Tracking the latest developments in the fight for a fair America
By Julianna S. Gonen, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Many in the LGBTQ community are watching in horror as state after state enacts draconian bans on abortion in what seems like a competition with one another to see which can go farthest in its legislative assault on reproductive freedom. But if any of us have been tempted to feel relieved that at least they’re not attacking us, we should think again. Because the right to end a pregnancy is very much an LGBTQ concern.
“The Feres Doctrine leads to not only medical malpractice but also the abuse of power, mistreatment of survivors, lack of transparency and lack of accountability.”
-Alexis Witt, the widow of Air Force Sergeant Dean Witt
In 2003, Air Force Sgt. Dean Witt had a routine appendectomy at Travis Air Force Base. Tragically, after the procedure, Witt’s nurse administered a lethal dose of fentanyl and incorrectly inserted a breathing tube into his esophagus, depriving his brain of oxygen. Witt was left in a vegetative state for three months until his wife, Alexis, decided to have her husband’s feeding tube removed. The same nurse was linked to at least three other deaths, including the death of another airman just a year prior to Witt’s death.
In any other circumstance, Mrs. Witt would be able to hold accountable those whose negligence caused her husband’s death. However, because of a nearly 70-year-old Supreme Court decision that
prohibits active duty servicemembers from suing the government, including for medical malpractice, Mrs. Witt is left without recourse.
When Debbie Brenner went back to school to become a surgical technician, she hoped to improve her career prospects and her life. Instead, when the for-profit college where she enrolled failed to deliver on its guarantee of post-graduation job opportunities, she was forced to tangle with the school in an unsavory process known as forced arbitration. Debbie quickly found out the school had such a terrible reputation that she couldn’t even get a job interview. To make matters worse, when she and other students tried to sue the school, they learned that the “fine print” in agreements they had signed forced them out of court and into arbitration – a private process in which the arbitrator ruled against her and mandated that she and the other students had to pay the college’s legal fees to cover the “hardship” the students inflicted on the school.
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Brown v. Board of Education represented a long-overdue remedy to historical injustice; meanwhile, in some states, the decision ignited aggressive defiance and a violent refusal to desegregate. Those painful episodes in our nation’s history are now decades in the past, and we might think that Brown is clearly settled beyond all question and that no one today would act in defiance of that principle. But we’d be wrong.
By Mariah Lindsay and Jane Liu, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
In the fall of 1895, Wong Kim Ark had just returned to San Francisco from visiting his parents, wife and oldest son in China. He had been born in San Francisco; it was his birthplace and his home. He had visited China before and had had no problems returning home. But this trip would be different. Immigration authorities denied him entry, forcing Wong to return to the steamship on which he had arrived. Little did he know that he would spend the next four months on the San Francisco Bay, waiting to find out if he would be allowed to enter the country of his birth.