FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MELINDA SHELTON, 767; DIANE MINOR, x773
Statement of NOW President Patricia Ireland, who attended today's oral arguments in United States v. Lanier and is head of NOW Foundation and on the board of NOW LDEF, which both filed amici briefs in the case.
This case is an outrageous example of why women's rights need to be written into the Constitution. Clearly we need a constitutional equality amendment for women when a local judge can argue, and a panel of federal appeals judges agrees, that women have no Constitutional right to bodily integrity. And those same judges found that Judge David Lanier of Tennessee was not on notice that he was violating the constitutional rights of five women when he committed unconsionable acts of rape, sexual assault and harassment.
We heard those kinds of arguments made YET again today by and before justices who serve on the highest court of this land. The U.S. Justice Department's argument that women have a clear right to bodily integrity under the Constitution did not seem acceptable to all nine Supreme Court justices. This will not be the conclusive decision for women's rights that it should be.
Sexual harassment and assault are offenses most often committed against women that are rarely treated as seriously as assaults on men, not even when they are committed by public officials in violation of women's civil rights, as in this instance. This case and today's proceedings make it all the more important for us to champion a constitutional equality amendment, one that would make sexual assaults on women as unconstitutional as any assaults on men. Just as feminists began this century by winning women the right to vote, we will end it by working to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee women's right to true equality.
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