This has been an exciting week for women’s rights in the courts, a fitting lead-in to Women’s History Month, which begins tomorrow, March 1. In three victories this week, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project continued to chip away at the gender inequity that still plagues our society.
A Connecticut court ruling that a social club cannot exclude women from membership was a triumph for female business owners, who continue to struggle to break into the male-dominated business world, in which social connections are so crucial. Although many of these “fraternal” organizations have opened their doors to women, we continue to fight these battles state by state because the federal public accommodations law that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, and national origin, does not extend this protection to women.
This week’s groundbreaking settlement between a domestic violence survivor, a private housing complex, and a property management company in Michigan was a major victory in the fight to end violence against women because a lack of safe housing is one of the biggest barriers women face when they are trying to escape abusive relationships. The management company’s agreement not to throw women out of their homes simply because they are victims of domestic violence and to allow victims to get out of their leases early and relocate for safety purposes was a commendable move that acknowledged that everyone, including private companies and landlords, must take responsibility for creating a world in which women can escape violence.
On Monday, a federal judge in Riverside, CA allowed Jameelah Medina to proceed with her lawsuit claiming that her religious freedom rights were violated when officers forced her to remove her hijab while in police custody. The judge’s decision affirmed an important civil rights concept: that coercion does not have to involve the use or threat of physical violence. The decision to allow Ms. Medina to proceed with her lawsuit was also a step towards affirming that Muslim women – who are uniquely visible and therefore targeted with anti-Muslim and gender-based discrimination – have the right to express their religious beliefs freely.
Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate our triumphs, and also to re-dedicate ourselves to the ongoing struggle for gender equity. With these three successes, and through the work of women’s rights advocates around the country every day, we are steadily making history of violations of women’s civil rights.
Please visit our Women’s History Month page to learn more about the work of the Women’s Rights Project, current women’s rights issues, and what you can do.