How We Can End DOMA's Unfair Tax Burden on Same-Sex Couples

Apr 5, 2012

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, a proposal to adjust wages for same-sex couples to reduce inequity in the tax code and undermine

money-justice-scalesAs part of the 10 Ideas: Social Innovation to End Discrimination series, a proposal to adjust wages for same-sex couples to reduce inequity in the tax code and undermine DOMA.

While media reports characterize the United States as increasingly hospitable to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, lived experience clearly speaks to the discrimination, isolation, and dehumanization faced by queer folks. Unfortunately, LGBTQ people in the United States face discrimination on a regular basis, often in the workplace, in public spaces, or in relation to their own government. As the LGBTQ movement builds upon successes, it is important that it continues to ground itself in the personal experiences of queer people. A recurring trend in their stories is widespread discrimination under federal law, in many cases due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

LGBTQ activists have understood the discriminatory nature of DOMA since President Clinton signed it into law in 1996. It contains a passage that defined marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, [where] the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife," and an addendum that says individual states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages accepted in other states. As a result, DOMA has been a prominent target of state-led efforts to permit same-sex marriages in individual states, whether legislatively or judicially.

Yet LGBTQ activists have thus far ignored a major impact of DOMA on same-sex couples: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) policy whereby health care benefits transferred by employees to domestic partners (within those organizations that recognize domestic partnerships) are taxed as income. While the abolition of this practice may seem like a trivial point in the grand scheme of the LGBTQ movement, it holds promise as a way to gradually undermine DOMA as well as improve the lives of the conservative estimate of 901,997 U.S. same-sex couples by saving them, on average, $1,609 a year in comparison to identical heterosexual couples.

The most common way progressive organizations are combating this unjust tax is by "grossing up" the wages of employees in same-sex partnerships. This involves increasing employees' pre-tax salaries in order to account for the value of the tax on shared benefits as well as a possible shift in income bracket triggered by that practice.

Surprisingly, the bulk of action already taken to combat these inequitable practices has occurred within the corporate sphere. Tech start-ups and investment houses in particular, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Barclays, and Goldman Sachs, all gross up domestic partners' wages. Meanwhile, Bowdoin College, Syracuse University, Yale University, and Columbia University (as well as its affiliate Barnard College) are the only institutions of higher education to have adopted similar policies. In a promising move, the municipality of Cambridge, Massachusetts also now grosses up.

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Unfortunately, action by local, state, and federal government to mirror corporate practices lags far behind their private sector counterparts. There is a glimmer of hope, though, in a bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer named The Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2011 or Senate Bill 1171. However, despite being introduced July 1, 2011, the Congressional Research Service reports no action on the bill save for being referred to committee.

As states like Maryland, Washington, and New York continue to legalize same-sex marriage, we must remember that same-sex couples under federal law remain subject to the unfortunate impacts of the DOMA. Moreover, those organizations, universities, and corporations that provide domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples do not unilaterally "solve" the problem of unfair treatment experienced by LGBTQ people at the hands of their government.

By removing the unfair tax burden currently enforced by the IRS, LGBTQ activists can make using health care, filing tax returns, and pursuing employment that much easier for same-sex couples. Moreover, they can strategically undermine the strength of the DOMA. By highlighting the ways in which it financially isolates certain types of partnerships, queer advocates may be able to appeal to a wider political base and subsequently build power among fiscal voters.

Essentially, progressives across the United States ought to see the growing nongovernmental movement toward grossing up as a way to clarify their values in the national discourse. They can amplify the experiences of marginalized same-sex couples through listening tours and personal storytelling events. Using Senator Schumer's bill as a template, organizations that recognize domestic partnerships can join a coalition of at least 80 businesses committed to tax equity in order to place pressure on elected officials. Once this issue attracts more supporters -- particularly among employee LGBTQ affinity groups -- a critical mass will be able to force changes in Congress, change that (hopefully) will lead to the eventual repeal of DOMA.

Providing equitable tax structures for the transfer of health care benefits between domestic partners moves the cause forward, signals pragmatic solidarity between the queer and allied communities, and demonstrates the collective power of the progressive community. Additionally, it demonstrates that a wide body of people supports equity within the federal tax code over antiquated policy.

