California Moves Ahead; Maryland Lags Behind

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

The California Supreme Court ruled that lesbian and gay couples have a right to marry under the state’s constitution on May 15, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Same-sex couples will have the right to marry and "form a family relationship" in 30 days. The 4-3 court decision strikes down a 1977 law banning same-sex marriages.

Couples celebrated the news and plan to marry, including Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres, who announced their wedding plans on DeGeneres’ TV talk show. Meanwhile, opponents have submitted a November ballot measure to amend the constitution to prohibit the unions.

Karen Bass, a community activist from Los Angeles, elected in 2005, became the first female Democrat speaker of the California State Assembly May 13, making her the first African American woman to lead a state legislative house in the nation’s history, the Sacramento Bee reported.

And suffragist Alice Paul may be recognized due to the efforts of California Congressman Joe Baca, who ushered a bill through the U.S. House to award her the Congressional Medal of Honor, the San Bernardino Sun reported May 13. Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923.

More News to Cheer This Week:

     

  • Regina McKnight, convicted of homicide in 2001 for causing the stillbirth of her child by cocaine use, was granted the right to a new trial by the South Carolina Supreme Court on May 12. McKnight was prosecuted under a state law that allows murder charges to be filed in crimes where a fetus dies; in practice the laws have been used to prosecute drug offenders rather than violent criminals. The higher court affirmed the defendant’s argument that drug use alone is not responsible for unsuccessful pregnancies.
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  • Starting in 2009, U.S. emergency clinics will be required to provide anonymous rape kits to adult victims of sexual assault, the AP reported May 13. The FBI has pushed for the kits since 1999 because many victims are unwilling or uncertain whether to press charges after a traumatizing experience. The $800 kits will allow evidence to be saved until the victim makes a decision. In 2006 there were 272,350 sexual assaults in 2006, according to the Justice Department, and 41 percent were reported to police.
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  • Over 700 female priests in the Church of England signed an open letter to reject calls for separating dioceses in order to accommodate traditionalists that oppose the consecration of women as bishops, British newspaper the Time reported May 14. "With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory law," the women said.
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  • Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria warned his congregation of 17.5 million that polygamy makes a mockery of the church, the BBC reported May 15. Until now, Muslim converts were allowed to keep multiple wives but only monogamists are eligible for leadership positions. Nigeria is predominantly Muslim in the North and Christian or animist in the South.
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  • Women’s rights groups in Turkey filed a request to intervene on behalf of domestic violence victims in court, the Turkish Daily News reported May 14. Only families of victims are allowed to participate in court cases. Last year, a Turkish survey of 1,800 married women found that 1 in 3 was abused.
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  • The Sports Museum of America officially opened in New York on May 7 and will house the first permanent home for the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Women’s Sports Foundation announced. One wing is named for tennis legend Billie Jean King.
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Jeers

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee–dominated by legislators who were defense attorneys–is the place where good bills go to die, the Washington Post reported May 11.

Bills protecting victims’ rights that sailed through the Maryland Senate have been blocked by the House committee, including a bill to revoke paternity rights from accused rapists whose victims had a child. The committee also halted a proposal to revoke guns from accused abusers. Another killed bill would have lengthened the amount of time protective orders can remain in effect; Maryland women who seek protective orders from courts bear the highest burden of proof in the country.

The committee is chaired by Joseph F. Vallario, who angered women’s rights activists when he argued against the paternity bill by invoking 17th century English jurist Lord Hale, who said juries should be suspicious of women’s claims about rape.

More than 22,000 crimes of domestic violence were reported in Maryland last year, including the murders of 52 women and children.

More News to Jeer This Week:

     

  • Nepalese police arrested 560 Tibetan women and Buddhist nuns marching for a "Free Tibet" in Katmandu, the BBC reported May 11. More than 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal and daily protests have been staged since deadly riots broke out in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, in March. Tibetans have been calling for independence from China since 1959. This was the first example of all-women protests in neighboring Nepal and the largest Chinese-backed crackdown to date.
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  • About 28 million U.S. women are at risk of unwanted pregnancy and one in four are very likely to become pregnant as a result of inconsistent contraceptive use, according to May 13 statistics released by the Guttmacher Institute. A lack of access to health care and the cost of birth control are contributing factors to unintended pregnancies.
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  • The U.N. Human Rights Committee urged Japan to aid the nation’s "comfort women"–who were subject to sexual slavery during World War II–and to provide equal treatment for women, Reuters reported May 14.
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Noted:

     

  • In Russia, investigations into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist gunned down in her apartment in October 2006, are making headway, the Associated Press reported May 13. Investigators identified Rustam Makhumdov, a 34-year-old Chechen man who has yet to be detained or questioned, as the "immediate executor." Nine people have been charged with involvement in her murder.
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  • NARAL Pro-Choice America’s May 14 endorsement of Barack Obama has been met with strong criticism from women’s rights activists who support Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign. Ellen Malcolm, president of the pro-choice political action committee EMILY’s List, swiftly issued a statement calling the endorsement disrespectful toward Clinton. "It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them," Malcolm said. NARAL affiliate groups in at least six states have also distanced themselves from the national endorsement, the Washington Post reported May 15.
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In Memoriam:

Irene Sendlerowa, a Polish woman who fought for the lives of Jewish children during World War II, died May 12 in Warsaw at the age of 98. She is credited with smuggling and saving up to 2,500 children after the 1939 Nazi invasion and the burning of Jewish ghettoes. In October 1943, the Gestapo tortured and arrested her but she would not give up the names of the Jewish children in her care. The Polish underground bribed guards to secure her release. Sendlerowa hated the term hero but Israel awarded her the title "Righteous Among the Nations."

Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

 


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