I’m writing to you today from San Francisco, where it’s been an energizing, thought-provoking week.
Last night, Ambassador James Hormel, a member of People For’s board, hosted an event at his home to help me get acquainted with some friends and People For supporters. Jim’s commitment to public service has benefited San Francisco and the country in many ways, and he is an incredible asset to People For. Joining me was Rev. Kenneth Samuel, who is helping lead People For the American Way Foundation’s efforts in California this year to create constructive conversation in black churches around discrimination and marriage equality.
Also there were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have inspired my life and work for many years: Del and Phyllis are legendary advocates for women and for equality, and were the first same-sex couple married in California this year. I had the great pleasure of presenting to them, in person, a beautiful book we created with the more than 8,000 congratulatory messages from People For members who signed our online “guest book” for their wedding. It was a delight to see their pleasure at so many warm wishes and the knowledge that People For will be working to defend their marriage against right-wing efforts to strip away their rights.
Seeing Del also reminded me that earlier in my career, as an advocate for women and families experiencing domestic violence, I had learned much from her book on battered women. Violence against women is on my mind because it was one topic covered at a conference sponsored by the Tides Foundation earlier this week. Did you know that women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire? And I read earlier this year that doctors at the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center reported that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service.
Those numbers haunt me. The struggle to promote and protect equality and dignity for all people is a long one. In our country, the progress toward equality for women won by generations of struggle has not yet overcome entrenched resistance to equal opportunity (as Lilly Ledbetter found out at the hands of first her employer and then the Supreme Court). But that’s just one reason why we need to rededicate ourselves to women’s equality.
Lawmakers continue to pass legislation restricting women’s freedom. And anti-choice activists are rallying to Sen. John McCain’s campaign based on his hardcore anti-choice voting record and his pledge to appoint the kind of Supreme Court justices who will abolish a woman’s constitutional right to choose. We’re working to make sure people understand that record, just as we’re fighting to get Congress to fix the Court’s twisted reading of civil rights law that made it impossible for Lilly Ledbetter to get justice after being discriminated against for so many years.
Next week I’ll be back in Washington after ten days on the road. I look forward, as always, to hearing from you ([email protected]).