Recently in Civil Rights Category

Local Girl Makes Good

Vote 0 Votes Favorites

From Santa Barbara's Noozhawk:

California Women Lawyers Selects Hannah-Beth Jackson for Fay Stender Award

Santa Barbara attorney and former Assemblywoman will be honored Sept. 15 during State Bar convention

California Women Lawyers will honor former Assemblywoman and Santa Barbara attorney Hannah-Beth Jackson with its prestigious Fay Stender Award on Sept. 15 at its annual dinner and membership meeting during the State Bar convention at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach.

The dinner keynote speaker will be California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who presides over a female majority court.

The annual award is given to a feminist attorney who, like Stender, is committed to the representation of women, disadvantaged groups and unpopular causes, and whose courage, zest for life and demonstrated ability to effect change as a single individual make her a role model for women attorneys.

Please click through to the article for more.

Comments (0)

Who is Roman Polanski?

Vote 0 Votes Favorites
Here in California, we take our celebrities very seriously. We love it when they become immersed in controversy perhaps because it provides a diversion from some of the other more complex and difficult issues of the day. Here we have a controversy that does both. Although it has been decades since the crime and acknowledgement of it by Roman Polanski, he used his money and fame to skirt any consequence until now. His predicament has brought out many of Hollywood's top celebrities to his defense. At the same time, the issue of violence against women, and sexual violence in particular continues to be a serious concern in our society. 

We at Speak Out California are committed to women's equality and dignity. It is one of the fundamental principles of a just and equal society. Women's rights advocate and friend of Speak Out California, Janice Rocco, has today's guest column on the subject.

Who is Roman Polanski?

A guest post by Janice Rocco of California National Organization for Women.
Who is Roman Polanski and what should the consequences of his actions be? That question seems to have a surprisingly different answer depending on one's vantage point. To more than 100 in the international film community who signed a petition demanding his "immediate release", he is apparently first and foremost "one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers" whose freedom should not be taken away. To me, a women who was a child growing up in Los Angeles when Roman Polanski pled guilty to a sex crime against a child, he is a rapist who fled justice and has yet to take responsibility for a crime that harmed a 13 year old girl, her family and the rest of us who have watched him evade justice and thumb his nose at the legal system for more than three decades.

The fact that violence against women is commonplace in this country and around the globe does not make it acceptable or mean that when a talented celebrity is the perpetrator that we should ignore that a serious crime took place. The fact that in popular culture, including many films, women are often portrayed in demeaning ways and violence is often sexualized does not mean that women and their families and friends aren't devastated by the crime of rape each and every day.

How many women in this country and others, especially women who have survived a sexual assault, watched the Academy Awards the year that Polanski won the best director award and felt anger, pain or disgust as an audience full of his colleagues in the film industry cheered for this man who still doesn't have the decency to turn himself in?

Though a lot of people have been educated about rape since 1977 when Polanski pled guilty to raping a 13 year old girl, some still want to believe that rape is something that only takes place in a dark alley and is committed by a stranger. Reality is that the majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. That doesn't make the crime any less traumatic or mean that anything less than a prison sentence is appropriate for those who commit this violent crime.

One shouldn't have to read the grand jury testimony of a 13 year old girl to understand the seriousness of what occurred back in 1977. Polanski was charged with giving a drug to a minor, committing a lewd act upon a person less than 14, rape of a minor, rape by use of a drug, oral copulation and sodomy. All the charges were felonies. He was allowed to plead guilty to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in order to spare the young woman the difficulty of having to testify publicly when her identity was not yet known to the public.

Thirty-two years have passed since Polanski's guilty plea and he hadn't spent a day in jail since fleeing this country until authorities in Switzerland took Polanski into custody last weekend. The number of years that a rich and powerful man has successfully evaded justice, should be considered when he is sentenced for his crime, but only from the standpoint that his evasion of justice should bring a more severe penalty than he would have received three decades ago for what already was a very serious crime.

There are those who say that since the woman who survived this rape over thirty years ago has forgiven Polanski and wants to put this behind her, he should not be punished by the legal system. Those people forget that this is a case of The People of the State of California vs. Roman Polanski and that justice has yet to be served. If Roman Polanski wants to help put this behind the woman who he harmed so many years ago, he should stop fighting extradition and return to California for his sentencing hearing for the crime to which he pled guilty.

Justice is rarely done when celebrities commit crimes. The victims are generally re-victimized by the media coverage and often the perpetrators receive little in the way of punishment for their crimes. It is long past time that Roman Polanski faces the consequences for his crimes. Justice should not be delayed even one more day.

- Janice Rocco, Southwest Regional Director of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Comments (1)
Speak Out California
Statement on the California Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Proposition 8

The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that denies a specified group of our citizens the same rights as other Californians are allowed.

It is unfortunate that instead of being in the forefront of civil and human rights California is now in the position of denying a core human right to a selected group.

We are pleased that the Court allowed 18,000 couples whose decision to make a life commitment to each other to keep that right, but this apparently one-time-offer is no longer available to others who wish to have the same rights as all other Californians. This has happened because of a misguided and deceptively misleading religiously-based ballot initiative that was financed by big money from out of state and the intolerance of other well-funded organizations.

This is not over. The next step is to bring the matter back to the people. This time we need to dispel the fears and hatred that drove Prop. 8 by making it clear that it is a fundamental issue of human dignity for people to have the right to choose a life partner.

We at Speak Out California look forward to participating in that effort and in finally allowing all people the right to marry in the state of California, as many other states have now recognized as a fundamental right and a matter of simple human decency.

Please click here to join our ranks at Speak Out California, and please join the Courage Campaign's Fearless efforts to organize the fight to bring equal rights to all Californians, and visit

In addition, please join the Meet in the Middle for Equality rally in Fresno, Saturday May 30, 1:00pm at City Hall.

Here is the Courage Campaign "Fidelity" video:

Please read the following statements by California and national leaders on this unfortunate decision:  (We will continue to post statements through the day.)

Comments (5)
An error was found in Proposition 8 that may have broad implications for many Californians.  It is hoped that the error is corrected before this weekend's full moon.

Read the story here: Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'

"Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California's Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between "one man and one wolfman," instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. "The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law."

This is from The Onion, but it makes about as much sense as what Proposition 8 really says.  Prop 8 wasn't a typo, it was one group of people deciding how another group of people they don't even know should live.

Comments (0)
Suddenly Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that removes the right of gay people to marry, is ahead in the polls.  A month ago Proposition 8 was behind in the polls by about 14 percent, suddenly it is ahead by 5.

At Calitics Brian Leubitz writes about reasons for this shift,
First is the massive spending of the Yes campaign ... Yes is outraising No by about $10 million.
Once again we see a huge shift in opinion after a well-funded interest group steps in and spends millions of dollars on TV ads.

Comments (0)

Immigration Questions

Vote 0 Votes Favorites

I want to ask some questions about how to handle our issue of undocumented immigrants. There is very little disagreement that our borders have become unacceptably porous and that we've got to change the way we secure them. That being said, how we approach solving the problem of the large number of people who are here already? The debate needs to be a practical and rational one rather than emotional and reactive so we can achieve sound and effective solutions.

Let's start by asking some practical questions. Some people use the terminology of "illegal" immigrants because the people in question have overstayed a visa (45%) or even crossed the border without passing through immigration and customs. As a result of this terminology -- "illegal" -- people react more strongly than they might if different words were used or if they had time to consider fully all of the ramifications of this issue.

Suppose -- just suppose -- the people who advocate harsh treatment of non-citizens are successful in their efforts, and our government starts an effort to locate and deport them. How do we identify who is here without authorization? This is a practical question.

Americans are not required to "carry papers." We do not have checkpoints, and inside of the country we do not have to prove that we are traveling with proper authorization. We certainly do not have to prove that we are citizens. Many of us could never even locate the documentation necessary to prove citizenship if we were, in fact, required to prove it.

So if we are going to identify people who have overstayed visas, etc. how do we go about it?

This is a simple and serious question that I hope can be discussed here. Please leave a comment with your ideas.

I’ll deal with the next set of questions in my next post.

Comments (0)

For those of us who remember the 60's (and yes, there are some of us who lived through them and still remember), it was a night to wax nostalgic and hopeful. Last evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Peter and Paul (two-thirds of the great Peter, Paul & Mary trio) talk and sing about what it has meant for them and still means for them, to sing about justice, freedom and a love between their brothers and sisters all over the land. They were in Santa Barbara, my home town, to receive the prestigious Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.

The award is presented annually to individuals who have "demonstrated courageous leadership in the cause of peace." To put this award in context, some of its prior recipients include: Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Carl Sagan, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Cronkite, Anne and Paul Ehrilich and Daniel Elsberg (among others). Obviously, a pretty impressive group.

While Mary was, unfortunately, back home in Connecticut recovering from back surgery (having won her battle against a virulent form of leukemia as well ), Peter and Paul sang gallantly (clearly missing that magnificent Mary Travers sound). They talked of their life-long commitment to peace, social justice and community well-being.

In addition to those of us who remember them with full heads of hair, there were 120 young people in the audience---primarily college students, but some high school students who were selected as the next best hope to restore a sense of commitment to the principles that moved so many of us during our college years back when the Vietnam War and Civil Rights battles were raging in this country.

In that earlier era,we sang and danced to the Movement for political and social justice, peace in our time, brotherly and sisterly love and respect. We hoped for a better world that was comprised of these things, not material things. We dreamed about justice and goodness and love and kindness. The notion of dreaming for Versace, BMW's, 10,000 square foot mansions and diamonds were nowhere on our radar-screens or desires. We wanted peace, and a more just world for ourselves and all humankind.

