NEWSLETTER / WINTER 2016
A Letter from the New Executive Director, Megan Peterson Dear Friends of Gender Justice, Beginnings. Endings. Moments when it feels like the world has turned upside down. These are all important times to reflect, take stock, and adjust course. As the new executive director of Gender Justice, the last few months have been an important time for such reflections. When I came on board in August, I never could have imagined how dramatically the world – and the environment in which we do our work – was going to change. To be honest, I’m still struggling to make sense of this new reality. What does it mean for Gender Justice, for our clients and community, for the people I love? As a supporter of Gender Justice, I can imagine you’re experiencing a similar struggle. Every day brings new revelations about just how radically different and menacing our country is becoming. And each administrative appointment and reiterated campaign promise raises questions about how Gender Justice will do our work going forward. How will the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights handle Title IX charges seeking to change the culture of rape and sexual assault on college campuses under the new Secretary? (Read Madeline’s story on page 3 of this newsletter to learn more about what’s at stake.) How will laws banning discrimination in housing be enforced by the new secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Gender Justice successfully represented two women who experienced sexual harassment by their
WELCOME / Gender Justice board member Tiffini Flynn Forslund with Megan Peterson at a meet and greet welcoming Megan as the new Executive Director.
landlords – will our ability to secure justice for our clients be harder in the future? What will happen to reproductive rights and programs to expand access to reproductive health care under the new Health and Human Services Secretary? What will happen to rights for trans people and the expanded protections for freedom of gender identity and expression that were put in place by the Obama administration? What will happen to Section 1557 and the rights it guarantees in the Affordable Care Act if the entire ACA is Continued...
BOARD OF DIRECTORS M. Kathleen Murphy / Chair Erica Fields / Treasurer
A Letter from the Executive Director...continued
Sharon Chadwick Tina Cho Susan Coler Debra Fitzpatrick Tiffini Flynn Forslund Miranda Foslien Elizabeth Glidden Hope Jensen Rebecca Lucero Kathy Magnuson Trista Matascastillo Tom Newkirk James Robins
STAFF Megan J. Peterson / Executive Director Jill Gaulding / Co-Founder & Senior Counsel Lisa Stratton / Co-Founder & Senior Counsel Christy Hall / Staff Attorney Kristin Johnson / Litigation Assistant/Intake & Communications Coordinator Gaonou Vang / New Sector Alliance Fellow
summarily repealed? It seems unlikely the new Congress will work very hard to preserve these new civil rights in their rush to repeal and replace the law. (Learn more about Section 1557 on page 4 of this newsletter.) It’s hard to even start thinking about all the legislative attacks we can expect – at both the federal and state levels. And the Supreme Court … well, I know I don’t have to spell that out for you. In Gender Justice’s six and a half years of successfully fighting against gender discrimination, we’ve been able to count on good enforcement by agencies. We’ve successfully sought justice through the federal courts – expanding the reach of the progress we’ve made beyond Minnesota. Nonetheless, I know must find ways to keep find ways to stand in attempt to roll back the together, we will keep This may mean state level - making and just Minnesota help Minnesota serve and resistance in the country.
As agencies, courts, and laws change, we will change course and adjust our strategies to account for where we are most likely to secure and expand justice.
– and you know – that we moving forward. We must brave resistance to any progress we’ve made. And fighting for progress. bringing more cases at the good use of our friendly Supreme Court. We will as a beacon of hope Midwest and across the
We’ll keep educating about implicit bias and provide support to those facing increased harassment, violence, and hate speech perpetrated by people emboldened by the election results. And come January, you’ll find us at the Minnesota Legislature continuing the fight for paid family leave and reproductive rights. Given all this change, it’s especially timely that Gender Justice’s board has launched a strategic planning process. Over the next several months, we’ll be reaching out to you to ask for your input and feedback on our mission and strategic direction. Clearly, our work to eradicate bias and discrimination based on gender is far from over and your insight in this moment is especially valuable to us. As Gender Justice’s new Executive Director, it’s a privilege to work day-to-day on such timely, relevant, and critical issues. I have also enjoyed getting to know many of you, our generous supporters and movement allies, and learning about your personal commitment to the fight for gender equity. If we haven’t had a chance to connect yet, I look forward to doing so soon! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy our first newsletter. I’m proud to share with you the progress we’ve made this year because of your support.
We hope you enjoy our new bi-annual newsletter!
