I am proud to be your President, and I have never been prouder to be a NOW member. The new Executive Committee, elected on December 4, 2004 at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs includes: Lori Gardner, Executive VP, Barbara Kirkpatrick, Legislative VP, Sue Dague, Treasurer, and Gaby Moreno, Secretary. They are working with me to ensure that NOW remains the premier women's organization it has always been. Legislators, once again, know who we are. When NOW-NYS speaks, Legislators listen to the needs of women from around New York State.
The media in Albany and beyond is enthused by NOW- New York State 's presence. When I announced I would campaign for the Presidents position, when I won the honor of serving, and when Albany Area NOW President Laura Draiss-LaCroix and I traveled to DC to bid on the 2006 National NOW Conference, the media showed great interest. Also, as we face the threat of No Fault Divorce Legislation, and the loss of reproductive rights, the press wants to know WHAT NOW-NYS THINKS.
When Speaker Sheldon Silver held a press conference supporting Emergency Contraception, NOW-NYS WAS ASKED TO JOIN that press conference in support of this much-needed legislation for women. STUDENTS ARE STANDING IN LINE TO INTERN with NOW. University, law school, and local high school students ARE STARTING NOW CHAPTERS. We are energizing our base and convening chapters around the state. At this time, NOW New York State has an unprecedented opportunity to be involved in the launching of a campaign to secure a NEW YORK STATE ERA, even as we work for the historic Federal ERA.
These campaigns will ensure a world with “No Woman Left Behind.” What more can I say in this short message, but to thank all of you for the work you do on behalf of women. I know that in 2005-2006 we will face challenges that at times may seem insurmountable. But as I’ve mentioned many times throughout my NOW activist years, Together Everyone Achieves Mores. It's about health care, it’s about reproductive rights, its about loving whom you choose without discrimination, it's about creating a safer world for women and girls, and most of all, IT'S ABOUT YOU!
Marcia A. Pappas
President, NOW New York State
No Fault Divorce Legislation Hurts Women
Arguments in favor of adding a no-fault ground to New York State law conceal the tragic results of no-fault divorce for women in no-fault states.
The National Organization for Women, New York State, Inc (NOW-NYS, Inc) strongly opposes no-fault divorce legislation that has been introduced in our Legislature. Opposition to unilateral no-fault divorce has been our long-standing position with strong support from the entire NOW body. We are an organization of advocates for equality for women. The majority of calls received by our chapters are from women in the midst of severe matrimonial problems.
The New York State Bar Association has stated that New York needs no-fault because New York is the only state without unilateral no-fault grounds. This is not a good enough reason, as we will explain. New York State is also the only state requiring child support until age 21. This is a shining example of protecting our children better than any other state.
The following is taken from the opposition memorandum of The Domestic Violence Task Force of the Bar Association of the City of New York: “We find the argument included in the memorandum of support of the proposed bill that no-fault should be adopted because otherwise a spouse who lacks economic resources may be forced to remain in a marriage that is not working for them to be entirely unpersuasive and not representative of our clients lives.
There are myriad reasons why spouses choose to stay in a marriage or to divorce. This is true for battered women a well as women who have never been battered. No-fault divorce takes away their options, it allows the spouse with no grounds, batterer or not, to obtain a divorce over the objections of the less powerful spouse without negotiating a divorce settlement.
Eliminating the requirement to reach a settlement will send more cases into court, thereby increasing rather than decreasing court backlog. This failure to negotiate drives the issues of child custody, child and spousal support, and property division into court where women continue to face gender bias, a fact that even the Office of Court Administration acknowledges.
Proponents of the bill argue that there is no need to “air the dirty laundry” in court. But advocates in the women’s movement know the importance of allowing the judges to hear the facts, behaviors and circumstances that led to the break-up of the marriage.
There is much need for change to the current Domestic Relations Law before we send the weaker party and the children afloat on the sea of no fault induced poverty, as was the case in California, the first state to introduce no-fault divorce.
