Thursday, April 28, 2011

George Allen and Women .... Flashback to 1995 and 2000

2011 Update:
So, the issue of Allen and women continues to be a viable concern. Webb's own record (i.e., "Women Can't Fight") kept him from making this as much of an issue in 2006 as it could have been.
It's not like he's changed any since I first wrote about Allen and women in 1995. In 2004, he added votes against extending Family Medical Leave to victims of domestic violence, and against legislation to allow victims of sexual violence in the workplace to sue rather than be limited to recovery under worker's comp.
I suppose that there's some sort of "rewrite history" tour he can do with women like he's doing with folks in the Jewish community, but my guess is he's kinda proud of his record here.
Question is ... will his opponents, and women voters, give him a free ride on his hostility to women again in 2012.

2006 Update:
I've posted up below a commentary on George Allen that I wrote in 1995 and updated in 2000. There might be more to say now... but my complete absorption in the multi-partisan campaign against the Marshall/Newman amendment means that I'll be leaving that to others.
Suffice it to say that when one starts looking for the woman-friendly candidate in the Virginia Senate race, Norm's wife may have a lot of company.

George Allen's Message to Virginia Women
copyright 1995 and 2000
by Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga

George Allen's record, as a candidate and as an elected official, demonstrates a lack of understanding of or commitment to many issues that matter to women in Virginia: family leave, protection for work-related injuries, nondiscrimination and equitable treatment, prevention of unnecessary injuries and deaths from guns and other dangerous activities, consumer protection and reproductive choice. In each case, Allen’s record clearly demonstrates that his views are outside the mainstream and contrary to those of most Virginia women.
George Allen has failed to support working women and their families. As a member of Congress, George Allen voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act. Family and medical leave, alternative work schedules, and employer provided day care improve productivity, reduce turnover and absenteeism, and enhance morale -- all factors that can produce reduced costs and enhanced profits for business. As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, George Allen voted against legislation allowing a woman, who was sexually assaulted in the workplace and could identify the attacker, to sue the attacker for damages instead of being limited to benefits under workers' compensation laws (1988).
As Governor, George Allen vetoed a bill that would have defined carpal tunnel syndrome as a disease for purposes of eligibility for workers' compensation benefits. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive motion and affects workers in meat and poultry processing, the textile industry, retail check out positions and certain clerical positions. Most of the affected workers are women in part because women are more susceptible to this work-related condition than men and in part because more women work in the affected jobs.
In his veto message, Allen rationalized his action by stating erroneously that "this legislation would substantially increase the costs of workers' compensation coverage to the businessmen and businesswomen of Virginia.” What Allen’s argument concealed, however, was that Virginia has consistently ranked nearly last of all fifty states in the cost of workers' compensation premiums. After Allen left office, the legislature passed a bill covering carpal tunnel syndrome and the workers’ compensation premiums went down the year the legislation passed.
George Allen has consistently opposed legislation designed to prevent discrimination and assure equitable treatment for all Virginians. As a Virginia Delegate, George Allen voted against a Martin Luther King holiday; against the Human Rights Study Commission and the Human Rights Act; against amendments to the Fair Housing Law to prohibit discrimination based on elderliness, parenthood, or disability and against removing restrictive covenants that discriminate against disabled citizens. He even voted against changing the name of Virginia's workers' compensation law from "workmen's compensation" to "workers' compensation." While running for Congress, George Allen said he was inclined to vote against the Republican 1991 Civil Rights Act (which President George Bush supported and signed into law) because he considered it a racial quota bill.
While Governor, George Allen rewrote compromise civil rights legislation authorizing the courts to award up to 12 months salary as back pay and limited attorneys fees to an individual discharged because of race, color, religion, national origin or sex or age (if the employee is 40 years or older). As rewritten by Allen, the bill would have left all employees working in businesses with fewer than 15 employees without any protection from discriminatory discharge. The House of Delegates refused to accept Allen’s amendments and sent it back to him without his changes.
George Allen also rewrote legislation proposed to establish the Virginia Plan for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education Commission. Allen’s amendments would have added strictly limited any consideration of race or ethnicity in decisions relating to admissions, faculty appointments or employment at Virginia colleges and universities and asserted strong gubernatorial authority over the work of the Commission and over the state's universities. No affirmative action programs could be implemented, even for explicit remedial purposes, by colleges and universities under Allen’s language without the Governor’s authority and the Attorney General's approval. The bill with Allen’s proposed amendments was sent back to committee where it died.
George Allen routinely voted against safety and injury prevention measures as a Virginia Delegate. Delegate Allen voted against raising the drinking age to 21 because he said it would hurt the profits of bar owners in Charlottesville (1983, 1984). He voted against requiring hunters to wear blaze orange in 1987 and against requiring passengers in cars to wear seat belts in 1985, 1986 and 1987. He opposed the Motorcycle Rider Safety Act (1984) and a bill to educate servers of alcohol in bars and restaurants on how to recognize and cut off drinkers who have had enough to drink (1989). As Governor, George Allen twice vetoed legislation prohibiting the transportation of children under 16 in the back of pickup trucks. Each of the measures Allen opposed is now the law in Virginia.
George Allen has consistently opposed even the most limited and reasonable gun safety measures. As Governor, he tried unsuccessfully to amend Virginia’s concealed weapons law to take out a provision that prohibits a person carrying a concealed weapon from entering events and establishments where alcohol is being served, and to change the law to require two (instead of one) convictions for drunk driving before a person could be deemed ineligible for a concealed weapon permit. As a Delegate, Allen also tried to amend a bill to make it a crime to leave a loaded gun around children so that no one could be prosecuted unless someone was injured (1991).
George Allen is no friend of the Virginia consumer. As a Virginia Delegate, Allen voted against the Health Spa Act that gave consumers (mostly women) the right to cancel their contracts and provided remedies for fraud (1984). As a member of Congress, he voted against the conference report to cap basic cable rates and improve competition.
As Governor, George Allen amended and vetoed legislation that would have strengthened Virginia consumer laws. Allen recommended amendments to weaken proposed penalties for willful violations of the Commonwealth's consumer protection laws. When the legislature rejected his amendments he vetoed the legislation.
In his veto explanation, Allen said that the new tougher penalty could be misused by individuals who do not speak English to hurt "mom and pop" retailers. Allen's stated concern had no basis in law or fact. Allen's veto has only served to disadvantage untold numbers of consumers who are the intentional victims of financially rewarding, deceptive practices by truly "fly by night" businesses. Among other things his action provides a safe haven for those who intentionally prey on elderly consumers. Moreover, his veto took away a powerful deterrent to shady business practices that damage other legitimate businesses who take seriously their responsibility to comply with the law.

