November 1, 2020
If women voters propel a blue wave that puts Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) in the White House, and flips party control of the Senate, the nation’s issue agenda will shift dramatically. The Senate that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) turned into a legislative graveyard could be reborn as a proactive chamber that stands for equality and justice for all.
Our country’s ingrained culture of structural racism and misogynoir has set women of color and low-income communities up for hardships concerning access to health care, economic opportunities and violence at an early age. Women and specifically women of color are tired of waiting for equal pay and economic justice.
One of the factors driving women — particularly women of color — to the polls is the glaring inequity that perpetuates discrimination, violence against women and threats to women’s choice and autonomy. We are voting not only for new leaders but also for a new way of leading. This direction is feminist, intersectional, and long overdue.
A feminist agenda is based on feminist principles — including standing against racial injustice, toxic masculinity, misogynoir (anti-Black sexism faced by Black women), anti-womanhood and policies, laws and campaigns that weaken or erase women’s rights. It’s a way of seeing the world and feeling compelled to act.
Violence against women should be treated as a public safety and public health crisis that impacts schools, the workplace, and our families. And every woman and girl should have the same access to protect and make decisions about their bodies.
Women have too much on the line this election and we will be the deciding vote. We are demanding a feminist agenda would prioritize policies that protect women and marginalized groups under the law. We know that many voters are energized by our core principles of autonomy, justice and equality.
One of a woman’s most basic rights is the right to make autonomous decisions about her own body and her health care. A newly supercharged conservative majority on the Supreme Court in place to overturn Roe v. Wade threatens that right. Protecting abortion rights and access to a wide range of affordable reproductive health care services must be a top priority for the new Senate.
The Senate’s failure to improve and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is one of McConnell’s darkest legacies. He continues to propel a culture of toxic masculinity by supporting legislation favored by the NRA that protects the “boyfriend loophole,” allowing access to guns by physically abusive ex-boyfriends and stalkers with previous convictions.
The EMPOWER Act to stop workplace harassment and discrimination and the SAFE Act to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence continue to sit in the Senate graveyard once again, proving that this Senate wants to maintain the status quo — a culture that disregards women and treats them as second-class citizens. New legislators must promote policies and services that stop this culture of violence, hold perpetrators accountable and bring justice to survivors.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) corrects an error in the Constitution that fails to guarantee the same rights for citizens irrespective of sex. The next Senate will have to deal with the issue of validating the process that currently came to a successful conclusion when Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment.
This historic amendment not only provides equality for all women under law but also helps proactively fight the injustices often felt by women of color. The Senate’s disregard for equality does not stop there. The Equality Act, which would strengthen anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQIA+ persons in all areas of life, sits on the Senate floor even though the Supreme Court affirmed employment protections for LGBTQIA+ people under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If elections are said to have consequences, this one has more than most and women have the most at stake. If we want women’s rights protected, candidates must listen to what voters want. We have less than two weeks to mobilize our efforts to protect women’s rights and change the makeup of the U.S. Senate. We won’t stop until our representatives truly reflect our values and prioritize a feminist agenda. After all, women’s lives depend on it.
Christian F. Nunes is president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
This article appeared in The Hill, October 30, 2020.
October 29, 2020
Heather Cox Richardson’s column from October 26 from her blog, “Letters From An American,” about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as an Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court addresses several aspects we must think about as the horrific election cycle draws to a close. Maryland NOW urges our members to vote, but to realize that November 3 is just the beginning of much work we have to do to rebuild our democracy. The Supreme Court, along with our entire Federal judiciary, will take center stage, but is just one piece of what’s before us.
October 26, 2020
Tonight, the Senate confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States to take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The vote was 52 to 48, with no Democrats voting to confirm Barrett. One Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voted against the confirmation, saying it is too close to an election to fill the seat. Collins is in a tight reelection race against Democrat Sara Gideon, and since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not need Collins’s vote, she could vote no on procedural grounds and hope to push fewer voters to Gideon.
Barrett is an originalist, and will cement a 6-3 majority of justices eager to unwind the judicial decisions of the past seventy years that protect civil rights, business regulation, and a social safety net. Today is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s birthday, and as soon as the vote went through, the Twitter account for the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee tweeted: “Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed. Happy Birthday, [Hillary Clinton]!”
McConnell promptly adjourned the Senate until November 9 without taking up a coronavirus relief bill.
