National NOW Times >> Summer, 2000 >> Article
Hanford, Chapter and State Development Staff
and summer, NOW chapters throughout the country picketed FOX network
affiliates, protested at federal buildings after the Supreme Court's
ruling in the Brzonkala case, participated in
June's annual Gay Pride events and organized on key local issues.
Florida NOW Fights to Save Affirmative
On March 7, in the largest civil rights march in
Florida's history, 20,000 protestors marched in Tallahassee for
affirmative action. The protestors stole the headlines from Governor
Jeb Bush, and his State of the State message on the opening day of
Florida's legislative session. Floridians marched against Bush
because of his "One Florida" plan to dismantle affirmative action
Florida NOW was the only women's rights group
designated a convener of the March on Tallahassee. NOW organized a
The March was only one tactic in Florida
NOW's efforts to save affirmative action in their state. In 1997,
Florida NOW co-founded Floridians Representing Equity and Equality
(F.R.E.E.). Florida NOW's role in F.R.E.E. is emphasizing the
importance of affirmative action to women and working to bring
women's groups into the coalition. F.R.E.E. now represents about 30
statewide organizations and works in coalition with several national
"This coalition work is the backbone of our
strategy," said Florida NOW President Toni Van Pelt. "It is some of
the most satisfying work we do in Florida. We are truly linking arms
in dangerous times, standing shoulder to shoulder."
of F.R.E.E.'s efforts, when Ward Connerly tried to replicate his
California strategy in Florida, he encountered resistence and his
wording of a proposed ballot initiative to ban "preferences" was
effectively challenged. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that "the
ballot ... [gives] voters no clue of the impact the amendments
actually would have on government programs promoting social harmony
and combating discrimination. Each voter is entitled to cast a
ballot based on the full truth."
But the Court's decision did
not put an end to the issue. Last year, Gov. Jeb Bush used an
executive order to end affirmative action programs where he had the
authority, namely university admissions and state contracting and
Bush repeatedly refused to meet with any group on
the issue, prompting an overnight sit-in outside the governor's
office by two state legislators-Sen. Kendrick Meek and Rep. Tony
Hill, along with Florida NOW member Barbara DeVane. In the morning
DeVane was the only one dragged from the room. The Governor finally
decided to meet with the black legislative caucus and, as a result,
public hearings were held. In Tampa, Miami and Tallahassee,
thousands of citizens testified to the damage Bush's One Florida
plan would cause.
The NAACP and Florida NOW filed an
administrative challenge to Bush's plan is to do away with gender
and race in college admissions applications. However, in July,
Administrative Law Judge Charles Adams upheld the plan. Both parties
are appealing the ruling.
F.R.E.E. has hired NOW member Mandy
Carter as campaign manager. She and Van Pelt are organizing a series
of women's forums around the state to help build coalitions and to
emphasize why affirmative action programs are necessary for women of
all colors. Pay equity and getting out the vote for the November
elections are major themes in the campaign. Utilizing the publicity
they received for their sit-in outside the governor's office, Meek,
Hill and DeVane have launched "Arrive With Five," touring the state
in an effort to get women and minorities to vote and bring five
others to the polls with them on Nov. 7.
Pickets All Governors
On July 8, activists from the Ni-Ta-Nee NOW Chapter (Pa.)
joined with members of a poverty coalition from Ohio and
Pennsylvania to stage a protest at the National Governors'
Conference held in State College, Pa. Local NOW activists chose
their spot early Saturday morning to ensure that the governors
attending the conference would see protest signs on issues that
included poverty, reproductive rights, and gun violence.
This was the first in a series of demonstrations planned by
Pennsylvania NOW PAC to expose the truth about Pennsylvania Governor
Tom Ridge. Gov. Ridge is portrayed by the Republican Party as a
moderate, and therefore, was once considered a possible running mate
for George W. Bush. But as the Pennsylvania NOW PAC posters
indicate, Tom Ridge is NO moderate!
State Police were out in
force and by the end of the day, clearly outnumbered protesters by
at least 2 to 1. By the time this paper goes to press, many of those
involved in the protest will have picketed the Republican National
Convention in Philadelphia.
San Gabriel Valley/Whittier
NOW Saves Domestic Violence Court
Largely because of the
actions of the San Gabriel Valley/Whittier NOW chapter, the Domestic
Violence Courtroom has reopened at Citrus Municipal Court in West
Covina, Calif. Chapter President Darby Mangen states, "This victory
was after a year-long struggle fought on the doorsteps of the court
house. Our success will insure that victims can once again find
security and solace in a special courtroom that is structured to
give their families the best chance of resolve."
chapter's year-long campaign involved picketing, rallies (one
attended by NOW President Patricia Ireland), letters, press
conferences, and meetings and phone calls with city officials. "We
hope our action may catapult the idea of domestic violence specialty
courts nationwide," Mangen says. "They make a real difference for
victims of domestic violence."
