The underrepresentation of women in judicial office is often at the core of judicial diversity arguments. A motivating catalyst for judicial diversity is the structural discrimination and marginalization that women in law have had to confront. Whilst equality of opportunity is a deeply rooted argument fueling the appointment of more female judges, it is nonetheless not sacrosanct. While much of mainland Europe, including France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Poland and Greece, have a majority of female judges, Britain paradoxically has one of the lowest proportions of women on the bench. In Scotland, the proportion is only twenty-two percent, with Azerbaijan being the only state with a worse gender balance at eleven percent.Continue reading Judging in the United Kingdom: A Man’s Job?→
In the first month of the 2015 legislative session, state lawmakers introduced more than one hundred bills regulating abortion in more than half of the states. In many states, although abortion is technically legal, onerous regulations make it difficult, if not functionally impossible, for a woman to exercise her constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy. Compare this to the marriage equality movement, which has seen unprecedented success in recent years and looks poised to become the law of the land later this month, when the Supreme Court hands down its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Parts of larger movements for LGBT and women’s equality, abortion and marriage rights represent two concrete indices on which to measure the general advancement of progressive social attitudes towards these two classes of individuals. Both movements have garnered success and have faced setbacks along the way, but while the marriage equality movement has made unprecedented strides in recent years, the same time period has seen the retraction and restriction of a woman’s right to control her body. One of the reasons for these divergent trajectories is the way in which courts have framed the right itself.
Fifty years ago, masses took to the streets to demand equal rights under law in this country, culminating in one of the most comprehensive statutory overhauls of U.S. history. The 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) represented a political moment, one of social inertia and progressive change. Moreover, it was an inclusive outcome, recognizing the many interwoven strands of discrimination; to root out discrimination entirely, the CRA was designed to attack from all sides, be it discrimination based upon race or sex. Fifty years have passed, but more keenly than ever do we see still-existent tears in the fabric of American society, even amongst those seeking to repair it. If we look closely at the history of the CRA, we can see the moment may continue on anomalously.
As lore would have it, the inclusion of the Sex Amendment to the CRA boiled down to a stab at political jettisoning; that is, certain Congressmen believed in earnest that adding “sex” to the protections of the Act would effectively bury it. While some parties certainly did—and continue—to believe this tale, the Sex Amendment instead stands as testament to a long-fought battle by women such as Alice Paul, whose earliest claim to fame was her status as a militant suffragist of the Pankhurst ilk. As far as Paul was concerned, where the Equal Rights Amendment had failed, the CRA might succeed. Congressman Herbert Smith—a friend to Paul whose political interests conveniently lay in deregulating the female workforce—submitted the Sex Amendment. The rest, as they say, is history.