Virginia Chapter
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July 8, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia has eliminated a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits, becoming only the seventh state in the country to do so, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said Wednesday.

Herring said the project to test rape kits — some decades old — began in 2015. Since then, 2,665 rape kits have been tested, 851 new DNA profiles have been uploaded into a national DNA database and 354 “hits” have been sent to law enforcement agencies for further investigation.

Rape kits are used to collect DNA and other physical evidence from rape victims.

“Eliminating this backlog means that a wrong has been righted, that justice is closer for more survivors and that Virginia is a safer place,” Herring said during a news conference.

In November, Herring announced that a Spotsylvania man has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor after being identified through the initiative to test untested rape kits. Herring said the man was charged after the DNA profile from a 2012 rape kit was uploaded to the national database and identified him as the source.

Herring said when he first took office six years ago, he was shocked to learn the state had a backlog of nearly 3,000 untested rape kits.

Along with eliminating the backlog, the state Department of Forensic Science developed an electronic tracking system so victims and law enforcement agencies are able to check the status and location of rape kits.

Debbie Smith, a Williamsburg woman who was raped by a masked intruder in 1989, said that after her perpetrator’s trial, she was shown a storage area filled with untested rape kits. She said she was heartbroken when she looked at all the kits because she knew “that each one of those women were feeling the same feelings I felt before my assailant was identified.”

“These kits can contain powerful DNA evidence that can identify unknown perpetrators, long unsolved cases, prevent rapists from claiming future victims, and it can even exonerate the innocent,” said Smith, the founder of Hope Exists after Rape Trauma, Inc., a nonprofit foundation, to help victims of sexual assault.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Smith has been a longtime public advocate for rape victims.

The state used two grants totaling $3.4 million to eliminate the backlog. The first grant of $1.4 million was used to test nearly 1,800 kits that had been collected before 2014. The second grant of $2 million was used to test about 900 kits collected been 2014 and 2016.

Forging a Path to Racial Equality
  Uniting to reform law enforcement and combat voter suppression
On Saturday, July 18, Virginia NOW will hold our bi-annual state conference via ZOOM to  elect state officers  and to  move our feminist justice and equality agenda forward . The conference will be held from 1 to 3pm. To register, contact president@vanow.org
 
Agenda
Election of Virginia NOW State Officers (nominations due July 15, also can be made from the floor -details below)
 
Planning for the General Assembly Special Session:
 
 
Looking to the Elections of 2020
Qasim Rashid , JD – Candidate, 1 st  Congressional District 
Cameron Webb , MD- Candidate, 5 th  Congressional District *
 
Temi Amoye  – Virginia State Director, NextGen America *
Brianna Carmen  -Director of Organizing and Partnerships, Voto Latino*
 
Pat Reuss, Virginia NOW Executive Vice President and PAC Coordinator
 
Open Mike- Chapter Actions
Charlottesville
Loudoun County
Other Reports and audience questions/suggestions
 
*Invited Speakers
 
NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICE ARE DUE JULY 15.  Nominations will also be accepted from the floor at the meeting. Please direct questions about membership to  president@vanow.org
 
All elected offices are open: president, executive vp, legislative vp, membership vp, communications vp. Descriptions of officer positions are at  https://vanow.org/about-us/governance . Nominees must be NOW members for at least a year. To nominate a person for office or to self-nominate, submit a paragraph describing skills and qualifications to  nominations@vanow.org . Members will be appointed by the state president to serve in unfilled offices.
 
All members in good standing at least 30 days prior to the election date may vote. A member in good standing has paid dues/renewed their membership in that period of time.
 
If there are no contested offices, we will vote by acclimation at the meeting. If any offices are contested, we will hold a candidates forum at this meeting. Ballots will be sent and received via email. Members without email can download a ballot from  www.vanow.org  and send it via USPS surface mail to 7439 Patterson Road, Falls Church, VA 22043-1332.
 
 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW andover 50 women’s rights and civil rights organizations filed a joint amicus curiaebrief(with the assistance of Winston & Strawn LLP) urging the enshrinement of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the Constitution The brief was submitted in support of a lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada – all three states having recently passed ratification measures. Their lawsuit argues that the Archivist of the United States must now certify the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the U.S. Constitution.

The Trump Administration is doing all that it can to stop the adoption of the ERAIn early January, the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, issued a finding that because an extended deadline in 1982 has long since passed, it is too late for more states to ratify and that Congress must start over.  In May, the Department of Justice then asked the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the three A.G.s in support of the Amendment.