While the rhetoric around marriage equality has no doubt inspired wide swaths of the American public to support the struggle of LGBTQ folks, it's important that we express the meta-level concern that marriage is only one of the rights denied to queer people. Contextualizing same-sex marriage within a larger struggle for national nondiscrimination policies, visitation rights, care for homeless queer youth, anti-bullying work, as well as tax equity reflects the very real daily struggles of identifying (or being perceived as) LGBTQ in the United States.

Erik Lampmann is a Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member and a sophomore at the University of Richmond studying philosophy, politics, economics, and law.

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Bryce Covert: Women Have Changed, but the Workplace Hasn't

Apr 3, 2012Tim Price

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, "Fireside Chats," ND2.0 Editor Bryce Covert talks to The Atlantic's Derek Thompson about the ongoing challenges for women in the workplace. In particular, they ask why women are still struggling to close the wage gap despite earning more degrees than men and participating in equal numbers. In the clip below, Bryce says the problem is that legal support for working women and men isn't there. She argues that "the workplace still looks as if someone is taking care of the children, but they're not," and "we don't have the policies in place to deal with the way our workforce looks now."

In the latest episode of the Roosevelt Institute's Bloggingheads series, "Fireside Chats," ND2.0 Editor Bryce Covert talks to The Atlantic's Derek Thompson about the ongoing challenges for women in the workplace. In particular, they ask why women are still struggling to close the wage gap despite earning more degrees than men and participating in equal numbers. In the clip below, Bryce says the problem is that legal support for working women and men isn't there. She argues that "the workplace still looks as if someone is taking care of the children, but they're not," and "we don't have the policies in place to deal with the way our workforce looks now."

Bryce notes that while explicit legal barriers to women attaining parity in the workplace have been removed, the U.S. has failed to institute work-family policies like flex time, paternity leave, and day care that have put men and women on more equal footing in Europe. In other words, the problem isn't that women need to change, but that "I don't think the workforce has changed enough to accommodate them." She adds that while "there's a lot to celebrate and the change has been so dramatic and so fast," she is wary of "assuming that this is just a trajectory we're on" and "if we just sort of let things play out then equality will be reached."

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

In addition to these long-term trends, Bryce and Derek discuss the fallout from the gendered recession and recovery, with Bryce noting that "it's been a pretty slow, painful recovery" for everyone, "but women started backsliding. Their unemployment rate is now higher than it was the beginning of the recovery." And while the fact that women dominate many growth sectors would seem to work in their favor, Bryce says they're still stuck in "service sector jobs which tend to be low pay, low benefits, unstable," and "if that's where the growth is I'm not sure if that's a good sign for them or anyone." Even the fact that they're attaining more college degrees doesn't necessarily give them the upper hand, since "even when women are earning these degrees, at every educational level, they're still earning less than men."

For more, watch the full video below and check out Bryce's recent article at The Nation on where women stand in the post-"mancession" economy.

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Millennials Are on the Frontlines of Social Innovation to End Discrimination

Apr 3, 2012May Mgbolu

money-justice-scalesYoung people have long been involved in social justice movements, and today's Millennials continue that legacy by tackling today's issues.

money-justice-scalesYoung people have long been involved in social justice movements, and today's Millennials continue that legacy by tackling today's issues.

The quest for equal justice has sparked movements and empowered youth across the nation for decades. Reports of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, disenfranchisement, and LGBTQ hate crimes continue to appear in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods. Today, Millennials continue to engage in equal justice policy and are committed to tackling the structural barriers and institutional inequities that prevent the full realization of equal opportunity and rights in the United States.

Youth have long been on the frontlines in of the social justice movement, actively participating in redefining civil liberties, inspiring progressive politics, and mobilizing young people across the country in an effort to end social injustices. The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network continues that legacy through our 10 Ideas for Equal Justice publication.

For Millennials to shape the future we will inherit, we must effectively voice our needs and priorities and assert ourselves in all conversations involving equal justice. While some policymakers express concern about the future of equality in America, few have effectively addressed the harsh conditions that shape people's lives. Millennials must continue to focus on the policies that exclude some and marginalize others. For example, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Right Act of 1965 once outlawed discriminatory practices and made great strides in America, but today these laws exclude millions of marginalized Americans through criminal history checks or other determinants.

