I don’t know how I missed this. It didn’t seem to get the attention that Slutgate got. On March 21, 2012, the US Supreme Court voided part of the Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the jewels of the Clinton Administration from 1993. In a 5-4 decision, the Court has decided that states can not be sued for violations of the leave act. It’s an ugly ruling. From the NYTimes article on the decision:
In a 2003 decision, the court allowed suits against state employers under a part of the law that concerned leaves taken to care for family members. The case decided Tuesday concerned a part of the law that entitled eligible employees to take leaves to tend to their own serious medical conditions.
Like other parts of the law, what the court called the “self-care provision” was drafted in gender-neutral terms. The question that divided the justices was whether the law nonetheless meant to address sex discrimination.
The case was brought by a man, Daniel Coleman, who had worked for the Maryland Court of Appeals. Mr. Coleman said the state had violated law by denying him sick leave.
Maryland argued that the federal law did not apply to it because states, as sovereigns, are generally immune from lawsuits for money. In the 2003 decision, Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Supreme Court rejected a similar objection from Nevada to a suit under a family leave provision.
Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the entire Family and Medical Leave Act, or F.M.L.A. “is directed at sex discrimination.”
“Indeed,” she wrote, “the F.M.L.A. was originally envisioned as a way to guarantee — without singling out women or pregnancy — that pregnant women would not lose their jobs when they gave birth. The self-care provision achieves that aim.”
The whole law, she said, was “an appropriate response to pervasive discriminatory treatment of pregnant women.” It avoided singling out pregnancy leaves, she added, to avoid discouraging employers from hiring women.
“It would make scant sense to provide job-protected leave for a woman to care for a newborn,” Justice Ginsburg added, “but not for her recovery from delivery, a miscarriage, or the birth of a stillborn baby.”
Justice Ginsburg wrote that Tuesday’s decision was narrow or, as she put it from the bench, “at least the damage is contained.” Suits for money under the self-care provision are still allowed against private employers, she wrote, and other kinds of actions remain available against state employers.
Sooooo, you can take leave, unpaid, to care for your newborn but not to take care of yourself? Plus, if you work for the state and you get fired for taking care of yourself (let’s say you had a complicated delivery or a stillbirth) you can’t sue the state for damages. Theoretically, they could just fire you for not leaving the wee tot in the care of some baby nurse and getting back to work immediately, right? You still have the right to take unpaid maternity leave but not to recover from it, have I got that right?
It should be clear by now that the worst offender on the Supreme Court is not Antonin Scalia. It’s Anthony Kennedy. I think Jeffrey Toobin was pretty accurate when he described Kennedy in The Nine. He said that it took Sandra Day O’Connor to knock some sense into him. He isn’t really a swing vote. O’Connor, being a conservative herself, was able to talk him out of what could have been a disaster on a previous abortion bill. But without a conservative woman on the court, Kennedy has no reason to listen to a single thing the other female justices say. He’s into pompousness. He loves flattery and he’s a narcissist who revels in the very idea that his one vote could mean joy or misery for millions of Americans. He’s the Supreme Court version of He-Man standing on his desk shouting, “I have the power!”. He’s the Joe Lieberman of justices. Not the brightest crayon in the box but probably a bit more qualified than Thomas. The more liberal justices will never have a chance as long as Kennedy is around. You’ll always know where the four uber conservatives stand but as long as there’s a fleeting hope that you will be able to appeal to Kennedy’s 1950’s view of the world, that’s who all of the arguments before the court need to be pitched and we have seen time and time again that he just doesn’t think women are fully human or something.
So, here’s where we are in 2012:
1.) We have one party that is full of screaming maniacs who are definitely appealing to the white male vote and doing all they can to get women out of the workplace during tough economic times.
2.) We have another party that is also appealing to the white male vote. Ohhoo! You thought they were going after female voters? No, no, no, nooooo. See, once women got scared by Republicans acting like the Taliban, the Democrats assumed that women would come flocking to them. So, now that they have females in their “done” pile (or so they think), they can cross women off their list of voters to get. THAT’S why their response to the Republicans off the charts misogynism has been so tepid. They don’t want to scare the men away. Ladies, when are we ever going to learn to make them put their money where their mouths are before we sign on? As long as they think you are going to their side out of fear of the Republicans, they don’t have to do anything for you. They’ll just sit back and call Republicans meanies on your behalf and let the decimation of your rights continue with little interference.
3.) If you want to keep your job, don’t get pregnant. Ever.
4.) If you don’t want to get pregnant, emigrate.
QED, women are fucked under both parties.
Recently, I was over at Violet’s place reading her comments section and I think her commenters, some of them may be readers here, are onto something. Basically, the reason why women’s rights are getting eroded under Obama and why Hillary Clinton faced so much opposition among party activists is because there is this little cadre of guys in the Democratic party for whom war is THE issue. There is no other issue that gets their attention quite so much. Just because the hopes and dreams and civil rights of 53% of the American public are under attack does not mean that they will be deflected one iota from concentrating all of their attention on war and torture. Now, that is not to say that war and torture are not important but I think we have given this tiny group of latent sexist assholes enough of a platform to express their views. It’s time they stopped bogarting the mic and realized that they are undermining their own causes when they depress and demotivate their female sympathizers. It’s not all about them.
They are our Anthony Kennedys.