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Legal Update: LGBTQ Rights Victory at SCOTUS

June 15, 2020 was a celebratory day for LGBTQ rights when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6–3 decision in favor of the most expansive federal protections provided to the LGBTQ community to date. In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, included the prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The opinion, which was penned by Justice Gorsuch, was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts.

This case had been consolidated with two other LGBTQ rights cases, Altitute Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The facts were undisputed that Plaintiffs Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda were terminated when their employers learned of their sexual orientation, and Plaintiff Aimee Stephens was fired when she informed her employer that she would be transitioning. The U.S. Supreme Court held that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies law.” This decision provides millions of individuals with the respect and protection they deserve in the workplace. UCLA’s Williams Institute reports that approximately 1 million U.S. workers identify as transgender, and approximately 7.1 million U.S. workers identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual. A study by the Human Rights Commission found that almost half of LGBTQ individuals are closeted in the workplace. Every person deserves the right to work with dignity and should not fear that at any time they could be legally fired based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This landmark decision is an enormous legal victory for the LGBTQ community and a necessary step toward overdue equality under the law.

However, the fight for equality is far from over. The Equality Act, which has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, must be enacted. The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity beyond the workplace and extends to the marketplace, public services, housing, medical insurance coverage, public accommodations and federally funded programs. These protections are especially important to those individuals who face many other discriminatory barriers. Without such comprehensive legislation, true equality under the law cannot be reached.

For now, we relish in a long-fought victory. To Plaintiffs Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, who unfortunately passed before they were able to witness this groundbreaking decision in their favor, rest in power.

Nominate your favorite local feminist superhero: Women Who Dared 2020

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sendy Soto accept their awards at Women Who Dared 2019

The Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women is seeking nominations for Women Who Dared, our annual awards gala celebrating feminist superheroes dedicated to making our city and state a better place for all women and girls. Each fall, we honor one elected official and one community organizer working to serve and uplift women and girls in our city and beyond. This year’s event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know of a badass Chicago shero who’s fighting to transform the lives of women and girls? Nominate her for Women Who Dared! Please include her name and a brief summary explaining your nomination by July 15.

Join us in the fight for equality and justice for all women and girls. Nominate your favorite feminist superhero for Woman Who Dared today!

Update: Chicago NOW Calls for Swift Reform and Toni Van Pelt’s Immediate Resignation – We Will Not Be Complicit

Today, Chicago NOW joins the state and local chapters of the National Organization for Women calling for President Toni Van Pelt’s immediate resignation. Further, we call for swift reform of NOW’s bylaws to decentralize power at the national level and empower the hundreds of grassroots chapters nationwide to take immediate action during times of crisis.

Last week, we called for transparency and concrete answers from President Van Pelt regarding several recent news articles claiming a disturbing pattern of racist behavior among NOW’s national leadership. As of now, we have not received any official response from the national board about these allegations. Today, we realize our previous demand is not enough. We no longer have confidence in President Van Pelt’s leadership, and we do not believe she can effectively speak for the thousands of women in this organization.

We believe women of color. It is now evident that the allegations of racism at NOW reported in recent news stories were merely the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, we see that this is not a new problem, but that our national leadership has allowed a toxic environment to fester for far too long. We have driven women of color out of our organization by turning a blind eye to their pain. To that end, it is not possible for those who were silent and complicit while the cancer of racism spread throughout our leadership to continue to helm our organization as we take steps to root out this toxicity once and for all.

Our members deserve leaders who will take immediate action to rally behind their sisters. To that end, we reiterate our call for a transparent, comprehensive investigation into all racism allegations at all levels of leadership within NOW, and for the results of this investigation to be provided to local chapters. Should this investigation confirm the widespread pattern of racist behavior suggested by these allegations, we believe that allowing all those currently in power to continue to steer the course would be a conflict of interest that would further erode the faith our members should have in their national leadership. However, we are constrained by NOW’s archaic bylaws from taking further necessary drastic action to root out corruption. We call on our fellow grassroots organizers to join us in demanding we overhaul a system that has allowed racism to thrive for far too long.

We meant it when we said that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional, that we trust the experiences of women of color, and that we take all allegations of racism seriously. We fear the current leadership of NOW cannot advocate for our mission in an inclusive way. As such, we call upon our fellow grassroots chapters to join us in demanding legislative reform and calling on our leadership to listen to women of color, drive change, and earn the trust of all of our nation’s women.

Chicago NOW Denounces Racism and Calls for Investigation Within NOW Ranks

Chicago NOW has reviewed several recent news articles claiming a disturbing pattern of racist behavior among NOW’s national leadership.

We call for transparent and concrete answers from President Toni Van Pelt. We also call for a comprehensive investigation into all allegations at the national level, and for the results of this investigation to be provided to local chapters.

As one of hundreds of independent local chapters of the National Organization for Women, we do not have the facts surrounding the allegations made at the national level. Chicago NOW affirms that no form of feminism is legitimate unless it is intersectional. That means trusting the experiences of women of color and taking all allegations of racism seriously. We must denounce racist acts within our own organization before we can effectively advocate for anti-racism in our communities.

As intersectional feminists, we must reckon with some hard truths: the feminist movement has a long, storied history that includes many racist practices, and the city of Chicago has its own racist history. It is on every one of us to recognize these realities and take active steps to improve them. We demand the same from our leaders and look forward to a full and transparent investigation into allegations of racism among our ranks.

CNOW Calls on YOU to be a Co-Conspirator in the Black Liberation Movement

Dear Chicago NOW Community,

The mask of community has been further tattered as nefarious systemic racism reveals itself during our pandemic response. Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home by police. A former police officer and his son cornered and murdered innocent jogger Ahmaud Arbery. And we all watched in horror as the police drained the life from George Floyd as others stood by in silence and inaction.

At Chicago NOW, we are examining how to be better. Not just as non-racists, but as anti-racists. It is important during this time for our white and non-black community members to listen and watch with open hearts. We must take this inquiry further by also examining how our personal inaction supports an inherently unjust system and perpetuates violence against men and women of color.

We must do more. Our collective action must be urgent, intentional and unambiguous. We invite community feedback as to how CNOW can be a stronger community partner in the march for justice as we affirmatively stand in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers.

This is the fight of our lifetimes. We cannot stand idly when justice requires action.

Last Friday, we released a call to action for critical change. You can read that statement on our website.

Please read on for links to local organizations on the frontlines that you can support at this time, as well as some recommended reads for further education.

Local Organizations to Follow & Support:

Recommending Reading & Other Resources

Anti-Racism Resources for White People” | Forbes
Six Simple Ways White Women Can Be Feminist Allies to Black Communities” | Ms. Magazine
Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup” | Pretty Good

What CNOW Board Members Are Currently Reading

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby
How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo
The Death Gap by David Ansell

Consider ordering books from Semicolon Chi (515 N. Halsted St.), the only Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago!

Again, we welcome community feedback as to how CNOW can be a stronger community partner in the march for justice.

In Solidarity,
Chicago NOW