The failure of our current policies to address the importance of equality highlights the need for Millennials' vision and impact. While equal justice is both one of America's firmly embedded principles and widely disputed topics at all political levels, Millennials remain on the frontline, challenging congressional debates and policies on immigration, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, and various topics that represent a threat to the advancement of equality in America.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Readers and politicians will hear from Millennials motivated to solve the problems of yesterday and promote the progress of all people in the future. This year's 10 Ideas of Equal Justice represent some of the most innovative ideas being put forward to end discrimination and advance equal justice across the nation. These proposals represent the urgency of restoring progressive values and principles that once aimed to confront unfair practices and standards in America, while focusing on future obstacles and trends.

Marielle DeJong and Katherine Reilly, students from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are challenging the communication between tribal and federal law enforcement and their practices in investigations in order to address the unprecedented rates of violent crimes and sexual assaults on Native American women. They outline policies necessary to effectively combat the assault on Native America women and restore justice on tribal lands for all victims.

Emily Apple, a student at Hunter College, proposes a plan to bridge the poverty gap for vulnerable communities in New York City by making healthy food accessible to all. She insists that all New York residents should have an agricultural community garden within a one-mile radius of their homes where they can purchase low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. She writes that all communities have the right to healthy, affordable food, and aims to eliminate disparities and inequities by encouraging large community garden programs to participate and the usage of EBT cards.

Erik Lampmann, a student at the University of Richmond, exposes the tax inequities between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Lampmann is interested in encouraging employers to change their LBGTQ priorities to include the absorption of an added tax on transfer of health benefits among domestic partners while advocating for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage act (DOMA). Thus far, 80 businesses have committed to "tax equity" to place pressure on officials to legislate for the repeal of DOMA.

Although these are a just few of the many Millennial voices featured in the publication of 10 Ideas of Equal Justice, Millennial across the country continue to be deeply involved in developing social innovation to end discrimination. Students are addressing structural and institutionalized inequities, social norms, and unjust practices in our society in order to create equal opportunities and uphold basic human rights for all.

May Mgbolu is the Senior Fellow for Equal Justice at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a senior at the University of Arizona.

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We Still Aren’t Meeting the Needs of Female Veterans

Mar 29, 2012Lily Roberts

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

world-hand-200As part of the 10 Ideas: A Defense Strategy for the Global Generation series, a recognition of the need to improve the care of our women who serve.

Upon his retirement in January, General Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of the U.S. Army, told reporters that prohibiting women from serving in combat was anachronistic. Female soldiers, he claimed, were essentially already seeing combat. "I have felt for the longest period of time that on a nonlinear battlefield there are no safe jobs," he said. "Everyone is in a situation where they are, in fact, in harm's way. There is this mistaken belief that somehow that through prohibiting women in combat jobs we can protect them. I would rather have standards that we apply across the board."

Chiarelli's comments come at a time when the implications of the roles women play in the U.S. military affect more veterans and families than ever. Over the past decades, women have joined branches of the military at higher rates than ever before, comprising 14.6 percent of active duty forces. On top of this, women comprise 13 percent of the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

While official policy mandates that women do not serve in combat roles in the U.S. military, women still suffer from physical and psychological injury. In 2009 and 2010, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, and depression were the three conditions diagnosed most frequently among female veterans. In addition, approximately one in five women seen by Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals respond "yes" when screened for military sexual trauma (assault or harassment experienced while in the military).

While significant cuts to the VA budget in 2009 slowed programming in 2010 and 2011, the prioritization of female veteran health care was increased in 2010 with the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. The Act created the first comprehensive study in recent years of barriers to health care for female veterans, designed pilot programming for group therapy for female veterans no longer on active duty, and created a two-year pilot program to assess the feasibility of offering childcare to veterans.

Join the conversation about the Roosevelt Institute’s new initiative, Rediscovering Government, led by Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

In addition, in early February the military began slightly easing restrictions on the roles female soldiers can play in combat zones. About 14,000 combat positions will now be open to women, although 283,000 positions, nearly all of them in the Army and Marine Corps, will remain closed.

