Gender Justice

5 posts

When Anti-Discrimination Law Discriminates: A Right to Transgender Dignity in Disability Law

By Katie Aber

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and its subsequent amendments in 2008 provided comprehensive protection against discrimination based on actual or perceived disabilities. In a compromise necessary to pass the bill, however, the drafters excluded certain disorders deemed to be morally reprehensible, including gender identity disorders. Gender identity disorder, which has since been reclassified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as gender dysphoria, describes the distress experienced by transgender individuals as a result of the incongruence between their gender identity and their biological sex. While not all transgender individuals have gender dysphoria, gender dysphoria is exclusively associated with transgender people. Unlike many of the other disorders excluded from protection under the ADA, gender dysphoria neither involves criminal conduct nor causes harm to oneself or others. This Note argues that the exclusion of gender dysphoria from the ADA violates the dignitary rights of transgender individuals because it stigmatizes and demeans them by refusing to apply the broad, almost universal, definition of disability established by the Act to gender dysphoria. The result is that transgender individuals are ineligible to seek access to anti-discrimination protection that they might otherwise qualify for under the ADA. This Note considers the Supreme Court’s analysis of dignity in recent gay-rights jurisprudence, asserts that the Supreme Court recognizes dignitary rights, and argues that the ADA’s exclusion imposes a dignitary harm on all transgender people. This Note concludes that, because the exclusion of gender identity disorder is based on animus, which the Supreme Court has held to lack a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest, the provision is unconstitutional.

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Inadequate Access: Reforming Reproductive Health Care Policies for Women Incarcerated in New York State Correctional Facilities

By Kate Walsh

In February 2015, the Correctional Association of New York released a report studying the quality of and access to reproductive health care for incarcerated women and found that “[o]verall . . . reproductive health care for women in New York State prisons is woefully substandard, with women routinely facing poor-quality care and assaults on their basic human dignity and reproductive rights.” The findings of this and other studies provide concrete evidence of the poor quality of reproductive health care available to incarcerated women and signal to legislatures that these policies should be changed.

Incarcerated women face three issues of particular concern relating to reproductive health care: access to gynecological examinations, sanitary supplies, and contraception. The purpose of this Note is to examine New York State policies addressing reproductive health care for incarcerated women, identify problems with them, and make recommendations for reform. This Note will examine current policies and practices of New York State correctional facilities that address gynecological examinations, sanitary supplies, and contraception, and assess why these policies are problematic from both legal and medical perspectives. Furthermore, it will recommend bringing New York’s policies in line with legal, medical, and international standards as a strategy for reform. Finally, it will advocate for using existing federal and state programs including Title X to provide funding for reproductive care both prior to and after release.

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Why the Intent Test Falls Short: Examining the Ways in Which the Legal System Devalues Gestation to Promote Nuclear Families

By Lauren Springett

For hundreds of years, the act of gestating and giving birth to a child was the lynchpin of the mother-child relationship. Now, changes in technological and societal norms have made it possible for motherhood to be established by some combination of gestation, genetics, and intent. As maternity disputes have increased, courts have privileged genetic and intent-based claims to motherhood over gestation-based claims.

This Note argues that in privileging genetic and intent-based claims to maternity over gestation-based claims, courts have implicitly devalued the historic importance of gestation in ways that privilege nuclear families at the expense of more marginalized women. Part II provides background on the evolution of the mother-child relationship in U.S. family law. Part III discusses the ways in which the legal system’s current approach to maternity disputes was shaped by its historical approach to paternity disputes. Part IV explores the ways in which the current approach specifically disadvantages gestational mothers — in particular, gestational surrogates and birth mothers. Part V proposes a model of reform that would more fully recognize both the contributions of gestational mothers and the rights of children to have relationships with all the women involved in their creation.

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Until Violence Do Us Part: Evaluating VAWA’s Bona Fide Marriage Requirement

By Anna Boltyanskiy

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows those victims of domestic violence who are married to U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents to “self-petition” for lawful status. To be approved under VAWA, the self-petitioner must prove, among other things, that her marriage was bona fide. This Note examines the practical difficulties that battered immigrants face in producing primary evidence of bona fide marriage and discusses the perverse incentives this requirement creates. Specifically, VAWA petitioners’ abusive spouses often destroy the documentation of bona fide marriage, never include the immigrant spouse’s name on the documents to begin with, or threaten further abuse if the immigrant spouse tries to obtain the documents. Because these issues are only amplified in a short-lived marriage, battered immigrants have perverse incentives to stay with their abusive partners longer, to marry their abusers, and to have children with them. As a possible solution, this Note argues that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should give greater weight to affidavits as qualitative proof of bona fide marriage, which allows VAWA petitioners to explain any documentary gaps and to tell their own stories.

Intersex in 2018: Evaluating the Limitations of Informed Consent in Medical Malpractice Claims as a Vehicle for Gender Justice

By Caroline Lowry

Each year, hundreds of individuals are born intersex, meaning they have genitalia that do not meet the criteria for being exclusively male or female. For decades, doctors have performed corrective genital surgeries on intersex infants in an attempt to make it easier for them to grow up as “normal” boys and girls. In recent years, however, there is a growing consensus that cosmetic genital correctional surgeries are both unnecessary and often harmful to the long-term wellbeing of intersex individuals. Given increasing recognition of negative outcomes over the past decade, critics and activists have called for a moratorium on corrective genital surgeries performed on infants. In 2017, an intersex youth named M. Crawford obtained the first legal settlement ever in the United States challenging infant correctional surgeries under the doctrine of informed consent.

This Note explores the implications of this the landmark legal settlement on efforts to combat nonconsensual genital correction surgery performed on intersex children. In particular, this Note explores the strengths and weaknesses of pursuing litigation based on the informed consent claims raised in M.C.’s lawsuit. This Note also offers alternative methods to combat the practice of performing intersex correctional surgeries.

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