Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

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Rethinking “Trans Panic Defense” Policies

The National LGBT Bar Association put forth a resolution in 2013, urging federal, state and local governments to outlaw the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense strategies, which attempt to reduce sentencing for a person accused of killing an LGBT person. These strategies are used by defense attorneys to argue that their clients’ crimes were not pre-meditated but a reaction to an unwanted sexual advance from an LGBT person or to the “discovery” of a person’s trans status, thus they warrant lighter sentencing. Such tactics have been in play as mitigating factors in sentencing since the 1960s. Today, California is the first state to have banned them; the National LGBT Bar Association is hopeful that other jurisdictions will follow in its footsteps. On May 31, 2017, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a Senate bill banning the defense. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner. A similar bill was introduced in the District of Columbia in February 2017.

Missed Opportunity to Support Retirement Equity

On May 17, 2017, President Trump followed the Senate’s lead, signing a resolution rescinding an Obama administration regulation allowing states and cities to automatically enroll private sector workers without an employer-provided retirement plan in Individual Retirement Accounts (auto-IRAs). These accounts use payroll deductions to create savings that grow tax-free until retirement – with contributions made […]

Net Neutrality: Too Neutral on Online Abuse

While the Federal Communication Commission in the U.S. debates the elimination of network neutrality (which will widen the “digital divide”), in the U.K., new Crown Prosecution Service guidelines, in effect since October 2016, allow for prosecuting online offenses such as the use of derogatory hashtags, images altered to humiliate people, and “mobbing.” In Germany, the […]

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Swept Up in the Crackdown: Immigration Enforcement and Gender-Based Violence

A new wave of “tough on crime” policy is taking shape in the U.S., driven by a presidential administration that tirelessly stirs fears of internal and external threats. The full consequences of this new crackdown will not be known for some time. But decades of research on the effects of aggressive law enforcement provide a strong basis for understanding the challenges that lie ahead. In political rhetoric, the law-breaking individual takes center stage. Calls for stiffer penalties focus on actions within the criminal justice system. In reality, however, the fallout from get-tough law enforcement spirals outward, reaching into all corners of targeted individuals’ lives and creating devastating collateral consequences for the people who surround them. In the case of undocumented immigrant victims of gender-based violence, aggressive law enforcement can counteract vital protections and supports.

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Impacts of the Financial CHOICE Act on Transgender People

On June 8, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Financial CHOICE Act. If signed into law, this Act will roll back numerous regulations set in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. News reporting about this Act has centered on the government’s role in Wall Street bail-outs and the risks and benefits of regulating how financial advisors invest consumers’ money. Analysis of its gendered and racialized impacts by contrast have been markedly absent. Beyond eliminating regulations for financial institutions, the Financial Choice Act also threatens to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent government agency that investigates exploitative financial practices on the behalf of U.S. consumers. If signed into law, the Financial Choice Act would dramatically reduce the resources individuals have to challenge incorrect, outdated or damaging information about them in their credit reports, a change that holds significant consequences for people of color and transgender individuals.

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Breastfeeding: How do state and federal laws protect employed mothers?

Prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare or ACA), in states without protections for nursing mothers, many women were forced to nurse or express breastmilk in bathroom stalls—if they were even given adequate break time. Women without break time and/or access to a private space often stopped breastfeeding upon return to work. Even with the ACA in place, some women lose their jobs for trying to work and pump (numerous stories demonstrate these and other challenges).  Now, as Congress and the White House again debate healthcare, mothers working in the formal economy have reason to worry.