These numbers, however, don't reflect the reality of American military service, in which even those in "non-combat" roles may find themselves embroiled in violent confrontations. And while there have been recent improvements in services, not all of the needs of women who have served in the military are being met.

It is vital that the VA adapt to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of female veterans. While VA services in recent years have increased their emphasis on mental health, logistical aspects of many hospitals can make accessing care challenging for patients, particularly for women. An important example is that women may be barred from group therapy sessions dealing with issues of PTSD because spots are reserved for those who saw combat. Even female veterans decorated for their performance in combat may be prohibited from group therapy for this reason. While appeals processes exist, they are slow and unknown to many veterans. Making these groups available to all veterans diagnosed with PTSD will increase the speed with which veterans access group therapy services.

VA hospitals may also not be physically laid out to provide comfortable access to mental health services. Creating specific exam rooms and separate clinic entrances for women attempting to access female health services (i.e. gynecological services) or mental health services may prevent the harassment and discomfort they experience when they must walk through wards of physical care services full of older, largely male veterans. In addition to the provision of childcare, these minor policy changes will make health care more accessible to female veterans and will ease their search for treatment.

The simplest solution to gaining access to therapy for all those facing post-combat trauma would be for the military to acknowledge that women deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have already experienced combat, regardless of official policy. The VA should amend therapy eligibility to include all patients diagnosed with "combat-related" PTSD, which would include female veterans whose combat experience is unofficial. Individual hospitals should create separate waiting rooms, entrances, and exam rooms for female veterans, particularly when their diagnosis may be more sensitive (i.e. mental health services or sexual trauma). No veteran should face harassment or roadblocks in his or her search for treatment.

Lily Roberts is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is the coordinator of the Eleanor Roosevelt Policy Initiative for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Ellen Chesler: Contraception Sparked an Economic Revolution for Women

Mar 26, 2012

Think that the controversy over birth control is a purely social issue? Think again. In last week's episode of "Fireside Chats" on Bloggingheads, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler and author and writer Michelle Goldberg discussed the economic impacts of birth control. "If you are a working woman in America today, government protection of your right to have contraception covered by your insurance carrier...is crticial to your economic well-being and the economic well-being of your family," Ellen says.

Think that the controversy over birth control is a purely social issue? Think again. In last week's episode of "Fireside Chats" on Bloggingheads, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Ellen Chesler and author and writer Michelle Goldberg discussed the economic impacts of birth control. "If you are a working woman in America today, government protection of your right to have contraception covered by your insurance carrier...is crticial to your economic well-being and the economic well-being of your family," Ellen says.


As Ellen points out, women had worked before birth control became widely available, "but they worked episodically until the 1970s and '80s, early in their lives before marriage or once their children were grown." Then things began to change, and the change came rapidly. It was in the '80s, she notes, "relatively recently in history, that in the United States Census more women indentified as workers than homemakers." Now that's the predominant family model. Yet this revolution didn't happen all by itself. "Contraception is a sine qua non of this economic revolution," she says.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

Now that the revolution is here, what is the outlook for the future? Ellen is optimistic. "I think 80 percent of the country is comfortable with these long-term structural changes in the basic organization of families," she says. "But 20 percent of the country is not, and they form the base of the Republican Party now." Yet she points out that polling shows strong support among young people. "The future is really with us," she concludes.

Watch the entire video below for a discussion of Romney's changing position on birth control, whether the left should thank the GOP for going after contraception, and why Planned Parenthood is so important:


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It Can Get Better Now: Improving the School Climate for LGBT Students

Mar 23, 2012Jessica Morris

classroom 309As part of the 10 Ideas: A Millennial Lesson Plan for Education series, a proposed law that would make schools a safe place to learn for students of all orientations.

classroom 309As part of the 10 Ideas: A Millennial Lesson Plan for Education series, a proposed law that would make schools a safe place to learn for students of all orientations.

Two years ago, Constance McMillen, a lesbian student, was told she couldn't take her girlfriend to her high school's prom and wear a tuxedo. After U.S. District Court Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that the Itawamba County School District violated the First Amendment at the court hearing, outraged parents organized a secret prom without sending an invitation to Constance. She ended up transferring to another high school. On July 20th, 2010, the school district settled by paying her $35,000 and agreeing to implement a non-discrimination policy that would include sexual orientation.