An hour later, Trump held a public ceremony for Barrett at the White House, in an echo of the coronavirus super spreader event on September 26 at which he announced her nomination. The ceremony seemed designed to demonstrate that he rejects scientific recommendations about the virus. Barrett took the constitutional oath, administered by Justice Clarence Thomas, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the second oath she must take, the judicial oath, on Tuesday in a private ceremony at the court.) Trump congratulated her in a short speech.
Shortly after the ceremony, Trump released a video of the event with Barrett walking alongside him through the doors of the White House onto a balcony where the two stood for the crowd. It was a triumphant demonstration of Trump’s power, and undermined the illusion that Barrett will be a nonpartisan judge. Traditionally in America, Supreme Court justices keep a distance from political leaders, yet she has just appeared in a campaign commercial for the president.
The significance of Barrett’s elevation to the court showed just minutes before the Senate confirmed her, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 for Wisconsin Republicans who want to block the counting of votes postmarked before Election Day but received up to six days after it. Democrats and civil rights groups wanted the extension because of the pandemic. For this year’s primary in Wisconsin, 80,000 ballots postmarked in time arrived after the election were counted; for the election, such late ballots will be rejected. The court’s decision follows originalist ideology: it says states get to run elections however its legislators wish. That principle trumps the right to vote.
That seemingly principled stand in favor of local democracy hides the reality of one-party rule. Wisconsin has been so thoroughly gerrymandered that although Democrats actually won a majority in state elections in 2018, Republicans hold 63 of the 99 seats in the legislature. It is virtually impossible for Democrats to win control of the state and thus the Republican legislature will get to decide who votes. We have seen such political dominance before… just ask any Black or Brown American.
In a footnote, Justice Kavanaugh went further to argue that states need to avoid “the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of the election. And those States also want to be able to definitely announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.” This is the argument Trump has been making to delegitimize mail-in ballots, and it is political, not judicial. Absentee ballots do not “flip” an election; they are a legitimate part of an election that cannot be decided until they are counted. And the idea of calling an election on the night it is held is a tic of the media. In fact, no state certifies its election results the day of the election. Some take weeks.
So what we have tonight is the Republican Party under Trump ramming through a third Supreme Court justice who is far out of sync with the vast majority of the American people, an authoritarian ceremony for an election ad, and a sign that partisans are working to steal the upcoming election.
This is not a sign of strength—it is a sign of weakness. Trump’s Republicans have gotten a reliable majority on the Supreme Court—for now—but they have delegitimized the Senate and the Supreme Court. It is the desperate act of a party that is so far out of favor with the American people it has given up winning elections fairly and is resorting to the tactics of strongmen. That McConnell pushed this confirmation through right before the election, rather than holding the seat open to fire up evangelicals as he did in 2016, suggests he thinks that even evangelicals cannot save the White House this time around.
The administration is sinking in bad news. It has given up on combatting the coronavirus, which infected 74,323 more Americans today and killed at least 534. Reflecting that the rising infection numbers mean a slower economic recovery, the stock market today had its biggest drop in a month. Financiers are so tired of Trump’s volatility, including his tweets, that they are pouring five times more money behind Biden. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who admitted the coronavirus policy on Sunday, is so hated that 18 administration officials talked to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post about him; one White House advisor said “It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as a chief of staff…. It’s been an unmitigated disaster.”
A Trump appointee who chaired the Federal Salary Council overseeing federal pay resigned today in protest over Trump’s recent Executive Order enabling him to fire key federal workers. “[T]he Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process,” Ron Sanders wrote, “As a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his administration.”
And staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services are openly looking for other jobs. Three of them told Politico’s Dan Diamond that they are voting for Joe Biden. “I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president, but Biden hit the sweet spot. I know he’s not too far left and he understands how to make government work,” one said. “And I know he’ll never make fun of [Anthony] Fauci in public.”
Biden’s campaign, run quietly and steadily, has picked up steam until he is ahead in the polls by about 9 or 10 points nationally, and there is no sign that Trump is closing that gap. Clearly, the president had hoped the malarkey about the Hunter Biden laptop story—which we learned today White House lawyers tried to pitch to the Wall Street Journal before Rudy Giuliani took it to the New York Post— would create the same stampede from Biden that the email laptop story caused from Clinton in 2016, but that stampede has not materialized.