In addition, as reported in the Domestic Violence Task Force report previously referred to: “experience from other states shows that where grounds are unnecessary, domestic abuse [and other grounds] may be treated as tangential and therefore irrelevant to the allocation of marital resources. This has been precisely the result in some states that have adopted no-fault divorce grounds. For example, in Oregon, which has a no-fault divorce statutory structure, the Court of Appeals denied a wife’s claim for maintenance based on severe domestic violence in In re Koch, 648 P.2d406 (Or. Ct. App.1982). The court held that under Oregon’s law fault could not be considered a factor in dividing the parties' marital property or in awarding spousal support. Physical abuse afflicted on the wife, could only be considered insofar as it rendered her unable to work, or in her possible increased need for financial support. Similarly, the Illinois court, in In re Marriage of Cihak, 92 Ill. App. 3d 1123 (Ill. App Ct. 1981) held that the murder of the wife by the husband could not be considered and would have no effect whatsoever on the division of the parties’ marital property or any spousal support award because under “true” no fault divorce law a reward can only be based upon the financial needs of parties, regardless of fault.
In contrast, New York’s current fault provisions provide a basis for the introduction of evidence concerning domestic violence and its impact on the financial settlement of the divorce. For example, Justice Silbermann in Havel v.Islam, 273, A.D., 2d 164 (1 st Dept. 2002), found that the husbands’ assault on his wife with a barbell was a critical factor in determining the allocation of marital resources. This hard won victory should not be undermined by enacting no-fault legislation that does not specifically address the role of fault in dividing marital property.”
Even to consider unilateral no-fault divorce without strong provisions for awards of attorneys’ fees, and expert fees to obtain full discovery of income and assets is a barrier to justice for the non-moneyed spouse. It is no secret that adequate fees for discovery are rarely awarded. Attorney General Spitzer and Comptroller Hevesi have made the importance of discovery public in recent actions taken in matters of commercial fraud and school district employee fraud. Without discovery, the court hears only lies and perjury. As long ago as 1989, the height of the early no-fault fight, Leonard Fiorescue, in his December 18 th New York Law Journal column stated: “I have always believed that the best way to hide $1 million well is to hide $100,000, but badly.” This statement clearly shows the need for well-trained experts and meaningful awards of expert fees.
New York State presently has a bi-lateral no-fault ground for divorce. This encourages settlement between the parties. In fact, 95% of divorce cases are settled. Unilateral no-fault will discourage settlements. If the guilty, moneyed spouse can move out, obtain a divorce and remarry before property division, he is in the position of being able to transfer assets to a new spouse, defeating the equitable distribution of the property of the first marriage. Some courts today are bifurcating trials with this result. This practice should be stopped legislatively.
There are a lot of issues that should be considered for divorce reform that would help make the playing field level for women and make the entire process fairer. Let’s try some of them, see how they work and then and only then, consider unilateral no-fault divorce.
We have looked down on societies in which all a husband has to do is say, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you” to his wife and they are divorced. Should any one be able to do this? Is unilateral no-fault any different.
Pro Choice Pledge
The US Supreme Court is only one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade. NOW-NYS asked New York State Legislators to sign a pledge and make a promise to women to save abortion rights here in New York State. See who signed! Don't see your legislator's name? Call them and ask why!
"I promise to insure the rights of all women in New York State to controlled their own reproductive lives, including the right to safe, legal abortion."