This story immediately spread like wildfire to the Facebook community, as well as to major news networks including CNN and USA Today. People furiously questioned the level of protection lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students actually have in public schools. Along with the bullying Constance faced from the students, the school board members aggravated homophobic discrimination by keeping her from attending the prom due to her sexual orientation. How could this happen? Currently only 11 states, including DC, protect LGBT youth in public schools. This means that in 39 states, LGBT students are not protected from harassment.

Homophobic harassment, especially from peers, is often present in schools. In a Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) study from 2009, 84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed. Over 60 percent of these students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, while 39.9 percent felt unsafe because of their gender expression. A majority, 63.7 percent, reported being verbally harassed, while 27.2 percent reported being physically harassed and 12.5 percent reported being physically assaulted at school because of their gender expression. This is a call for reforming policies in the education system nationally. These students need support.

The It Gets Better project is a collaboration of videos from celebrities, young people, and even politicians, including the president, telling LGBT youth that their lives will get better and that suicide is not the answer. Though these tearful, uplifting videos provide a sense of community and positive messages for LGBT teens, they cannot promise actual protection. A national law prohibiting the discrimination of LGBT teens can fulfill that promise.

Check out the new special issue of The Nation, guest-edited by Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act can help assuage homophobic and transphobic harassment in school and forbid schools from discriminating against LGBT students. It was introduced in the 111th Congress in 2010, but was rejected. Now it has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions after being introduced in the Senate by Senator Al Franken and in the House by Representative Jared Polis and cosponsored by 152 members of Congress. It forces federal departments and agencies to curtail any financial assistance for public schools that prevent students from participating in programs because of their sexual preference or gender identity, or those that condone homophobic and transphobic harassment.

In addition to the enforcements this bill would provide, workshops on sensitivity to homophobia should be required for all public school teachers and administrative staff. Through these workshops, teachers and staff members will have the resources to combat homophobic and transphobic behavior in and outside of the classroom. There are already examples of successful programs for these kinds of trainings. The Rochester school district and the New York City Department of Education have a program called "Respect for All," hosted by GLSEN, and the American Civil Liberties Union has "Making Schools Safe." GLSEN's survey reports that the grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students were less often harassed. These developmental trainings, which take place prior to the beginning of the school year, will not only boost morale, but they can lead to higher test scores.

A few days ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post introducing a program called "Stories Project: NOW" from GLSEN Greater Cincinnati. It focuses on ensuring the safety of LGBT students by offering training to create a better climate in their schools. A teacher in the video critiqued a staff member for being unsupportive and sending ignorant messages to a LGBT student:

"I was recently talking to a student who said, 'When I went to my guidance counselor to talk about why I was being bullied, the guidance counselor repeatedly said, 'well what can you do to change the situation?'' The idea that a student should be changing their behavior because they're being bullied is a problem and that doesn't come from the students, that comes from the adults."

Why should LGBT students wait to have their lives get better? They should be protected from being bullied either from fellow students or staff members now. Policies should be implemented immediately to ensure the safety of our youth and so that the stories of them taking their lives can end.

Jessica Morris is a Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member and a first -year student at Mount Holyoke College. She majors in politics and minors in law and public policy.

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Dorian Warren: Why Resetting the Agenda is No Easy Task

Mar 14, 2012Tim Price

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren appeared on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry along with Shelby Knox of Change.org on Saturday to discuss why Republicans are so good at setting the political agenda and why it may have backfired on them recently. In the video below, Dorian notes that on the right, "all it takes is one big fat guy with a microphone spouting off to set the agenda, but it takes thousands of people to come together for us to reset the agenda. That's the reality of grassroots politics."

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren appeared on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry along with Shelby Knox of Change.org on Saturday to discuss why Republicans are so good at setting the political agenda and why it may have backfired on them recently. In the video below, Dorian notes that on the right, "all it takes is one big fat guy with a microphone spouting off to set the agenda, but it takes thousands of people to come together for us to reset the agenda. That's the reality of grassroots politics."