On Sunday, nine days before the election, about 58.6 million Americans had already voted early, more than the total number who voted early or by mail in 2016. Registered Democrats have made up 51% of those votes, while registered Republicans have made up 31%, leading Trump officials to attack the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and to insist that “the huge majority of President Trump’s supporters” were planning to vote on Election Day. But Black Americans, the heart of the Democratic Party, are turning out in huge numbers. “This election is for saving the U.S.” business consultant Dave Richards told CNN’s Faith Karimi.
People like Biden. They think he’s a decent man, who cares about someone other than himself. He has plenty of that old word, fallen into disuse in the last four years: character. He has principles, honor, a work ethic, and he treats people with respect—attributes we should demand in our officials. He has provided detailed plans about how he would address the country’s problems: systemic racism, economic inequality, and coronavirus, among others. At the same time, he offers a positive vision of America, a welcome contrast to Trump’s dark vision of American carnage. Biden constantly repeats that there is nothing Americans can’t do if we do it together.
And that, right there, is why the Republicans needed to pack the Supreme Court.
Heather Cox Richardson
September 19, 2020
Maryland NOW members experienced a range of emotions Friday evening upon hearing the news that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at age 87 from complications with pancreatic cancer — grief, sadness, immense pride, and outrage. . Her impact on women’s rights and social justice issues through her majority opinions and dissents will be felt for generations.
It would be difficult to be online today, or at any time in the future, and not find articles everywhere describing her life and accomplishments. Perhaps most importantly, she worked to establish a different interpretation of gender equality for all women rather than simply establishing case law involving individual instances of discrimination.
In 1971 Ginsburg wrote the brief for the landmark case, Reed v. Reed. This case was the very first time that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was used to prohibit differential treatment based on sex. She cited as co-authors Pauli Murray and Dorothy Kenyon, giving them credit even though they did not actually help, but because she wanted to acknowledge the debt she owed them for their feminist arguments that had created a basis for her brief. (1)
She argued her first case before the Supreme Court in 1973, and thirty years later was confirmed as the second woman in our history to be named as a Justice to the Court.
Ginsburg’s decisions on women’s rights have been instrumental in the evolution of the laws involving sex discrimination, but her advocacy for a range of issues affecting many civil rights decisions shows the enormous impact she had on issues of our day. Even in her dissents, she made a difference.
To name a few:
United States v. Virginia (VMI – open admissions to include women; majority opinion) 1996
Shelby County v. Holder (voting rights in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination; dissent) 2013
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (gender discrimination involving lower pay for women; dissent) 2007
Hobby Lobby v. Burwell (allowing discrimination based on the employer’s religious beliefs; dissent) 2014
National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius (Obamacare’s contraception mandate; dissent) 2012 (2)
Bush v. Gore (reversal of a state’s decision on its own vote count; dissent) 2000
Ginsburg’s death makes an already horrible year and a very pivotal general election cycle even worse and all the more consequential. While it could be claimed that this helps Biden’s supporters, it also motivates Trump’s right-wing base.
RGB asked as her final wish, dictated to her granddaughter, that “. . . I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” From where we sit today that seems like an awfully tall order. But we cannot do less or work less diligently than she did all her life to try to win that outcome.
(1) Kerber, Linda K. (2013). No constitutional right to be ladies : women and the obligations of citizenship. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 199
(2) A case involving expansions for employers who have moral or religious objections to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate It will be heard after the general election on Nov. 10. We don’t know at this point if McConnell will push ahead to confirm a nomination prior to Nov.3 or simply move ahead with filling the seat with a Republican-controlled Senate with an 8 member court. While more than a few Republican senators’ re-election chances are in grave danger, Majority Leader McConnell announced his decision to move ahead with the process less than an hour after Ginsburg’s death was announced. Mark your calendars!
August 29, 2020
Dear Maryland NOW,
I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself – my name is Christian Nunes, and some of you may recognize me as NOW’s former vice president. This week I have stepped into the role of National NOW President. I want you to know how honored and excited I am to lead our organization at this critical time.
As the leading grassroots feminist force in the country, our members have been on the front lines of activism and advocacy for more than fifty years. NOW has a special part to play in these upcoming conversations and campaigns.
We are looking forward to electing Kamala Harris as the first woman vice-president – and as a Black and Asian American woman, she will also be the first woman of color to serve in this role. These are exciting history-making times, but we know there is a lot of work that lies ahead.
I know that having a Black president of NOW gives us more opportunity to genuinely amplify the experiences and voices of women of color. We are at a moment in our nation’s history when it’s clear that we need to do better. We must do more to adopt an intersectional lens when it comes to all aspects of our lives, and more to ensure that we are providing an inclusive safe space for one another.
