The New York Times has a (partly) distressing front page story today, called, “Justices’ Rulings Advance Gays; Women Less So.” Writes the Times,
Gay men and lesbians still have a long way to go before they achieve the formal legal equality that women have long enjoyed. But they have made stunning progress at the Supreme Court over the last decade, gaining legal protection for sexual intimacy and unconventional families with stirring language unimaginable a generation ago.
At the same time, legal scholars say, the court has delivered blows to women’s groups in cases involving equal pay, medical leave, abortion and contraception, culminating in a furious dissent last month from the court’s three female members.
Many forces are contributing to this divide, but the most powerful is the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court’s swing vote. Legal scholars say his jurisprudence is marked by both libertarian and paternalistic impulses, ones that have bolstered gay rights and dealt setbacks to women’s groups.
Ah, the ultimate swinger (vote, that is). Mr. Justice Kennedy is:
[T]he product of a placid middle-class existence in which most women stayed within traditional roles. Some of his judicial writing, Justice Ginsburg once wrote in dissent, reflected ‘ancient notions about women’s place in the family.’”
Drexel law professor David S. Cohen, wrote in an article in The South Carolina Law Review, “Justice Kennedy relies on traditional and paternalistic gender stereotypes about nontraditional fathers, idealized mothers and second-guessing women’s decisions.”
Meanwhile, the Notorious R.B.G. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) has become the strongest and most courageous of Justices, with powerful dissents - often read in open court - in each of the paternalistic decisions issued by the men of the Supreme Court, whose views of women have more in common with the partners of Sterling Cooper. (Pre-Joan, of course.) If only she had the votes to do them in, once and for all. But she is very very clear about what these mad men have done. Writes the Times,
Speaking last week at a reception for students and alumni of Duke University School of Law, she said the Supreme Court had made a grave error in June in its Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed some employers to refuse to pay for insurance coverage for contraception based on religious objections. “There was no way to read that decision narrowly,” she said, adding that it opened the door to job discrimination against women.
“What of the employer whose religious faith teaches that it’s sinful to employ a single woman without her father’s consent or a married woman without her husband’s consent?” she asked. The court, she said, “had ventured into a minefield.”
Meanwhile, we'll be venturing into parts unknown. See you back here after Labor Day!