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Dorian argues that over the last 40 years, "Republicans have been better at all three faces of power" -- not just setting the agenda, but coercing people through the use of tools like Super PACs and influencing ideas with their free market rhetoric. But he notes that while dominant ideologies and institutions might seem too big or entrenched to change, "we always have to challenge reigning ideas that are oppressive" and "challenge those in power who are setting the agenda which is not in our interest." He cites the Occupy movement as one example of ordinary Americans coming together to take on titans like Bank of America.

Of course, as Republicans have learned all too well through their attempt to exhume the long-buried contraception debate, "you never know when you're agenda-setting what the backlash might be."

For more, check out Dorian's take on how rules are shaping the GOP primaries, the forgotten plight of the 99ers, and the cultural impact of the Notorious B.I.G. (Hey, even the AARP misses him.)

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Is a She-covery Really in Sight?

Mar 12, 2012Mike Konczal

One key data adjustment makes women's supposed job gains in recent months all but disappear.

One key data adjustment makes women's supposed job gains in recent months all but disappear.

New Deal 2.0 editor Bryce Covert had an excellent summary of gender and the recovery over at The Nation, "One Mancession Later, Are Women Really Victors in the New Economy?" Trying to figure out why women's job growth have been lagging in 2010-2011 has been a bit of an industry in the econoblogosphere, and Covert brings together the debate.

But is this changing? David Leonhardt has a post up at Economix, "Has the He-covery Become a She-covery?," which features the following argument and graph:

For nearly all of 2010 and 2011, job growth was stronger for men than for women, causing Catherine Rampell and others to refer to the recovery as a “he-covery.” But in the last few months, the trend has turned around: since December, job growth has been significantly stronger for women than men...

But there's a slight problem with how that data is shown in the graph above. That graph is from the household survey. In the release of the December jobs numbers, there was a big change in the employment numbers as a result of the annual benchmarking process and the updating of seasonal adjustment factors:

Effective with data for January 2012, updated population estimates which reflect the results of Census 2010 have been used in the household survey. Population estimates for the household survey are developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the estimates to reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population during the decade... In accordance with usual practice, BLS will not revise the official household survey estimates for December 2011 and earlier months... The adjustment increased the estimated size of the civilian noninstitutional population in December by 1,510,000, the civilian labor force by 258,000, employment by 216,000, unemployment by 42,000, and persons not in the labor force by 1,252,000.

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Employment went up 216,000 as a result of these changes, and those extra employed people were all put in the month the changes occurred instead of smoothed across the year ("in accordance with usual practices" above). What it doesn't say is that while employment was adjusted up 216,000, men were adjusted down 368,000 jobs and women were adjusted up 584,000. So December showed women gaining 584,000 jobs as a result of statistical population adjustments that, in reality, should have been smoothed across a longer time frame.

I was happy to see this, as I had spent some time last fall trying to figure out why the household numbers were so different from the business survey when divided out by gender, and this helped bring them back in sync. But this is what is pushing up the six-month average in the graph above, not a sudden rush of actual job growth for women.

Instead of looking at the household survey, a look at the business survey shows that men are always gaining more jobs since the recovery took off:

Mike Konczal is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

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International Women's Day: Celebrating Where We Are and Gearing Up for Where We Must Go

Mar 9, 2012Ellen Chesler

While Republicans continue to chip away at women's rights at home, increasing rights for women around the world is having a huge impact.

While Republicans continue to chip away at women's rights at home, increasing rights for women around the world is having a huge impact.

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and celebrations took place all over the world. Perhaps none was more prominent than the event at the U.S. Department of State where First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave out "Women of Courage" awards for the fourth year in a row. They recognized 10 individuals selected by U.S. embassies around the world as examples of grit and bravery in the global struggle for basic human freedoms and women's rights. The recipients' stories are inspiring, if bone-chilling. They need to be heard by American women, whose status as full and equal citizens is being challenged just about every day by outspoken priests, pundits, and politicians who are questioning long-established rights to family planning and other women's health programs.

Access to safe and reliable contraception has helped make possible the hard-won gains that women in the United States have achieved during the past 40 years in education, employment, and participation in public life. And no irony was lost in the fact that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives marked International Women's Day by holding another in what has been a constant drumbeat of hearings on some piece of legislation that would roll back fundamental reproductive rights and further politicize women's health.