It is also very clear that if we want to truly embrace an inclusive intersectional movement, it takes critical work, building and sustaining trust, safety, and true allyship. It takes a willingness to understand that despite our differences, our value is the same and all of our voices deserve to be heard. We must remember why we became activists in the first place, and od more to ensure we keep moving forward.
That is my personal mission – and my organizing principle for NOW.
I’ll have more to share with you in the weeks and months ahead and at our upcoming annual conference. I look forward to working with you towards a more inclusive feminist future.
Christian F. Nunes
August 22, 2020
Maryland NOW is proud to welcome Christian F. Nunes as our new National NOW President!
Christian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Consultant, and a Woman-Minority Business Owner since 2006. Ms. Nunes received her BSW degree from Northern Arizona University, Master of Science from Columbia University, and Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.
She is an active community organizer and has spoken at events such as the March for Black Women in 2018. She has chaired NOW’s Racial Justice Task Force and most recently served as NOW’s Executive Vice President. Along with her activism for mental health, Nunes also has over 20 years of experience advocating for children’s and women’s issues.
In 2006, Nunes founded a behavioral health and consulting practice where she assists social service and behavioral health companies, as well as provide direct mental health services to individuals and families. As an advocate for social justice and mental health policy, she took up the role as Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues and co-authored a community survey on police response to crisis. Additionally, she has worked tirelessly to elect progressive candidates to school boards and local office positions. She is often featured in media outlets including Ebony, Black Enterprise magazine, AZ News Channel 3, Yahoo News, and many more.
Maryland NOW is looking forward to having her speak to us about what’s ahead for NOW and getting to know her better. We also want her to know that we are looking forward to supporting her in every way we can during this next year.
NOW has a National Conference, to be held virtually, coming up in September although plans are not complete at this time. Please watch our website for information about how you can attend and, among other agenda items, participate in elections for our Eastern District’s new National Board Members. NOW’s National Conference next year in Chicago will be an Elections Conference for national officers. Every national conference is the annual opportunity for the grassroots to voice and support our direction and policies for the coming year. Be a voice!!!!
(Thanks to Victoria Steele for this great photo of Christian!)
August 21, 2020
The State Presidents of National Organization for Women received an email last Sunday evening, August 16th from Toni VanPelt informing us that she had decided to step down from her position as NOW’s national president and retire. Her resignation will take effect on August 21th. Our national executive vice-president, Christian Nunes, will become President at that time.
While the State Presidents were not given any more details, we all assume that this was worked out with the advice and consent of the NOW National Board of Directors. A new national executive vice-president has either already been chosen or will be officially named soon.
NOW has unfortunately been making the news lately in ways we’d prefer not to. Charges of poor management and governance at our national headquarters along with a toxic work environment and gross insensitivity regarding issues of race have been made by departing staff and by state and local chapter leaders who have resigned their positions and/or given up their memberships. Various media outlets have published stories about these charges.
But looking ahead, we in Maryland are very excited about the opportunity to move ahead toward the November 3rd elections. But we also are firm in our commitment to take the time and freedom to discuss the issues that have been raised internally in NOW, and institute ways to begin to heal from this experience. In much the same way as our national consciousness in the United States has been stained by an unwillingness to address racism in every aspect of our lives throughout our history, NOW has also not done a good job of addressing this issue during our own organization’s past. We plan to do better, and we plan to succeed.
We are very excited about the amazing steps that have been taken by NOW state and chapter leaders across the country over this past year to address these issues and to try to have honest and open discussions about them. Meeting regularly online and working in small groups, amazing progress is already starting to show. By speaking up and saying “No more!” these leadership groups are charting a new direction for our organization. Maryland NOW is proud to be an active part of these efforts.
June 28, 2020
Maryland NOW’s state officers and state council members are very concerned about articles outlining charges of racism that have been circulating about our National NOW President, Toni Van Pelt, during this past month. These involve alleged repeated racist treatment of NOW’s officers, staff, national board members, and state and chapter leaders.
These alleged charges have been supported by documents including letters from former staff and interns to the National Board of Directors, letters and press releases from members of our National Board calling for Van Pelt’s resignation, and a lawsuit that has been filed by a former officer. The charges, which include creating a hostile work environment and ill-treatment of NOW staff and interns, along with other violations of NOW policies, have appeared in several national publications and continue to spread in the press.