Thank you for your commitment to ending gender discrimination – for all of us. With gratitude for your support,
Sexual Assault on College Campus: How One Gender Justice Client Is Creating Change Christy Hall / Staff Attorney
St. Olaf failed to protect Madeline Wilson (pictured right) from retaliation and stalking by the student who assaulted her. Madeline wanted to make her story public because she believed it was the best way to change the school environment. Screenshot/WCCO CBS Minnesota
ne in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during their college career. These rates are even higher for LGBTQ students. In addition to negative physical, mental, and emotional health outcomes, the academic development of college students who have been sexually assaulted suffers. They are more likely to miss class, withdraw from classes, transfer schools, and/or leave school entirely. Yet many college administrators fail to recognize the problem of sexual assault on their campuses. In 2015, only 6% of college presidents believed sexual assault was an issue on their campus. Students disagree. One survey found that less than half of all students believed it was very or extremely likely that their school would fairly investigate sexual assault. Students more likely to be victimized, such as female and transgender students, were the most skeptical. But the risk of sexual assault is not the same at all schools. The incidence of assaults on campus and outcomes are affected by how seriously the school takes the problem, and students’ perceptions of how seriously the school takes the problem. In one recent case, Gender Justice’s efforts helped a student create change at her college, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. At the beginning of the year, we were contacted by Madeline Wilson (she has given us permission to use her real name) who reported a sexual assault to St. Olaf and was shocked by the school’s response.
St. Olaf failed to protect Madeline from retaliation and stalking by the student who assaulted her. Against the school’s policy, he hired private investigators who falsely represented themselves as her friends to get information from her actual friends, a summer employer, and former boyfriends about her sexual history and whether she was “flirtatious” or “dressed provocatively.” In many ways, the St. Olaf case is typical of how colleges and universities handle reports of sexual assault on campus. Schools struggle to adequately protect survivors from retaliation or harassment by their assailants. Survivors often aren’t told that they should get legal advice from organizations like Gender Justice. When the perpetrator has a lawyer, the results can be lopsided. Madeline wanted to make her story public because she believed it was the best way to change the school environment, but she was worried about what the consequences of going public would be. We connected her with activists around the country, and gave her practical and legal advice on what to expect if she began a protest on campus and how to best protect herself. Madeline’s protest drew attention from the St. Olaf community, which came together to demand change from the administration. In April 2016, Gender Justice filed a complaint for Madeline with the federal Office for Civil Rights, the department charged with enforcing Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equality in Continued... GENDER JUSTICE / WINTER 2016
Creating Change on a College Campus...continued education, against St. Olaf College. Madeline’s case is still pending, but St. Olaf has already begun making changes to better respond to sexual assault reports in the future. At the same time that Madeline filed her report, St. Olaf president, David Anderson, announced that the school would be forming a “Title IX Working Group.” The group released its report in July. It recommended that St. Olaf make changes to its sexual assault policy to make it more inclusive and transparent, and that it provide
more Title IX resources to students and offer training for the St. Olaf community on Title IX and campus sexual assault. The work of students and activists like Madeline will continue to push their schools and communities to eradicate campus sexual violence. Gender Justice, with your support, will be working alongside them, giving them legal support, and cheering them on.
Breaking New Ground for Trans Health Care Access Jill Gaulding /Co-Founder and Senior Counsel
From litigation to education, we’re focusing on a less-publicized aspect of the Affordable Care Act: the new rules barring discrimination in health insurance and health care.