Meanwhile, largely unnoticed over in Foggy Bottom, Secretary Clinton handed awards to an Afghani woman persecuted under the Taliban who now runs the one radio station in the country that teaches women about their rights, and to a true heroine from Burma, recently freed by the military regime after 11 years in prison simply because she had campaigned for civilian government, who is now back advocating for women, ethnic minorities, and political prisoners. Recognition also went to a 27-year-old architect from Libya who has became a clarion voice of her country's liberation movement, to two women's rights activists protesting the state sanctioned oppression of women in Saudia Arabia and Sudan, and to a women's affairs minister from the Maldives pressing for laws against domestic violence and female genital cutting. In conferring this prize, Clinton remarked in no uncertain terms to spontaneous applause, "[W]e thank you for improving lives and sending the message that domestic violence is not a cultural practice, it is a crime."

Rounding out the group was a Turkish parliamentarian who has become an international voice on the rights of the disabled and a Pakistani NGO leader from the country's most conservative provinces who has challenged a local ban on women seeking political office.  And finally there were a Brazilian police official once kidnapped by Rio street gangs and a Columbian journalist once tortured by arms smugglers, both still determined to campaign openly against the endemic violence women still face even as their countries experience modernization and growth.

Ceremonies have indisputable value. Placing compelling human faces on the courage with which ordinary women around the world fight the many indignities they endure as a daily matter "isn't just the right thing to do," as Secretary Clinton often says and repeated yesterday in her brief remarks, "it's also the smart thing to do." Clinton has long stood firmly behind the fundamental principle of the global women's movement, to which she memorably staked a claim in Beijing in 1995: Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are the right of every woman.

Check out “The 99 Percent Plan,” a new Roosevelt Institute/Salon essay series on the progressive vision for the economy.

But in the years since, she has also repositioned the issue not just as a moral imperative, but as a strategic condition of success in U.S foreign policy if our aim is to meet the world's most critical security and development challenges. She rarely misses an opportunity to remind her audiences that investments in women's rights and opportunities have immediate pay offs -- that when women gain equality of opportunity and when their labor is formalized, it's not just the women who benefit. Poverty declines, economies expand, public health improves, more children are educated, the conditions for democratic practice are secured, and conflict subsides. The evidence is no longer anecdotal.  Hundreds of empirically driven studies demonstrate a direct correlation between the improved status of women and the stability and well-being first of their immediate communities and eventually of entire countries and regions on which U.S. national security depends.

But honoring the work of individuals, however worthy, can also make complex matters seem deceptively simple, as though we can change a very messy world one woman at a time. The vulnerability of women around the world, as we are seeing all too well in our own country today, is deeply embedded in the very real assaults of globalization on economies and cultures. As academic feminists like to remind us, we cannot ignore the deep "intersections" of gender, race, class, and power. Women's rights must be placed within a comprehensive human development framework that promotes social justice and well-being for all, along with women's full citizenship. And this is a tall order.

Yesterday, this exact point was made by Laymah Gbowee, the feisty and outspoken Liberian who won the 2012 Nobel Prize for organizing market women to help bring peace to her war-torn country. "These women are working very hard. And yes, we can give them all the verbal support, we can give them all the honors," she said, "but until we continue to make it possible for them to work through resources, their issues will continue to be issues for politicians to use to make themselves look good when it's elections time." She concluded, "It's time for us to support our sisters, not just leave them with honor."

Secretary Clinton spoke directly to that challenge, promising that next week, at a gathering in Washington of all U.S. ambassadors, she will issue the "first ever" secretarial policy directive on gender in an effort  to institutionalize a permanent concern that U.S. resources be  allocated in new ways. Complementing a recently released USAID gender policy, this directive will mandate specific steps toward promoting gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls in all aspects of U.S. national security and foreign policy and will require that budgets and expenditures be analyzed from an explicit gender perspective. Together with the creation of permanent high-level staff positions, including a Global Ambassador for Women's Rights, the aim has been no less than to transform a diplomatic bureaucracy and culture long either indifferent or outright hostile to recognizing women as potential agents of change.

