A Message from the President 

For further information, contact:  Ana M. Storey, President, 916.930.9020 or [email protected] or Mika Domingo, President-Elect, 925.891.5006 or [email protected]

Dear Friends:

California Women Lawyers joins in the bipartisan celebration of President Biden’s December 13 signing of the Respect for Marriage Act. The Act repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in that it requires the federal government to recognize and respect marriage, regardless of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of the couple, and states that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution requires states to recognize those marriages of other states. This is important for several reasons, but one is that if the United States Supreme Court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges and U.S. v. Windsor as some fear, thus allowing individual states to prohibit same-sex marriages, those states would still be required to recognize and respect same-sex marriages from other states. Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith, one of the seven plaintiff couples in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, the 2003 case that led to marriage equality in Massachusetts, spoke at the signing. Heidi said, “The law that President Biden signs today will make people safer, more secure and less alone. From our family to all of you, thank you for fighting for our equal humanity and dignity. For our right to love and be loved. And for our marriage.”

Another important piece of legislation headed for President Biden’s desk before month’s end is a provision in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. What does a provision of the NDAA have to do with CWL’s mission, you say? This long and hard-fought for provision in the NDAA would remove all judicial functions and prosecutorial duties from commanders for thirteen covered offenses like sexual assault and murder. Independent prosecutors would take over. CWL 2020 Fay Stender Award recipient Rose Carmen Goldberg, long a champion of military justice reform, wrote back in 2019 that, “Military sexual assault has been so pervasive for so long that its essentially part of military culture” and advocated for Congress to remove prosecution of military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and instead empower independent prosecutors to “give victims a real path to justice.” Congresswoman Jackie Speier, our 2022 Judith Soley Lawyer as Citizen Award recipient, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, and others who advocated tirelessly in Congress for many years to address sexual assault in the military have achieved a critical victory for survivor justice. 

I wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season and new year.