ealth care in this country changed dramatically in March 2010 when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act or “ACA.” Most of the public discussion about the ACA has focused on the impact the law is having on the way Americans buy health insurance. But here at Gender Justice, we have been focused on a less-publicized aspect of the ACA: the new rules barring discrimination in health insurance and health care. These rules, found in a portion of the ACA known as “Section 1557,” are having a profound impact. Arguably, Section 1557 is the most sweeping new civil rights provision passed in decades. Gender Justice clients have helped to make this clear, by seeking to enforce Section 1557 against health care providers and insurers who have discriminated against them on the basis of gender identity. Nova Bradford challenged a Minnesota provider who refused to admit her to its chemical dependency treatment program simply because she is transgender. Jakob Rumble, a young transgender man, is challenging the misgendering and poor treatment he received when he sought emergency medical care for a serious infection. And Brittany Tovar is challenging the blanket exclusion in her employer’s health care plan that prevented her transgender son from obtaining medically necessary transition care. All three cases are garnering national attention, which in turn will help to educate employers, insurers, providers, and the general public about the rights now guaranteed by Section 1557. Partnering with clients like Nova, Jakob, and Brittany is core to our approach to creating change. Their cases will eventually shape the law. But long before then, their stories and their voices will make a difference. In recent months, we have had a chance to bring their cases – and the important new rules they
seek to enforce – to the attention of three key audiences. In June, we were invited to present a training to a large group of Minnesota attorneys who advise health care providers and insurers – exactly the right people to carry the message “change is needed” back to institutions that need to hear it. In August, all three of our publically-filed Section 1557 cases were featured at Lavender Law, a national gathering of LGBT advocates held in Washington, D.C. And in September, we presented to our provider colleagues at the national conference of GLMA (the world’s largest and oldest association of LGBT health care professionals), held in St. Louis. The takeaway for all three audiences? Gender discrimination in health insurance and health care is illegal and must end. Our education and training programs depend on the generosity of people like you! Thank you for helping us educate people and institutions with power to create broader change for people facing gender discrimination.
Jakob Rumble’s case presents a milestone, since the court’s first order in the case (and the first major decision on Section 1557, nationwide) recognized that the statute, by barring discrimination on the basis of sex, clearly bars discrimination against transgender patients.
Supporting Minnesota’s Tradeswomen Lisa Stratton / Co-Founder and Senior Counsel
Blatant sexual harassment on the Minnesota state-funded state capitol renovation project.
ne afternoon about a year ago, I got a phone call from a co-chair of the National Tradeswomen Task Force. She was in New York, providing support to a group of tradeswomen in Minnesota who had banded together to report blatant sexual harassment on a state-funded construction project. The harassment included daily crude and degrading sexual comments and even assaults—one man had pinned a tradeswoman’s arms down so she was immobile and told another to “go get her.” The advocate in New York had heard about Gender Justice and hoped we might be able to help. Where had this happened? On our MN state capitol renovation project. Someone in New York was calling me to ask for help for women who had been sexually harassed and humiliated a stone’s throw from my office. Since that call, Gender Justice has been deeply engaged in supporting Minnesota tradeswomen. We have provided legal advice to individual tradeswomen, and this fall we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kim Brinkman. Kim is a skilled union sprinkler fitter with 18 years of experience. She has been one of only two female journeymen among over 450 members in her union. Despite a state requirement that all state-funded construction projects hire 6% female workers, Kim has at times gone for years without work. Kim has also been a leader in organizing an advocacy group, “MN Tradeswomen,” that works to bring attention to the serious problems facing women in the construction trades. MN Tradeswomen is campaigning to persuade Commissioner Kevin Lindsey of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to raise the hiring goals for women on state-funded projects from the current paltry 6% to 20% to increase women’s access to living-wage jobs. You can sign their petition at change.org (http://bit.ly/2f4sV5j.)
This fall we filled a lawsuit on behalf of Kim Brinkman (above, right, pictured with Commissioner Kevin Lindsey of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights), one of two female journeymen among over 450 union members.
We share their vision of a world in which women can take on whatever kind of work they are suited to and do it in peace without facing gender slurs and assaults just for going to work. That’s why we are not just giving individual women much-needed legal support—we’re also helping MN Tradeswomen as an organization, providing technical assistance to the leadership as the group grows into an even more powerful voice for tradeswomen. When you support Gender Justice, you are helping to eradicate sexual harassment and gender barriers for women working in the trades. Thank you!
GENDER JUSTICE / WINTER 2016
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Gender Justice works to combat discrimination based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation. These types of discrimination harm everyone, no matter how they are perceived or self-identify.
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We Stand with You. We Will Fight for You. We must come together and steel ourselves for the battles ahead. Sexism and misogyny, racism and white supremacy−these forms of discrimination travel together. And while we all struggle to find our footing in this new terrain, we know that the roots and very present realities of these dangerous ways of thinking are core to understanding both how we got here and where we go from here. The election and the hate-filled campaign season that preceded it reminds us that we can’t ever take progress for granted. We must come together to steel ourselves for the battles ahead and to summon all our courage, creativity, and grit to mount a mighty defense of the human, civil, and constitutional rights we have fought so hard to secure. Thank you for coming together with us. Together, we will go forward.