The Legal System Is Still Unfair Toward Women

Question: Are women treated fairly by the legal system?

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

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

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

Question:
\r\n What laws do you think are particularly unfair toward women?

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

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

So that is just one \r\narea but there are many other areas, as well, that need improvement in \r\nemployment, in child sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment. There's just\r\n many, many changes that need to be made in the law. So bottom line is \r\nwe are still making her-story. We still are fighting to win changes and \r\nso we need more women elected to office—feminist women. We need them as \r\nrepresentatives in our state legislature. We need them at all levels of \r\npower. In the Federal Government we often say a woman's place is in the \r\nhouse, the House of Representatives, now we say it's also in the house, \r\nthe White House. And in the United States Senate, where we still do not \r\nhave equal representation of women. We just have a small percent of all \r\nUnited States senators are women. And we need more women as judges and \r\nboards, commissions, and agencies.
\r\n
\r\nSo, in employment we need more women at the top levels. There's still \r\nthe glass ceiling where women can see to the top in business but often \r\ncan't make it through the glass ceiling, which prevents them from \r\ngetting to the top. Glass ceiling is another way of saying women are \r\nstill being discriminated against on account of their gender.

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

Recorded on June 9, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

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

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