Just how this new way of thinking can work, however, was beautifully illustrated in a speech earlier this week at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York by the Obama/Clinton appointee at USAID, Administrator Rajiv Shah. He beckoned his audience to observe a common pattern in the age of the populations of the fastest growing and most stable countries in Latin America and East Asia today, where the percentage of workers between the ages of 15 and 64 is much larger than the percentage of the very young or very old. This phenomenon is a consequence of the demographic dividend that has resulted from decisions made collaboratively with the United States during the 1960s and 1970s in places like Thailand to expand access to voluntary family planning, to improve child survival, and to offer education and formal work opportunities to women and girls. Falling birthrates left behind just enough working-age men and women to grow economies in an orderly fashion, without placing them under too much strain. And the promising news is that at least several countries in Africa today are poised to follow.

Which leaves us with what may be our greatest challenge today: how to explain this phenomenon to a crop of Republican presidential contenders and members of Congress who are poised to take away the very benefits of U.S. support for reproductive health at home and abroad that made these gains possible. A tall order, indeed.

Ellen Chesler, a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, has a chapter in a new book published this week by Seven Stories Press in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women's Rights.

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Making the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Fully Gender Inclusive

Mar 8, 2012Minjon Tholen

On International Women's Day, a proposal that will make sure a vital document includes women's rights as human rights.

"It is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it." - Audre Lorde

On International Women's Day, a proposal that will make sure a vital document includes women's rights as human rights.

"It is necessary to scrutinize not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of that language by which we speak it." - Audre Lorde

The continued battle over women's rights both in the United States and across the world calls for a reaffirmation of the fact that women's rights are human rights. International Women's Day is the perfect time to once again point that out and challenge the gender bias in the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, it was explicitly reaffirmed that women's rights are human rights. The commitment of the United Nations, its member states, and NGOs to this important recognition has become clear in their efforts for the advancement of women and gender equality in their policies and practices. An important example is the institution of UN Women, the gender equity agency uniting the Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and United Nations Development Fund for Women.

However, this evolving consciousness has not yet been reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself: the fundamental document human rights advocates base their work on. The declaration emphasizes that human rights are indivisible and apply to all members of the human family, and Article 2 explicitly states that there will be no distinction based on gender. Yet Article 1 still reads, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

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Furthermore, almost half of the articles (8, 10, 11.1, 12, 13.2, 15.2, 17.2, 18, 21.1/21.2, 22, 23.3/23.4, 25.1, 27.2, 29.1/29.2) use the male pronouns "him," "he," "himself," and/or "his" as the generic terms to represent all of humanity. This initial gender bias in the declaration is historically understandable, but today needs to be addressed if we are truly committed to the full inclusion of women's rights in human rights. If you are not convinced, imagine all pronouns to be feminine. Wouldn't that sound exclusive of men? Therefore, we should replace the word "brotherhood" in Article 1 with something along the lines of "human solidarity." This term is gender inclusive and reaffirms our shared humanity, which in turn strengthens the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the same way, the words "him," "himself," "he," and "his" should be replaced with "one," "one's," or "their".

This linguistic adaptation will be of invaluable symbolic importance,  as it recognizes the efforts of those working for women's rights and truly reaffirms the United Nations' commitment to gender equity. It is well known that words are not value-free: they simultaneously reflect and reinforce values and attitudes. Moreover, a change in language is not only symbolic, but also has practical value for educational purposes. Gender equity should be integral to the next generation's upbringing and curriculum. When they learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they should not have any reason to read gender bias in the concept of "human."

Since the declaration was always intended to include women, there should be no legal consequences of these changes. And I by no means suggest a complete re-examination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is merely an update in the language. Fifteen years after Beijing, it is time to review the Declaration from the perspective of our evolving consciousness regarding women's rights and gender equity. We must recognize the dedicated efforts of millions of women and men around this world for these causes by reflecting their work in the central declaration for human rights, either in the document itself or in the form of an addendum.

Like all gender equality advocates, I am dedicated to the tireless efforts of the global women's movement. I hope to do so with a gender-inclusive Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Minjon Tholen is a Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow and the Training & Development Specialist at Cook Ross Inc.

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