Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

19th Amendment: A century of pioneering women in US politics

Source: Kelly-Leigh Cooper, BBC, June 3, 2019

One hundred years ago – on 4 June 1919 – Congress approved the 19th Amendment to the US constitution guaranteeing the right of American women to vote.

The amendment was the product of decades of campaigning and slow progress since the first convention for women’s rights was held in Seneca Falls in 1848.

In the years since, women had been thrown in jail for voting illegally, organised pickets across the country and chained themselves to the White House demanding representation.

Rights were granted in a handful of, mostly western, states over the years but resistance remained. This amendment, officially ratified in 1920, prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex on a national level.

In 2019 the US has more women in national politics than ever before, but still falls well short of equality. These are the pioneers who have made history in the century since…..

The Economic Effects of the 2017 Tax Revision: Preliminary Observations

Source: Jane G. Gravelle, Donald J. Marples, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45736, May 22, 2019

The 2017 tax revision, P.L. 115-97, often referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and referred to subsequently as the Act, was estimated to reduce taxes by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The Act permanently reduced the corporate tax rate to 21%, made a number of revisions in business tax deductions (including limits on interest deductions), and provided a major revision in the international tax rules. It also substantially revised individual income taxes, including an increase in the standard deduction and child credit largely offset by eliminating personal exemptions, along with rate cuts, limits on itemized deductions (primarily a dollar cap on the state and local tax deduction), and a 20% deduction for pass-through businesses (businesses taxed under the individual rather than the corporate tax, such as partnerships). These individual provisions are temporary and are scheduled to expire after 2025. The Act also adopted temporary provisions allowing the immediate deduction for equipment investment and an increase in the exemption for estate and gift taxes…..

….This analysis examines the preliminary effects of the Act during the first year, 2018. In some cases it is difficult to determine the effects of the tax cuts (e.g., on economic growth) given the other factors that affect outcomes. In other cases, such as the level of repatriation and use of repatriated funds, the evidence is more compelling. This report discusses these potential consequences in light of the data available after the first year…..

Be Careful What You Wish For: Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, The Assault on Civil Rights, and The Surprising Story of How Title VII Got Its Private Right of Action

Source: David B. Oppenheimer, Henry Cornillie, Henry Bluestone Smith, Thao Thai, Richard Treadwell, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 39 No. 1, 2018, Posted: 9 May 2019

From the abstract:
This essay reviews the impact of President Ronald Reagan’s policies on civil rights enforcement in the 1980s, as he tried to turn back the clock on civil rights. Reagan devastated the civil rights enforcement agencies, as he pandered to the white nationalists who helped him win election. But Reagan’s attempts ultimately failed, and leave behind an important lesson for President Donald Trump. Reagan’s appointments to and policies at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) seriously damaged civil rights enforcement. But employment discrimination law has survived and continues to be an often-effective tool against racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious hatred, and other forms of discrimination. Title VII cases (and claims under parallel statutes) continue to be a major part of the caseload in federal courts. Why? Because the Civil Rights Act is largely enforced by private civil rights groups and lawyers in private practice who bring cases before independent judges pursuant to a private right of action.

Did a progressive Congress have the foresight to recognize that a private right of action would protect the victims of discrimination from future administrations hostile to civil rights, and thus include it in the statute as a check against enforcement agencies captured by civil rights opponents? Hardly. Rather, moderate and conservative Senate Republicans, resigned to the fact that an employment discrimination law was inevitable, and fearful of a powerful federal agency that would restrict business autonomy in the manner of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), substituted a private right of action for agency adjudication in an attempt to sabotage the effectiveness of Title VII. In 1964, the adoption of a private right of action was widely seen as a great loss for civil rights advocates, turning Title VII from an enforceable law to an ineffectual call for voluntary compliance with anti-discrimination policies. Almost no one foresaw the development of a private bar of plaintiffs’ employment discrimination lawyers.

Those who tried to sabotage the enforcement of civil rights through a private right of action should be turning in their graves, having inadvertently given civil rights advocates a powerful tool to resist assaults on civil rights.

Women’s Rights: Primary Sources and Teaching Activities

Source: National Archives, DocsTeach, 2019

Women’s Rights and Roles in American History

When our Constitution was written, it was silent on women. Excluded from most of the rights and privileges of citizenship, women operated in limited and rigid roles while enslaved women were excluded from all. Yet women have actively participated as citizens—organizing, marching, petitioning—since the founding of our country. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes with a roar, women’s roles have been redefined. Use this page to find primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to women’s rights and changing roles in American history. Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources are also featured in the exhibits Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women, traveling the country.