Jonathan L. Bing (73 rd, D)
James F. Brennan (44rd, D)
Kevin A. Cahill (101 st, D)
Clifford W. Crouch (107 th, R)
Jeffrey Dinowitz (81 st, D)
Ginny Fields (5 th, D)
Sandra R. Galef (90 th, D)
Michael Gianaris (36 th, D)
Richard N. Gottfried (75 th, D)
Rhoda Jacobs (42 nd, D)
David R. Koon (135 th, D)
George Latimer (91 st, D)
John W. Lavelle (61 st, D)
Charles Lavine (13 th, D)
Barbara S. Lifton (125 th, D)
Donna A. Lupardo (126 th, D)
Joel Miller (102 nd, R)
Daniel J. O’Donnell (69 th, D)
Amy Paulin (88 th, D)
Crystal Peoples (141 st, D)
Audrey I. Pheffer (23 rd, D)
Naomi Rivera (80 th, D)
Peter M. Rivera (76 th, D)
Steven Sanders (74 th, D)
Deirdre K. Scozzafava (122 nd, R)
Willis H. Stephens, Jr. (99 th, R)
Scott Stringer (67 th, D)
David R. Townsend, Jr. (115 th, R)
Harvey Weisenberg (20 th, D)
Mark Weprin (24 th, D)
Kenneth P. Zebrowski (94 th, D)
Carl Andrews (20th, D-W)
Neil D. Breslin (46th, D-I-W)
Byron W. Brown (60th, D-I-C-W)
Thomas K. Duane (29th, D-L-W)
Jeffrey D. Klein (34th, D)
Liz Krueger (26th, D)
Carl Kruger (27th, D-R-L)
Patricia K. McGee (57th, R-C-I)
Velmanette Montgomery (18th, D-W)
Suzi Oppenheimer (37th, D-W)
Kevin S. Parker (21st, D-W)
David A. Paterson (30th, D-L-W)
Eric T. Schneiderman (31st, D-W)
Ada L. Smith (10th, D-L-I-W)
Malcom A. Smith (14th, D-C-R-W)
Toby Ann Stavisky (16th, D-W)
Bad News ... Good News
Reproductive Freedom is at grave risk. A single George W. Bush appointment could produce an anti-choice US Supreme Court. Already there are significant barriers to abortion and birth control, and we face the immediate danger of totally losing control over our own bodies. There is also rife discrimination against gay/lesbian couples and inadequate sex education in public schools. Fortunately, women living in New York encounter a somewhat stronger respect for their rights, with the State ranking fifth in this category. Certainly this is something to celebrate. So, in the interest both of history and of hope, this article reports the good along with the bad.
Feminists have been accused of ignoring the incredible victories women have already achieved. But we simply understand there is still much to be done before women can truly claim gender equality. That is why feminists recognize and celebrate triumphs but also continue to work on the many problems facing women today. Still not convinced of the battle ahead? Read on...
A recent study published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C. reviews the current status of women living in the United States according to five separate indexes: political participation, employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy, reproductive rights and overall health and well-being. It is quite a feat that women are achieving better political representation and smaller wage gaps!
Vermont , Connecticut , Minnesota and Washington topped the list for states in which women enjoy the best quality of life. Why isn’t New York on that honor roll? A progressive state like ours surely should lead the way in women’s well-being! Mississippi , South Carolina , Kentucky , Arkansas , Oklahoma , Tennessee and Texas have been declared the states with the worst conditions for women and will need the support of strong feminists to help pave the way for future generations of women.
Women who are employed full-time and year-round in New York earn a median of $30,700 annually, earning only 75 cents to every dollar earned by a man for comparable work. This is up from the 59 cents of old. This ranks New York nineteenth in the overall composite index for employment and earnings. Women of color earn between 53 and 63 cents for every dollar a white male New Yorker earns. Furthermore, even in the highest ranking states, women earn less than men for comparable work (approximately 92 cents for every dollar men earn in the District of Columbia and 83 cents in Hawaii ). Also, based on data from Census 2000, New York ranks twenty-third in poverty. Other areas of concern include HIV, heart disease, and generally low health coverage rates.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research report points to the need for policies that encourage women to enroll in higher education, to run for elected office, and to start their own businesses. We need living-wage laws to reduce poverty; and welfare should provide quality education and training opportunities. Most importantly, our reproductive rights must be protected and preserved at all costs.
With all this work ahead of us, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But remember, much progress has already been made and will continue to be made through the efforts of people like you!
Statistic Source: “Status of Women in the States,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, November 2004.
Young Feminist Revolution Revisited
On Saturday, March 26th, over thirty young women sat around a large assortment of tables at the Guilderland Public Library. Clad in beaded sandals, straightened hair, and shiny jewelry, they looked like typical teenagers. However, each of these young feminists attended the first meeting of the new Capital District Young Feminists’ Chapter of NOW with a good head on her shoulders, and an unremitting devotion to achieving gender equality.
I am a junior at Voorheesville High School, and founder of this chapter. I am a freelancer writer and aspiring novelist, and have also taken feminist views in all of my endeavors; One day I hope to be President of National NOW. I came up with the idea to found this chapter after reading an article in the Times Union, featuring NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas speaking about her desire to have younger women involved in NOW for the 2006 NOW National Conference to be held in Albany. I contacted her, and she and NOW-Albany President Laura Draiss-LaCroix guided me through the steps to get the first meeting of this new chapter underway.
Our chapter hopes to address several pressing feminist issues that especially affect our generation of women, including the body image epidemic that makes seven-year-olds diet and seventeen-year olds-starve, affirmative action for men in college admissions at prestigious universities (where more women apply so less qualified men are admitted before more qualified women), the skyrocketing figures of violence against women in teenage relationships, plus rape and domestic violence. There are also women’s sexuality issues, wherein sexually active women’s reputations are “sullied” while their male partners’ reputations are enhanced as “manly.” Furthermore, most young women know very little about their genitals, sexual response, and reproductive rights, including the availability of birth control and the morning-after pill. Other issues are equal pay, young women hazing one another at sorority inductions, sex education in high schools; and young women being steered away from math and science.
While this generation of young women has more opportunity than any previous cohort of women, there are still many sexist issues that remain in society, and new issues that have arisen from our media-driven society. However, the members of our chapter aren’t going to resign themselves to inequity. With their hard work and tenacity, strides toward equality will be made. Because the group’s members are scattered around the Capital District, the group alternates its meeting locations frequently. For more information, contact Chapter President Liz Funk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit the chapter’s web page.
Remembering Geraldine Miller - Chair, NOW-NYS
Women of Color Task Force
Geraldine Miller will be dearly missed by everyone in New York and beyond. She died quietly in her home on March 28, 2005 only a few days before the April 1-3, 2005 National NOW Women of Color and Allies Summit in Arlington activist, she also founded Bronx, NY NOW and the Household Technicians Union to ensure equal rights for women working mainly as maids, nannies and cooks. Geraldine will be remembered for her tenacity and determination in achieving equality for women of color.
Just one week before her death Gerry sent a message for us all. She was very weak at the time of message, but she wanted to leave us with these particular words:
"For young women of color, I know we've got a lot of digging to do, and a lot of coming up with things. And I just hope we can make things come together for the young ones, like it has done for us. I'm not saying it's come together perfectly for us, because it hasn't. But it’s a start.
"They have been calling me this whole week, wanting to know what I thought and what I felt. So I'd like to let them know what I think of them. I think they are all splendid! And I like this way we’ve had of communicating in the evenings and in the mornings. And we've had some good thoughts...that's wonderful! That's the type of friendship we should have always had. Once they came to their senses and realized I wasn't out to hurt anyone, all was well.
"I dream of a world. I really dream a world. And there are many people out there who also dream a world. They'd like to see something good happen, not this mediocrity. We've got to make it happen. So I'd like to see this Conference be something spectacular. I'd like to see it bring us together more. That's what I'd really like to see. And I'd like to say goodbye."
Geraldine Miller will be forever remembered by her sisters in New York. We will miss her for sure, at every conference, every summit, and every meeting. Keep on keepin’ on Gerry, and help us all along, wherever you are!
Facts for the Moderate Majority: What the
Right Wing Doesn't Want You To Know
- Over 500,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth.
- The number of women worldwide who die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications equals the total number of U.S. deaths in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War all combined.
- Over 75,000 women die each year trying to end pregnancies unsafely.
- It is much less expensive, in almighty taxpayer dollars, to help a woman end an unwanted pregnancy than to help her raise an unwanted child for 18 years.
- It is much less expensive to aid in family planning than to correct the social effects of unwanted and uncared for children, many of whom become criminals.
- The world’s population is growing by 76 million a year. This adds to the world the equivalent of a total US population every four years.
- In countries where abortion is illegal, it remains the leading cause of maternal death.
- Complications from first trimester abortion are considerably less frequent than those associated with giving birth. In other words, laws restricting abortion mandate the more dangerous alternative.
Most of these population increases are taking place in Third World countries where food, water, and health services are already in critically short supply. Yet, our President is closing family planning clinics around the globe, and enforcing his Gag Rule whereby US family planning funds are denied to countries where abortion is legal and to organizations that mention termination. The religious ideologues who currently control our country must be taken to task for the horrific damage they are doing, not only to women and children here in the US, but also worldwide.
Since the Democratic Party can’t get out of it’s own way to save our country, it is up to us women in feminist organizations, (who care about life after birth) to speak up, speak out, and do whatever is necessary to stop politicians from practicing medicine without a license.
WHAT CAN WE DO? Get these facts into our local papers in monthly, weekly, and daily Letters to the Editors!