Mangen credits all the
California NOW members who lobbied on behalf of the campaign, the
judges who supported the need to reopen the court, the community
leaders who came forward to use their influence, the Los Angeles
Board of Supervisors, and the City Councils that passed resolutions
in favor of the Court. NOW/PAC-endorsed candidate Hilda Solis
(running in California's U.S. House District 31 and currently a
state senator) has introduced state legislation (SB 1340) for
funding of domestic violence courtrooms statewide.
Gabriel Valley/Whittier NOW chapter has also been successful in its
efforts to pressure authorities to enforce clinic defense laws.
After years of defending the El Monte Women's Health Clinic, the
chapter finally saw an anti-choice protester who had harassed
patients outside the same abortion clinic four days a week for ten
years, brought to trial and found guilty on two counts of battery
Greater New Orleans NOW Pickets the 5th
On May 23, Greater New Orleans NOW picketed the
U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals demanding reproductive freedom
for women. Louisiana is asserting a "states' rights" argument to
prevent health care providers from challenging a draconian
anti-abortion rights law which declares abortion a civil wrong.
Under the law, a woman may sue her provider for performing an
abortion, even if she gave informed consent to the procedure. She
may bring suit for up to 10 years after the procedure, and claim
damages for wrongful death of the fetus as well as any harm she
feels she has suffered.
If upheld, the law will likely cause
all physicians in Louisiana to stop performing abortions. It has
already been ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts-the U.S.
District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and a panel of
the U.S. Fifth Circuit. However, in January the Fifth Circuit agreed
to a rehearing of the case by all 14 active judges, to address the
"states' rights" argument. Abortion opponents are arguing that
individuals cannot challenge the constitutionality of state laws in
federal court, other than criminal statutes. This argument has not
been raised in previous abortion rights cases because, until now,
anti-abortion laws have generally been criminal bans.
with NOW members from Baton Rouge and the Northeast Louisiana NOW
chapter, the Greater New Orleans chapter also picketed a Promise
Keepers meeting in Baton Rouge on July 14. Since the Promise
Keepers' inception, NOW chapters across the country have been
protesting at their events. The all-male religious group's leaders
embody the sexism, racism and homophobia of the radical right. NOW's
informational pickets serve to educate the public about their
Milwaukee NOW Takes Feminist Message on the Road
On July 22, members of Milwaukee NOW motored around the
streets of Milwaukee, Wis., in their sign-plastered F-Word Mobile,
hoping to drive home the true meaning of the word
"The F-Word is Feminism! Shout it, Tell it, Yell
it, Live it!" announced member Lynn Jacobson with the help of a
hand-held bull-horn. Five group members spent two hours taking turns
voicing their definition of equality, attracting attention from
bystanders, passing cars and buses on a busy Saturday
Enthusiastic passers-by clapped, waved and offered
the thumbs up sign. The car sported signs that read, "Feminism =
Equality" and "Feminists Believe in Social, Political and Economic
Equality for All People - Do You?"
"Most of the responses
from on-lookers were positive," said member Mazena Barakat.
F-Word Campaign is a two-year pilot program of Milwaukee NOW. Its
goal is to change the stigma surrounding the word feminism. The
chapter hopes to encourage the birth of F-Word campaigns across the
nation through other NOW chapters.
Future chapter excursions
will cover nearby cities and will involve more unusual and
unconventional methods of delivery. "We plan to take our campaign to
the air," said Linda Fausel, F-Word Task Force Chair. The group
plans to rent a plane to fly over festivals and football games
sporting an F-Word banner, reaching people of all ages, races and
Delaware County NOW Pickets Taliban
May 18, Delaware County NOW (Pa.) held a protest and informational
picket in Wayne, Pa., to counter an appearance by the Taliban
representative to the United Nations who was speaking at a Middle
Sixteen NOW members passed out information and
talked to people about the plight of women in Afghanistan. As a
result, by-passers and people who had intended to attend the speech
by the Taliban representative joined in the protest.
President Kathy Mason noted that before the Taliban gained control
of Afghanistan, women comprised 60 percent of the teachers and 50
percent of the students at Kabul University, 50 percent of the
civilian government work force, 70 percent of school teachers, and
40 percent of doctors.
Mason states:"After the Taliban
seized power in 1996, women and girls were stripped of their basic
human rights. They are forbidden from attending schools, working
outside the home, leaving the home without a male relative, speaking
in public, and speaking to males who are not close relatives. Women
are beaten and killed for not being properly covered or
Chapter activists distributed information and gave
out the web addresses of NOW and the Feminist Majority so people
could continue to track the problem. The chapter's hand-outs asked
people to write letters to the U.N. to demand that pressure be put
on the Taliban to change its treatment of women.
for information provided by: Toni Van Pelt and Sheila Jaffe of
Florida NOW; Barbara DiTullio and Joanne Tosti-Vasey of Pennsylvania
NOW; Darby Mangen of San Gabriel Valley/Whittier NOW; Sandy Rapp of
East End NOW; Terry O'Neill, Jeanne Cashen and Linda Sievers of
Louisiana NOW; Robin Davis of Raleigh NOW; Kathy Mason of Delaware
County (PA) NOW; Toby Abrams and Holmes Holland of Nashville NOW;
and Linda Fausel of Milwaukee NOW.
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