The Legal System Is Still Unfair Toward Women

Women have made progress under the law—but not enough progress. And family law is rife with problems.
  • Transcript


Question: Are women treated fairly by the legal system?

Gloria Allred: Well there's some progress for women, but obviously we do not have enough progress. Women do not have enough rights and those rights that we have we have to work to enforce. And, for example, we are coming up to the 90th anniversary of women's winning the right to vote. That's the 19th Amendment—the addition to the 19th Amendment, suffrage to the United States Constitution, August 26th, 1920. And we do not yet enjoy the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution which we have been working to win ever since Alice Paul proposed it in 1923.

So, in other words, it has taken us all these years and it's still... even though we have a democratic congress, not coming out of the Congress. We almost won it some years ago before there was a time limitation passed on the Equal Rights Amendment which hadn't been passed for any other amendment. And so we were not able to succeed in getting it added at that time as an amendment.  So we need to have more activism to win the ERA now, because all it says is that the equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of gender, or on the account of sex.

And those simple words should be part of our Constitution, because without it we do not enjoy first class citizenship. We do not enjoy all the legal rights and privileges that men enjoy and we often say in the women's movement: "Men their rights and nothing more, women their rights and nothing less." So we do need to pass that.

What laws do you think are particularly unfair toward women?

Gloria Allred:  Well I think there are laws and there are regulations... and family law is an area which is just ripe with problems and very much in need of improvement... all kinds of issues, child support for example. Most mothers are awarded an inadequate amount of child support if they are awarded any child support at all. Not sufficient to support the child and that's what this is all about. And the enforcement of child support is relatively poor in this country and the net affect of that is that it is the inability to collect child support or an adequate amount of child support that is the number one reason that women—millions of them—are forced onto welfare roles and into lives of poverty, forced to receive to aid to families with dependent children, AFDC, because of the inadequacy of child support laws and the inadequacy of those laws.

And most of those who have an order for child support are women, because generally as the mother taking care of the child. So it has an adverse impact on women and children but while there are some steps to do something about it and to relieve these burdens from these mothers and from the tax payers and place the responsibility where it belongs, on the non-custodial parent, mainly the father, there's still too many deadbeat dads and really not a real commitment from the system to make major improvements.

So that is just one area but there are many other areas, as well, that need improvement in employment, in child sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment. There's just many, many changes that need to be made in the law. So bottom line is we are still making her-story. We still are fighting to win changes and so we need more women elected to office—feminist women. We need them as representatives in our state legislature. We need them at all levels of power. In the Federal Government we often say a woman's place is in the house, the House of Representatives, now we say it's also in the house, the White House. And in the United States Senate, where we still do not have equal representation of women. We just have a small percent of all United States senators are women. And we need more women as judges and boards, commissions, and agencies.

So, in employment we need more women at the top levels. There's still the glass ceiling where women can see to the top in business but often can't make it through the glass ceiling, which prevents them from getting to the top. Glass ceiling is another way of saying women are still being discriminated against on account of their gender.

Here's the good news, women are fighting back through lawsuits and they're winning but unfortunately sometimes women say to me, "Well, why do I have to fight for my rights? I thought I had them." Well, you don't have them unless you stand up and enforce those rights. So we're like private attorney generals in our law firm. Allred, Maroko and Goldberg, where I've been practicing for 35 years, as a founding partner of the law firm. And we take these rights seriously. They are meant for the protection of our clients and women everywhere.

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman