Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Title IX Improvements reports today that the Supreme Court has expanded the groundbreaking Title IX law of 1972, providing protection for whistleblowers who reveal instances of sex discrimination. For those who don't know, Title IX was the law, fueled by the late, great Congresswoman Patsy Mink, that made it illegal to discriminate based on sex in the public school system. For more information on Congresswoman Mink, a truly revolutionary figure in Asian American politics, please see NOW's article, an online tribute to her memory. Now, in response to the case brought to the Supreme Court by baskeball coach Roderick Jackson, whistleblowers who report sex discrimination are protected by law from retributive action such as, in Jackson's case, unlawful termination of employment. Jackson was fired for complaining that the boys' basketball treatment received more funding than the girls' basketball team. To me, this ruling is only common sense -- while it might be unlawful to discriminate based upon sex in a publicly funded academic institution, laws are only as good as they can be enforced, and part of enforcement requires protection of those who attempt to follow the word of law. People of colour, for example, were given the right to vote following the Civil War, but it wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that those rights were able to be effectively exercised -- up to that point, those who opposed equal rights for people of colour were able to use local-level bullying and violent measures to discourage minorities from exercising their rights and the victims had no means of effectively reporting these violations. Similarly, to make Title IX a truly effective ban of sex discrimination, there must be an effective means of protecting those who would seek to enforce the law. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote,

``Without protection from retaliation, individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report it, indifference claims would be short-circuited, and the underlying discrimination would go unremedied."
Meanwhile, I didn't really get the opposition opinon:
Justice Clarence Thomas was among the four dissenters. Whistleblowers shouldn't be given protection unless Congress explicitly says so, said Thomas and three other justices who voted no. They noted that other civil rights laws have specific provisions addressing retaliation. ``Jackson's retaliation claim lacks the connection to actual sex discrimination that the statute requires,'' Thomas wrote. ``The question before us is only whether Title XI prohibits retaliation, not whether prohibiting it is good policy.''
I'm sorry, but huh? Maybe it's just my unfamiliarity with Legal-ese, but... I don't think I really understand Justice Thomas' rationale for opposition. To the idea that the Supreme Court was about checking whether Title IX prohibits retaliation, I was under the assumption that the Supreme Court was able to affect interpretation of law based upon their ruling -- that if it's not specifically written in the law, they can rule based upon the spirit of the law, which, in this case, is that Title IX can only work effectively if there is protection from those who file reports of sexual discrimination. Then again, this is Clarence Thomas we're talking about...


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