As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris begin to assemble their transition team and create an agenda for the first 100 days, Legal Momentum calls on this new administration to join us in building on our past successes and hit the ground running towards the goal of gender equity. Our country has taken a historic step forward, with the first election of a women-identifying Vice President and an unprecedented 141 women in the 117th Congress (final number pending Georgia’s January runoff). But, we cannot forget that gender bias – both implicit and explicit – continues to present significant challenges to gender equity in every sphere of American life.
Beginning in 1990, Legal Momentum attorneys worked closely with then-Senator Biden to draft and pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and we continue to be closely involved in its subsequent reauthorizations. As the nation’s first and oldest legal defense fund for women, Legal Momentum continues to harness the power of the law to advance gender equity in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and in the justice system. We look forward to continuing our past work with President-elect Biden to strengthen protections against gender-based violence for women and girls, and to working with the new administration to center gender equity in its agenda by prioritizing the following:
- Eradicating Violence Against Women and Girls: Legal Momentum has been committed to ending all forms of sexual violence since our founding in 1970. In addition to our pioneering work on VAWA, we brought national awareness to the online perpetration of sexual violence, specifically, sextortion—first issuing a report in 2016 and then leading advocacy efforts for the passage of anti-sextortion legislation in 15 states to date. Legal Momentum also led the charge to shut down Backpage.com, filing federal litigation on behalf of trafficking survivors and organizations that serve them. We urge the new administration to build on our progress and support legislation centered on eradicating cyber-facilitated gender-based violence and strengthening U.S. anti-trafficking laws.
- Ensuring Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment: Legal Momentum has worked for decades to secure stronger workplace and economic protections for women, who, today, are still more likely to face inexcusable wage disparities, work low-wage jobs, earn the minimum wage, and live in poverty. These longstanding gender-based inequities have been further exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic has highlighted the undervaluation of work carried out primarily by women of color, as well as the disproportionate vulnerabilities they face, including high rates of unemployment and limited access to critical benefits. We call on the new administration to lead a needed transformative shift, by centering the needs of the most marginalized women; tackling occupational segregation; raising the federal minimum wage; increasing pay transparency; strengthening and expanding our social and public infrastructure; and creating comprehensive supports for women and families, including childcare, paid family leave, paid sick time, and pregnancy accommodations.
- Providing Equal Educational Opportunities: Among other recent rollbacks of students’ civil rights, the Department of Education (DOE) introduced new Title IX regulations which are already negatively impacting student survivors of gender-based violence. Several suits are currently pending against the DOE for these regulations. We urge the new administration to support the full enforcement of Title IX by reversing the provisions of these new regulations that have already proven harmful to survivors.
- Encouraging Gender Fairness in the Justice System: For 40 years, Legal Momentum’s National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) has provided judges across the country with education about all aspects of gender bias in the courts. This prompted state supreme courts and federal circuit councils to appoint high level task forces to investigate gender bias in their own court systems and recommend reforms. Legal Momentum encourages the new administration to work with courts nationwide to support these reforms.
Several years ago, Legal Momentum was part of small group of women’s rights organizations that began meeting with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to urge it to issue a guidance to law enforcement agencies about gender bias in their approach to domestic and sexual violence. In 2015, after we sent DOJ a letter signed by almost 200 national, state and local organizations about this, it finally issued DOJ Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. The current administration removed this guidance from its website. We call on the new administration to reissue and strengthen this guidance.
Legal Momentum remains committed to ensuring economic and personal security for all women and girls. We call on this new administration to join us in the fight for gender equity. There is still so much work to do.
The SYMS | Legal Momentum Helpline remains available at NO COST to provide legal information and referrals on issues related to sex discrimination in the workplace, home, school and the courts.
COVID-19 Resources. In this challenging time, our legal team developed a no-cost guide to Legal Rights and Economic Resources for Workers Impacted by COVID-19, also available in Spanish and Chinese.
Protecting women’s and girls’ rights begins with the law. Thank you for your ongoing support - you make our work possible! Stay safe and stay healthy.
Legal Momentum Legal Team