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Why We Marched: One Year Later

Posted by Giovanna A. D'Orazio | Jan 19, 2018

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the Women's March and President Trump's inauguration.  As with all things, at the time of the march, there was backlash and criticism along the lines of “give the President a chance” and “what rights do women not have”.  We explained why we marched and our response to those criticisms in a blog post entitled “Why We Marched”.  One year later, we are revisiting that post, reprinting it with updates on what happened during this year of “giving a chance” and “seeing what happens.”

 We marched in Albany on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in support of the Women's March on Washington and the sister marches that took place all over the world.  The vibe was peaceful, hopeful, determined, positive.  There were lots of kids and people from all walks of life.

 Why did we march?

 Like it or not, there was a lot of troubling rhetoric in the campaign that made many groups of people feel like their rights are at risk.  Women, LGBTQ, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled, the list goes on.  So we marched in solidarity with these groups.  For our clients. For ourselves. For our kids.  For our neighbors.  

 Why aren't we waiting for the new administration or Congress to take concrete action on these issues before we march? 

Because we're sending a message.  Because why wait until it's too late?  Because some action has already been taken and it's troubling for many, including for individuals who voted for President Trump. 

Because, maybe, when the administration sees an outpouring of support for the LGBTQ community, existing Department of Labor rules protecting sexual orientation and transgender individuals will be left alone.  Maybe they won't interfere with the EEOC's activism on sexual orientation discrimination.  Maybe they will support legislation to amend Title VII to include sexual orientation. Maybe they will leave executive orders on discrimination by federal contractors alone.

 LGBTQ Rights Updates:

  • The Justice Department submitted briefs in pending court cases arguing that sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII, in direct contradiction to the EEOC's position on this issue.
  • The Justice Department argued at the Supreme Court that businesses and places of public accommodation may refuse to provide services to same sex couples based on their religious beliefs.
  • Revoked President Obama's Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and identity.
  • Executive Order banning transgender troops from the military (later abandoned due to pending litigation).
  • Education Department revoked President Obama's guidance on how to treat transgender students in schools, including by allowing them to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
  • Education Department takes position that complaints by transgender students are not within the jurisdiction of its civil rights department.

Because, maybe, when they see support for stronger women's workplace rights with respect to equal pay, pregnancy and paid family leave, they will make that a priority.  Are there women who believe they already have equal rights? Sure.  But that doesn't mean laws can't be strengthened or that we shouldn't identify loopholes and areas where there is no protection – like accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions. 

 Update on Women's Workplace and Education Rights:

  • Revoked Obama-era rule requiring companies to report pay data to the EEOC so that the EEOC could more easily determine whether companies are paying women employees unequally. This rule also applied to pay based upon race.
  • No legislation regarding paid family leave or reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions.
  • Employers can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to employees based on alleged religious beliefs.
  • Department of Education revoked Obama-era guidelines on handling sexual assault on college campuses under Title IX.

 Because we want to show how many of us care about healthcare and reproductive rights.  Who care about equality in the justice system.

 Update on Healthcare:

  • Allowed CHIP (healthcare program for children) to expire.
  • Numerous, albeit unsuccessful, attempts to revoke the Affordable Care Act.
  • Creation of new “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” at Health and Human Services which will support a policy allowing healthcare workers to refuse services based upon their religious beliefs.

 Update on Reproductive Rights:

  • Regulation allowing employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to employees based on alleged religious beliefs.
  • Justice Department has attempted to prevent immigrant women from obtaining abortions.
  • Implemented Global Gag Rule.
  • At this point, above Division of Conscience and Religious freedom appears primarily directed to abortion services.

 Update on Criminal Justice System Issues:

  • President Trump and Vice President Pence condemned NFL players for peacefully protesting police brutality.

 Because, even if you haven't seen it or experienced it in your own life, in our practice, we see the real life consequences of racism, sexism, ageism, disability and national origin discrimination, and every other –ism and form of bias you can think of.  It happens. It's not a made up concern.  And losing one's job because of discrimination can have serious ramifications in every facet of someone's life.  So, we march for our clients.

 Updates on National Origin and Religion Issues:

  • Ended DACA program which allowed certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children to obtain citizenship. Currently in limbo.
  • Three versions of a travel/immigration ban from Muslim countries each of which has been declared unconstitutional and discriminatory, but the third version of which remains in effect pending full litigation.

When we hear that marching is pointless or is not the same as taking action, we say that using your voice is action.  Stepping outside your comfort zone to stand up for others or for yourself or your children is action.  And, of course, many who marched have been taking more concrete “action” since the day after the election - by donating money, joining organizations, making plans to run for office, volunteering, calling our representatives, organizing, or – in our case – refocusing some of our areas of practice.

Parting thought.  We get that there are people out there seeing these marches who are feeling defensive.  Feeling like the marches are sending you a message that you don't care – particularly to other women that you don't care about women's rights or you're not supporting the sisterhood. To them we say, these marches are not anti-you.  For many they are not even anti-Trump.  They are pro-the causes and the individuals who have been threatened.  

Because we talk to people from all walks of life and political standpoints on a daily basis as part of our job, we get that there are supporters of President Trump who care about equal rights, who care about women's rights, who have gay friends and have joyfully attended same-sex weddings, who are themselves immigrants and people of color.  Especially in the age of the social media, everything can seem so black and white.  There's no room to have diverse opinions or points of view anymore.  We are libtards and snowflakes.  You are racist pussy grabbers. 

Well, to our family, friends and clients who voted for President Trump, we say march with us.  If not literally, then in spirit by speaking out in favor of the causes championed by the Women's March that you do care about.  And we will do our part to give credit when credit is due.

About the Author

Giovanna A. D'Orazio

Giovanna has experience litigating, among other things, commercial, general civil, employment, land use and personal injury matters in New York State and federal courts. Giovanna focuses her practice on plaintiff's employment and personal injury matters, with a particular interest in women's rights and employment discrimination and harassment.

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