Related:
Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote
Source: Library of Congress, 2019

This exhibition will tell the story of the long campaign for women’s suffrage – considered the largest reform movement in American history – which lasted more than seven decades. The struggle was not for the fainthearted. For years, determined women organized, lobbied, paraded, petitioned, lectured, picketed, and faced imprisonment.

The exhibition draws from the Library’s extensive collection of personal papers of such figures as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Mary Church Terrell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Carrie Chapman Catt, as well as the organizational records of the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, among others. Documents, images, video and audio recordings trace the movement leading to the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, through the contributions of suffragists who worked to persuade women that they deserved the same rights as men, the divergent political strategies and internal divisions they overcame, the push for a federal women’s suffrage amendment and the legacy of this movement.

Related Links

  • Votes for Women: Selected Images from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
  • Web Guide: Nineteenth Amendment, Researcher and Reference Services
  • Digital Collections

  • Susan B. Anthony Papers
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers
  • Mary Church Terrell Papers
  • National American Woman Suffrage Association Papers
  • Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party
  • Suffrage Sheet Music
  • For Teachers

  • Primary Source Set: Women’s Suffrage
  • Suffrage Strategies: Voices for Votes
  • Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection 1848-1921
  • Votes for Women: Suffrage Pictures
  • Women Have Had The Right To Vote For 100 Years. Here’s How To Celebrate
    Source: Mikaela Lefrak, WAMU, May 16, 2019

    The history of women’s suffrage and the landscape of Washington, D.C. are inextricably tied. It took decades of women organizing near the Capitol, picketing outside the White House, lobbying Congress and marching on the National Mall to win the right to vote. This June 4 marks the 100-year anniversary of Congress’ passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Museums and institutions around the District are marking the centennial with exhibitions on the movement’s history and leaders. Here are five of our top picks for places to learn about key women suffragists, the movement’s strategic wins and moral failings and how the fight for voting rights continues today.

    1. Untold Stories: The National Portrait Gallery …..
    2. Primary Sources: The National Archives …..
    3. The Room Where It Happened: Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument …..
    4. Personal Papers Galore: The Library of Congress …..
    5: Tables And Wagons: The National Museum of American History …..
    …..

    Secrecy versus sunshine: Efforts to hide government records never stop

    Source: Brent Walth, The Conversation, May 15, 2019

    ….All 50 states give the public the right to see government records and documents, but many state legislatures are weighing changes in their open-records laws.

    These changes rarely end up making our government more transparent. Instead, lawmakers often try to conceal public records from the people who own them – that is, you and me.

    Public records laws exist to allow us to see into the decision-making of our government. When bureaucrats make efforts to obscure our view into their actions, it serves only to undermine government officials’ accountability.

    It also diminishes the public’s understanding of, and faith in, democracy. ….

    The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): Historical Overview, Funding, and Reauthorization

    Source: Lisa N. Sacco, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45410, April 23, 2019

    The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally enacted in 1994 (P.L. 103-322). It addressed congressional concerns about violent crime, and violence against women in particular, in several ways. Among other things, it allowed for enhanced sentencing of repeat federal sex offenders; mandated restitution to victims of specified federal sex offenses; and authorized grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women.

    This report provides a brief history of VAWA and an overview of the crimes addressed through the act. It includes brief descriptions of earlier VAWA reauthorizations and a more-detailed description of the most recent reauthorization in 2013. It also briefly addresses reauthorization activity in the 116th Congress. The report concludes with a discussion of VAWA programs and a five-year history of funding from FY2015 through FY2019.

    Is Algorithmic Affirmative Action Legal?

    Source: Jason R. Bent, Georgetown Law Journal, Forthcoming, Date Written: April 16, 2019

    From the abstract:
    It is now understood that machine learning algorithms can produce unintentionally biased results. For the last few years, legal scholars have been debating whether the disparate treatment or disparate impact theories available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are capable of protecting against algorithmic discrimination. But machine learning scholars are not waiting for the legal answer. Instead, they have been working to develop a wide variety of technological “fairness” solutions that can be used to constrain machine learning algorithms. They have discovered that simply blinding algorithms to protected characteristics like sex or race is insufficient to prevent algorithmic discrimination. Given enough data, algorithms will identify and leverage on proxies for the protected characteristics. Recognizing this, some scholars have proposed “fairness through awareness” or “algorithmic affirmative action” — actively using sensitive variables like race or sex to counteract unidentified sources of bias and achieve some mathematical measure of fairness in algorithmic decisions. But is algorithmic affirmative action legal? This article is the first to comprehensively consider that question under both Title VII and the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The article evaluates the legality of the leading fairness techniques advanced in the machine learning literature, including group fairness, individual fairness, and counterfactual fairness. The article concludes that existing affirmative action doctrine under Title VII and existing constitutional equal protection jurisprudence leave sufficient room for at least some forms of algorithmic affirmative action.