Maryland NOW’s State President, Sandy Bell, has joined with 23 of 36 other state leaders and state councils, along with a majority of members of our National Board of Directors, and dozens of current and former chapter leaders calling for her to resign. As this discussion has dragged on without Van Pelt’s resignation amid growing press coverage of the situation, we have lost confidence in Van Pelt’s ability to effectively lead NOW, and we stand in support of all those who have raised these questions and also called for her resignation.
This situation represents a very serious time in NOW’s history. Maryland NOW believes unequivocally that racism in any form has no place in NOW. As members and supporters may hear about these allegations, we wanted to send you information about this matter and let you know of our actions.
We will continue to keep you informed and welcome your comments. If you have questions or concerns, please write to us: email@example.com
If you wish to write to National NOW President Toni Van Pelt, please do so at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are links to articles that have appeared online about calls for Toni Van Pelt’s resignation. The story is being covered primarily by Emily Shugerman of the “Daily Beast.” The matter has been commented on by FOX News and MSNBC and is circulating in many feminist blogs online.
This letter was written and circulated to National NOW members and former leaders of chapters and states in NOW, calling for Toni Van Pelt to resign. Using this link you can add your name and contact information. Names are still being added and are forwarded to the National Board regularly.
If you want to support Toni’s decision to remain in office, you may write to her at email@example.com. She is asking for individual letters of support that may be circulated to various lists of leaders.
June 19, 2020
It is a small victory that this Juneteenth, the racism that poisons our culture is finally getting some of the attention it deserves from people of all races and in all walks of life. To some this feels like “Groundhog Day” with only the hope and perhaps little confidence that we will actually see change. As Will Smith said several years ago, “It’s not getting worse. It’s getting filmed.”
“Black Lives Matter” every day. People of color face racism every minute of every day in their lives in a way white people cannot understand. We must focus attention on Black Lives now until Black Lives are valued and the systemic problems – especially around police brutality — are addressed.
NOW’s response to inequality has always been about action. So it is very frustrating that today the pandemic makes participation in visible actions on Juneteenth impossible for many. We hope if there a Juneteenth event near you in the next few days, and you can do so, that you will join.
But none of this stops what we must do on this day – to reflect and commit to doing more to stand up and say “No More.” Perhaps the action that each white person can take is to pledge this Juneteenth that we will never ever again witness an act of racism and not step in as an advocate. It’s not hard, and in NOW we understand what this means, and what it accomplishes. We can start there, and then there’s more.
We all have a great deal to learn and white people can start by listening to our sisters and brothers of color. Together we can accomplish what needs to happen to truly demonstrate that Black Lives are valued all the time, every day – to all of us.
President, Maryland NOW
May 20, 2020
Maryland NOW held our first-ever online or virtual Annual State Conference on May 16th using Zoom Video Conferencing Software. We had almost 50 people join us, including a few NOW state presidents from around the country who are looking at this medium to hold meetings.
We were able to welcome our own Congressional Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) to discuss “Looking Ahead in Uncertain Times – Can We Win?” (please see the link on this post) with Maryland NOW members having the opportunity to ask questions following his remarks.
Maryland NOW’s Annual Conference is our supreme governing body that meets annually to elect state officers and to discuss policy and programs members see as helping move us forward.
Since we have no bylaws process at this time for online voting, our Nominations and Elections Chair, Jennierose D’Elia-Dufour prepared and mailed ballots to all members in attendance and eligible to vote following the conference. The last day to return ballots is May 29th. The results will be published in this space following the announcement of the election outcome.
The Maryland NOW State Council will consider the positions for Action VP and Secretary at their next state meeting, probably held via Zoom Video Conferencing Software. Council members (representing our executive committee and member chapters) will also discuss moving forward with plans for the coming general election cycle and efforts we will want to undertake to elect new national leadership for our country.
If you are interested in joining us in a leadership role (your interest in activism makes you a leader!) please contact Jennierose D’Elia-Dufour at firstname.lastname@example.org or our president, Sandy Bell (email@example.com) for more information.
The recording begins with Rep Raskin’s introduction to the group by MD NOW President Sandy Bell.
April 16, 2020
Maryland NOW is very concerned about the spike in incidents of domestic violence and the increase in suicides over the last month. Directives to stay-at-home and the isolation it brings don’t help either of these situations.
Here are two small posters you can download which contain hotline/crisis line numbers for people struggling with these issues.
Please download them. You may be able to take them to your grocery or pharmacy, your apartment building or condo community, or even around your neighborhood.