member, particularly a woman,
losing their career over consenting sexual conduct. However, we are still
not confident that the military will make just decisions when determining
who to charge and who not to charge. Women must not be the scapegoats for
a military that has long ignored adultery, the use of prostitution and
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