Our ERA brief filed today offers this response, “As a matter of constitutional law, the plain language of Article V dictates when the ERA becomes valid to all intent and purposes — namely, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.” Congress cannot change the Article V process on its ownwithout asking the states to ratify the change. A time limit imposed unilaterally by Congress cannot stand in the way of the will of the people in thirty-eight states that ratified the ERA as provided in the Constitution.

The ERA satisfied all constitutional requirements for ratification in January 2020 when Virginia became the thirty-eighth state to ratify.The brief refutes the many baseless arguments of those who do not want to see the inclusion of the ERA. It argues that the Constitution reflects the norms of its time, intentionally excluding women, among other marginalized groups, from basic rights under the law.

The briefalso recountthe long, determined — and sometimes painful — effort — to achieve full equality for women, beginning more than 200 years agoA history of entrenched discrimination and denial of first-class citizenship and its attendant rights for women is told, but the story of women striving and succeeding in many areas despite these barriers is noted.

Our movement towards equality has been ongoing, but in the wake of the #MeToo movement, there is a greater understanding of the gender-based violence and inequality women faceWe know that women today face these issues in nearly every sphere, through domestic and sexual violence, in economic and employment-related scenarios, and much more

As the largest grassroots feminist organization in the country, NOW has worked tirelessly for decades, deploying tens of thousands of our activists to educate, lobby, and urge ratification of the ERA.  We are proud to stand with our coalition partners and advocates because we believe that there is no time limit on equality and that the protection of women’s rights must finally be enshrined in the Constitution.

Released on 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court’s decision today in June Medical Services v. Russo struck down a Louisiana law imposing targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP laws) that the Court had previously found unconstitutional in Texas. TRAP laws are not designed to protect women’s health, but rather to expand the power of patriarchal church leaders and conservative Republicans and to dictate women’s most personal health decisions. 

The court also declined to rule on third-party standing which means that abortionproviders can continue to challenge laws that restrict access on behalf of their patients which is a crucial win for abortion activists. The case was a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his majority opinion, this case was “almost word-for-word identical” to the law at issue in the Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt, from 2016. In that case, the crucial fifth vote was cast by Justice Kennedy—but his replacement, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, voted to keep the restrictions on the books.  

Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority in this case, but only because he agreed with Breyer that the issues had already been decided by the Court.  He reiterated his opposition to the arguments made by the majority in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt.  He doesn’t agree with Justice Breyer that the Texas and Louisiana laws “will continue to make it impossible for abortion providers to obtain conforming privileges for reasons that have nothing to do with the State’s asserted interests in promoting women’s health and safety.”

This means that with John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch on the Court, access to abortion care is still on the brink of repeal.  NOW applauds today’s legal victory, but we have no illusions about the challenges women still face in defending their reproductive rights from activist judges and extremist politicians.

Today we celebrate, but tomorrow we march—and in November, we vote.

June 24, 2020- WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate’s failure to movedecisively on comprehensive policing reform underscores the urgent need for Congress to follow the lead of their constituents, who overwhelmingly support an end to abusive policing practices, state-sanctioned violence and systemic brutality against Black people at the hands of law enforcement.  Senate Democrats are right to call B.S. on the JUSTICE Act, a pathetic excuse for reform.

NOW supports the position of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to demand that Congress adopt a set of fundamental reformsthat must be in any policing legislation Congress adopts.

These priorities are: (1) the creation of a use of force standard that allows force when necessary and as a last resort; (2) a ban on chokeholds; (3) a ban on racial profiling; (4) the establishment of a police misconduct registry; (5) the inclusion of a “reckless” standard in 18 U.S.C. Section 242 that enables federal prosecutors to hold law enforcement accountable for criminal civil rights violations; (6) a prohibition on no-knock warrants, especially in drug cases; (7) the elimination of the judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity, which allows officers and other government actors to evade accountability when they violate individuals’ rights by abusing and killing suspects; and (8) the demilitarization of law enforcement agencies. 

In less than 12 hours, more than 450 civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice organizations, including NOWsigned on to that letter to support these reforms – none of which are adequately addressed in Senate bill, S. 3985, the so-called JUSTICE Act. The Senate was poised to vote on this bill today.

While some Senate Republicans are showing good-faith interest in at least making a start at reform, Mitch McConnell continues to revel in his self-described role as the “grim reaper” standing in the way of racial justice.  His political posturing and cynical maneuvering continues to cause irreparable harm to marginalized communities and is ultimately costing lives.

NOW activists will continue working with advocates to dismantle this structural racism that has disproportionately caused harm to the Black community.  We stand for racial justice—and the victims of racial profiling, police brutality, and blatant prejudice and hatred.  The American people know what’s happening in the streets.  We demand justice.