As a candidate and as Governor, Allen has said consistently that he wants to burden women's choices regarding reproductive health.
He has consistently supported waiting periods for adult women seeking abortions and intrusive, government-dictated informed consent requirements applicable only to women patients seeking abortions. He also vetoed legislation that would have imposed more stringent penalties on persons who harass and obstruct patients seeking health care. Allen's veto message equated access to health care with access to a grocery store.

It is important for all Virginia women and their families to ask questions of both candidates that relate to current history and not past history ... has George Allen earned our votes with a solid record of accomplishment as a Senator on issues that matter? Is Jim Webb committed to action that will move us forward on education, health care, equal pay? Is either candidate's claimed progression from prior juvenile (and sexist? racist?) acts/commentary credible?
Clearly, there is much at stake in this Senate race, and women should make sure they register and vote on November 7th. We need to make our voices heard by both candidates. We need to get them both talking about current issues that matter to us and our families.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adoption Discrimination--Roanoke Times Raises Important Questions about Broader Implications of Recent State Action

Interesting that none of the stories about the State Board of Social Services' action on the adoption rules focused on the larger questions raised by the decision to strip out of the nondiscrimination rules, not only protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation but also stripped protections against discrimination based on gender, religion, disability, age, family status and political beliefs.

Shouldn't all of us be talking about the implications of policies of some faith based adoption agencies who said during the public comment period on the rules and in written comments filed with the agency that they refuse (or want to be able to refuse) to place children with families of other faiths?

Is it an act of charity or an act of institutional self-preservation or proselytization for a faith-based adoption agency to require a pledge of faith to use their adoption services?

Is this an act in the best interests of the child they are placing or of the placing agency?

And, since the courts must approve every adoption, isn’t their discriminatory policy actually being effected by the state, rather than by a private party?

The Roanoke Times has begun the debate.

I hope it continues.

Gays were the focus of debate, but proposed adoption regulations went much further.

Roanoke Times Editorial, April 23, 2011

On Wednesday, the Virginia Board of Social Services, at the urging of Gov. Bob McDonnell, chose not to grant equality to unmarried couples and gay Virginians in the adoption process. Private adoption agencies may continue to discriminate against them. Loving homes will remain largely unavailable for kids in search of a family.

The debate leading up to the decision framed things primarily as a gay rights issue, but there was much more to it. The proposed regulations also would have made gender, age, religion, political beliefs, disability and family status non-issues in adoption.

The opposition primarily came from religious-based adoption agencies whose faith tells them gays are unfit parents.

Current regulations say only race, color or national origin may not be considered by agencies, no matter their religious teachings. Those rules exist for the simple reason that race should have nothing to do with adoption, even if in some twisted way one claims that religion demands it. A black parent should be able to adopt a white child from any agency; a white parent, an Asian child; and so on.

An adoption agency's faith tradition might also dictate that people of another religion are unfit parents. Maybe Democrats, too, or Republicans. People who vote for pro-choice candidates. People in wheelchairs. All remain viable, albeit distasteful, reasons an adoption agency might cite to reject parents. Yet because those groups' interests were caught up in a broader gay-rights fight, they too will continue to be potential objects of discrimination.

When it comes to finding good families for children, sexual orientation, faith, politics and all the rest have no place in the discussion. The surprising thing was not that the governor chose not to extend equal rights to gay people, but that he did not get behind the rest of the changes.