LETTER FROM WENDY MURPHY, JD
Dear Friends and Colleagues;
As many of you know, we filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Boston against President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, because of new rules she issued in September that weaken Title IX, and subject sex-based civil rights harms on campus to second-class treatment, in violation of state and federal law.
The Plaintiffs in the case are: three women who were sexually assaulted in terrible campus-based incidents; and us, Equal Means Equal, an organization that advocates for full gender equality, and ratification of the ERA in 2018. Equal Means Equal is participating in the Boston lawsuit to support the victims, and to serve as a voice for women as a class.
In response to our lawsuit, many women’s rights organizations have been sending out notices about their plans to fight back against the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken women’s rights under Title IX.
We want to advise you to please be careful before supporting even well-established groups because, prior to our filing suit, they were not planning to take any action against Betsy DeVos. This is important to know because the agenda of some of these groups may be contrary to their stated mission.
Some groups are even using this issue to promote democratic candidates for office, even though democrats and republicans alike have attempted to weaken Title IX over the past several years.
A couple of Federal laws have even been proposed by seemingly pro-women’s rights members of Congress amidst claims that these laws will be good for women and strengthen Title IX, but this is NOT TRUE. Their proposals will codify some of the troubling aspects of the new Betsy DeVos rules, and will subject women to different and worse treatment than other protected class students, which is currently illegal under Title IX. Different and worse treatment of victimized women would become legal if either of these bills became law.
Women’s civil rights laws do not need fixing, though if the ERA became law, any successful effort to weaken Title IX would become moot because unequal treatment of women would be unconstitutional. Put another way, any federal or state law that permitted the second class treatment of women would be “trumped” (wouldn’t that be poetic) by the ERA.
While we continue to fight for ratification by only two more states before the ERA becomes law, we are also fighting to protect the full civil rights equality that women already enjoy in the special venue of education, under Title IX and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Equality under civil rights laws is as good as it gets. Women do not need lawmakers to “fix” Title IX, they simply need courts and agencies to respect and enforce their right to full civil rights equality in education.
State lawmakers, too, have been proposing new state laws to weaken the rights of women and girls under state civil rights laws, but they are being described to the public as laws that will benefit women and girls, and protect them from sexual assault. Again, this is NOT TRUE. State civil rights laws, like Title IX, currently guarantee full equality for women, and will only become weaker if changed or amended.
For decades, schools treated Title IX as a sports equity law, rather than a civil rights law. Now that women and girls are more aware of their rights, and are taking steps to enforce them on campus and in the courts, the backlash has begun, and some of the backlash is coming from groups claiming to be advocates for women’s rights.
If you care about safety and fully equal treatment for women and girls in education, please take the time to assess whether the groups you support are subversively working against women’s equality, especially in the critically important areas of education and the workplace. Near daily stories of women being abused at work are at once revolting and not surprising considering how acclimated women have become to the norm of being mistreated “based on sex.” On college campuses, sexual assault is so prevalent, conservative estimates are that over a million college women will be sexually assaulted over the next four years.
This is unacceptable and uncivilized. Please join us in this important fight not by sending us money but by refusing to settle for anything less than full and equal treatment for women on campus, in the workplace, and in the larger society.
Wendy Murphy, JD
In solidarity, moving forward with love and thanks,
Kamala, Natalie and the entire Equal Means Equal Team