It brought tears to the eyes of many of us as Peter Yarrow implored the youngsters in the audience to pursue these goals as our next generation of leaders. He and Paul (actually Noel Paul Stookey) spoke eloquently about these causes and their hopes that we can, yet again, regain our footing by pursuing a kinder, more peaceful planet.

Although partially immersed in the music and nostalgia, I couldn't help asking: "What has happened in our nation that we see our youngsters dancing to gangsta rap and other 'music' that glorifies killing and objectification of women? Why are our youngster's heroes packing heat along with their ostentatious gold and diamond jewelry? How is it that the nation's heroes today do not call for social justice or self-sacrifice or human kindness? Rather, they are admired and even worshiped for the number of cars, or girl-friends or houses they own.

Where are the young people crying out for social justice or marching against this illegal and hopelessly failed war? Why are we and they not calling for accountability by a White House that believes it is above the law? Why are we not challenging Bush and Chaney for their corrupt and destructive management of our environment, their criminal indifference to the poor who are living on the streets or in gang-infested communities where neither they nor their children are safe from violence? Where is the public outcry against corporate greed and irresponsibility in the pursuit of greater and greater wealth, to the detriment to our own workers?

Where are we on all this, Peter and Paul ask? We of the so-called "peace generation' demanding social justice, peace and the freedom to think and be who we are and want to become. We HAVE the hammer, we ARE the hammer....of justice, of freedom of love between our brothers and our sisters.......... We are at a cross-roads in our nation's history and in our own sense of purpose. There should be little doubt: It's time to bring that hammer back.

Comments (0)

In celebration of Women's Equality Day this Sunday, Speak Out California has asked the state Chair of one of Calilfornia's most influential Women's groups to share the goals and work of her organization. The National Women's Political Committee (NWPC) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to electing women nationwide who share its vision. Celeste Weingard, its current state president, has provided this entry in honor of the 87th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment giving women the right to vote after a 75 year battle.
Although we've seen women make great strides, there is still much to be accomplished to achieve parity in all fields of endeavor. Until we see an equal number of women in public office (and one finally as Commander in Chief), women reaching pay equity, equal opportunity and respect in the workforce, full control over their reproductive decisions and equal partnerships at home, there is still much work left to do.

While this is no time to be complacent, with the US Supreme Court systematically working to undermine women's hard-fought gains, it is still a time to acknowledge that women are making strides in the battle for equal rights. We here at Speak Out California and all progressives in California, share in that celebration.

Comments (0)

Now that the budget impasse is over (we'll have more to say on that subject in this coming week's update,"While California Dreams" ),we are focusing on Women's Equality Day. This Sunday, August 26th marks the 87th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave women the right to vote after a 75 year struggle. There are many ways to mark the occasion. In California, there are at least two such ways we can ensure that victims of employment discrimination continue to have the opportunity to seek redress in the courts. For that to happen, our legislature should pass Assemblymember Julia Brownley's AB 435 and Assemblymember Dave Jones' AB 437 Both of these measures are pending in the California State Senate.

Brownley's bill, AB 435, specifically extends the statute of limitiations within which women can file suits for gender-based wage discrimination. It requires that all employers maintain their records of wages, wage rates, job classifications and other terms and conditions of employment for five years, and extends the statute of limitations for a civil action to collect back wages to four years, or, in the case of willful misconduct, to five years. The current statute of limitations is two years, unless the violation is willful in which case it is three years.

The Jones bill, AB 437 is necessary because the current US Supreme Court has demonstrated a commitment to overturn, and thus destroy, many hard-fought gains for women, minorities and other "protected classes" of people in this country. One such effort occurred in May of 2007 when the Court voted, by a 5-4 majority, to overturn decades of precedent in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In doing so, the Supreme Court severely limited workers' ability to bring pay discrimination claims against employers who break the hard-fought laws prohibiting discriminatory compensation practices on the basis of gender, race or other prohibited criteria.

Comments (0)

At this point in the budget stalemate, to talk about the budget standoff during recess is almost like watching maple syrup run in winter. Fortunately, at least one branch of government is alive and functioning. Tomorrow, August 17, 2007, is the deadline for filing written briefs to the California Supreme Court, which will then schedule oral arguments on same sex marriage rights in California sometime next year.

We asked Speak Out California Board Member and former Assemblymember, Jackie Goldberg, to update us on what this means for the gay and lesbian community. As a leader in the fight to advance the rights of same-sex couples, Jackie talks a little about the background of her landmark legislation, AB 205, and where the question of equality for gay and lesbian couples has taken us. Here's what she has to say:

Comments (0)
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Join Our Mailing List

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Civil Rights category.

Ballot Initiatives is the previous category.

Consumer Protection is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.