20 November 2006

Transcending Blawg Review

One of the benefits of a carnival-style roundup of legal blogging is the opportunity for bloggers with expertise in particular areas to highlight topics or occasions which might be overlooked or addressed only superficially by others. One such example is this week's illuminating eighty-fourth edition of Blawg Review, hosted at Jen Burke's Transcending Gender blog.

Burke is an expert in civil rights issues and, in addition to collecting the best general legal blogging of the past week, describes the purpose and meaning of today's commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. She has documented her own struggles with disability in a well-received book and brings a powerful writing style to bear on issues facing the community of people who struggle with gender- and sexuality-related difficulties and prejudices:
Many people first came into contact with the impact of transphobic violence through the story of Brandon Teena (December 12, 1972 - December 31, 1993) in the movie Boys Don’t Cry, directed by Kimberly Peirce.

Brandon was raped and murdered after his attackers discovered that he had female genitalia. His story was also told in the documentary, The Brandon Teena Story.

. . . .

In the article “Why Transgender Day Of Remembrance Matters” published at Critical Moment, Cynthya BrianKate looks at the aftermath of hatred: “Our society still undervalues transgender and gender-transgressing peoples’ lives, especially in the law and the media. Killers often go unpunished, or punished in ways that blame victims.” Given these realities, Cynthya sees the work to be done: “We need to know the victims’ stories, especially those who have been denied justice. We need to honor the dead and work to make a better world than the one they were taken from. That’s why TDOR matters.”

Amidst discussion of many transgender and sexual identity-related topics (both legal and non-legal), Burke mentions some ongoing research by Dr. Jillian Todd Weiss concerning legislative developments in this area:
Dr. Weiss covered a recent legislative development in Corvallis, Oregon. The city charter was amended city “to provide non-discrimination for gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation.” As she notes in this post, “The list of cities and counties with laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity keeps growing.” In this post, Dr. Weiss discusses New Jersey’s anti-discrimination bill protecting gender identity: “The bill would add a citizen’s ‘gender identity or expression’ as a basis for protection under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.” In the comment to that post, Dr. Weiss notes “37 Fortune 500 companies in New Jersey that would be affected by the pending bill to add gender identity to the state anti-discrimination code.” The landscape of employment law is changing when it comes to sex, gender, gender identity, and gender identity expressions.

Notwithstanding Dr. Weiss' last comment in the quoted portion above, the issue may not be the adoption of sexuality-related anti-discrimination policies on the corporate level, but rather the enforcement of such policies with legislative and private consequences once companies have voluntarily adopted them. Consider the situation described in the article "The Hollow Promise" from October's ACC Docket (the magazine published by the Association of Corporate Counsel), an article which was co-authored by Yale Law Professor and Balkinization contributor Ian Ayres:
Many companies — more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 and all but one of the Fortune 50 — have adopted policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

. . . .

The reality is that despite the lofty-sounding language in non-discrimination policies, employees in most states have found them difficult to enforce. It may seem inconceivable that a company would announce a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy and then argue in court that it has a legal right to discriminate, but in fact some companies have done just that — and successfully.

Next week, Peter Black will transcend Blawg Review no. 84 when he hosts no. 85 at his Freedom to Differ blog.

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