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ACLU's Lenora Lapidus to Speak on "The Prospect for Women's Rights," Dec. 3


Lenora Lapidus, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project, will deliver a talk entitled "The Prospect for Women's Rights" on Monday, December 3, at 6:00 p.m. in Room 121. The event is sponsored by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program, as well as the Yale Law Women and the Collective on Women of Color in the Law, and is free and open to the public.

Lenora Lapidus will speak about "some of the highlights of the gender discrimination cases" handled by her office, the Women's Rights Project (WRP) of the ACLU. She will also describe some of its history, from its founding in 1971 by Ruth Bader Ginsburg to its current place on the "cutting edge of new issues."

Lapidus was named director of the WRP in March of this year, and has engaged in a broad-based program of advocacy, education, and litigation to advance its causes. Before that she was the legal director at the ACLU of New Jersey from 1996 to 2001.

One case that Lapidus will speak about was recently settled with a consent decree that may set an important precedent. The case was brought on behalf of Tiffani Alvera, who was evicted from her home in Seaside, Oregon, after notifying her landlord of a restraining order she had obtained against her husband. Alvera had gotten the order after being assaulted by her husband in their apartment. Two days later, the landlord delivered the eviction notice, citing a "zero-tolerance policy" against violence.

Since the vast majority of domestic violence victims are women, "applying 'zero-tolerance against violence' policies to victims of domestic abuse is discriminatory and will be challenged," Lapidus argues. She also notes that this is a problem the WRP has identified across the country.

The landlord and Alvera reached a settlement this November that not only paid her compensatory damages but also produced a consent decree that will be monitored by the federal government. Under its terms, the managers of Alvera's apartment complex agreed to not "evict, or otherwise discriminate against tenants because they have been victims of violence" and to educate their employees about the new policy.

The management company owns housing units in Oregon, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona, and the WRP hopes this case will set a national precedent. In addition, Lapidus says "we're now taking this around the country" by investigating similar complaints in other states, and by proposing federal legislation and lobbying the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Another important area that Lapidus identifies is "a whole cluster of issues around women and policing," including job discrimination against women in police forces, problems of police officers engaging in domestic violence, and poor enforcement of protection orders by police departments.

One of the WRP's earliest successes was "Reed v. Reed," in which the Supreme Court for the first time held that a classification based on sex was unconstitutional. Lapidus will discuss whether new standards for gender discrimination have evolved through subsequent cases, particularly the Supreme Court's Decision in the Virginia Military Institute case.