Marriage Equality and Women’s Suffrage

In yesterday’s Supreme Court argument on gay marriage, two of the justices suggested that the marriage equality issue should be deferred to the states to facilitate continued debate.  Some have analogized this to women’s suffrage.  But the state experiment was a failure for women’s suffrage. Little was accomplished at the state level after 72 years.  Instead it took federal action, namely the Nineteenth Amendment, to guarantee that right.  Moreover, women’s rights advocates begged the Supreme Court to decide the issue.  Believing the privileges and immunities clause of the newly-enacted 14th Amendment provided a textual basis for granting women the constitutional right to vote, women began to vote in acts of civil disobedience.

Justice Scalia and Women's Rights

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has recently been arguing that the Constitution does not, in fact, bar sex discrimination.  The Court has held for almost forty years that the equal protection clause of the Constitution protects women from sex discrimination.  Scalia says that €œIf the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, you have legislatures.”

The AIG Bonus Debacle

AIG has been in the news for over a year now for its fiasco involving the payment of bonuses to employees from government-loaned bailout funds.  Just last week, AIG was back in the news, seeking to pay additional bonuses.  The “pay czar,” Ken Fienberg (the former head of the 9/11 compensation fund) is also trying to find ways to stop AIG's payments — with no success.  It appears AIG has found a huge loophole: bonuses paid pursuant to contracts entered into prior to fall 2009 (the date of the bailout legislation) are exempt from limitation.  Thus, lawmakers are once again searching for ways to recoup the money.  In a recent essay, I suggest that the law of restitution provides several options for seeking the return of unjust gains.  To read it, go to http://lawreview.wustl.edu/slip-opinions/bailouts-bonuses-and-the-return-of-unjust-gains/

The Sun, the Stars and Stays

Is a stay the same as an injunction?  Do we really care?  The U.S. Supreme Court answered these burning questions Wednesday when it decided Nken v. Holder and poetically explained:  €œThe sun may be a star, but €˜starry sky€™ does not refer to a bright summer day.€

Equal Pay for Women: The First Step

Yesterday, President Obama signed his first legislative action, endorsing the Fair Pay Act intended to give workers more time to sue in court for pay discrimination based on sex or race.  The new law passed by Congress, the €œLilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act€ reverses the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear which held that the 180-day statute of limitations for pay discrimination cases begins to run from the time of the first initial pay decision.  That rule meant that Lilly Ledbetter, a manager at a Goodyear plant in Alabama for 19 years, could not sue for her unequal pay that continued up until she filed suit, but which first began 19 years ago.  The Court was sharply divided, with Justice Alito writing the opinion for the conservative majority of 5.  Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent, noting that that such pay disparities are €œoften hidden from sight.€  In signing the new legislation, the President cited Census Bureau figures demonstrating that women still earn about 78 cents for every dollar men earn for doing equivalent jobs, and the disparity is even greater for women of color.  Michelle Obama€™s first official First Lady function was a luncheon yesterday for Ledbetter as the figurehead of the equal pay movement: €œShe knew unfairness when she saw it, and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do€”plain and simple.€

A Woman in the White House

John McCain today announced that his vice-presidential running mate will be Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska.  The announcement of Palin, a 44-year-old supermom of 5, avid hunter, and former beauty queen, has rekindled the age-old political battle between sex and race.