14 Nov 2014
by Anne Yeiser, Louisville RTL Board Member
In 2001 the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) made its way to Louisville. Then city commissioner Delores Delahanty introduced a resolution to Fiscal Court "to ratify the UN [CEDAW]. In doing so, I believe we send a message that discrimination against women which continues to exist in this country and abroad is not acceptable. We also affirm the full advancement of all women in the workplace, their human rights, and their fundamental freedoms." The Fiscal Court passed the Resolution.
One of four members, County Judge/Executive Rebecca Jackson, voted NAY but was obliged to sign the Resolution as the Fiscal Court executive. Her comments were: …while I agree that no one in this world should be discriminated against for any reason… Today, Fiscal Court will vote on a resolution that asks our US government to ratify a UN Treaty that is more than 25 years old…It has languished in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations under four presidents: Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton… so far neither party has gotten… to draw a Senate vote on the issue due to its lack of support within both Democratically and Republican controlled Senates… 165 countries in all have ratified this treaty. Of those more than one third have added reservations [that] severely hamper anyone's ability to actually achieve those goals outlined… [It offers] Dictators and Despots a shield to cover… to hide from the accusations made against the leadership… Do we believe that any of these Countries are truly living up to the standards that… the treaty sets out?… [It] allows leaders to pretend that they are not discriminating against the very women that the treaty is designed to protect. I believe this is dangerous.
(To read Jackson's full statement, see the "R-193-14 ATTACH Jeff Cty RES 20 SERIES 2001.pdf" available here.)
Again, during the autumn of 2014 a committee chaired by Metro Council member Mary Woolridge promoted CEDAW through a Resolution. The full Council was asked to vote on the Resolution on Thursday, November 6, 2014. A 90-minute discussion preceded the vote to allow the minority that opposed it to state objections and to hear arguments. You can watch and listen to the full proceedings here. For more on the Compassionate Cities initiative referred to in the debate, go here. Louisville is 35th on that list.
Visitors to the meeting sat on the right and left. Looking toward Metro Council Chairman Jim King, the CEDAW supporters sat on the left and those opposed were on the right. It was symbolic.
Just after the meeting was called to order, citizen activists were given three minutes each to express opinions on Louisville Metro Council agenda items. To see the agenda for November 6, 2014, go here. Of eight citizens, two were Right to Life leaders, Margie Montgomery and Mike Janocik. They presented the case against passing Resolution R-193-14. Three citizens spoke in favor of CEDAW. Other topics were also addressed. We have asked permission of the Metro Council to post the audio of Margie and Mike on this page. Their photos were captured by screenshot from the online video. To read the Right to Life letter to the Council opposing the Resolution and the League of Women Voters letter that encourages a YES vote, go here.
A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING CITIES FOR THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW) INITIATIVE BY THE LOUISVILLE METRO COUNCIL AND SUPPORT OF INDIVIDUAL CITIES PASSING RESOLUTIONS AND ORDINANCES TO IMPLEMENT THE PRINCIPLES OF THE UN CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN AT THE LOCAL LEVEL (As Amended).
The Amended version drops all reference to CEDAW but retains the anti-discrimination language. For the amended version and other pertinent attachments, go here. A vote on accepting the amended resolution failed. Those voting YES to the AMENDED Resolution were: Robin Engel, Stuart Benson, Kevin Kramer, Ken Fleming, Cindi Fowler, Kelly Downard, Glen Stuckel, Marilyn Parker, Dan Johnson, James Peden and David Yates. NOTE: In the summary of the CEDAW TREATY, the website referenced as www.WomensTreaty.com should be www.WomensTreaty.org/ and http://www.cedaw2014.org On those web pages, you will see that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) is leading the charge.
At the tail end of the debate, Councilman David Yates spoke up that Council members are "sent here to do a job." He said that members are elected to work on filling potholes and putting people back to work and that this discussion was taking away from "the things we are paid to do." He pointed out that all members opposed discrimination against women and wanted to support a local effort to help put an end to any that exists, and suggested wording to eliminate the CEDAW support.
After a final vote, 20 voted in favor of the amended language and 3 opposed. Yates's revision basically read, “This resolution neither condones or endorses any treaty.” However, the Resolution title is: “A Resolution Supporting Cities for CEDAW” (to the best of my knowledge and I have not found a document that records the final version.) The 90-minute time limit rushed the vote to a conclusion and three council members who spoke against the resolution did not agree with the final amendment. It was confusing. A webpage celebrating the passage of the Resolution is here. The white sheets you see in the photos were messages or signs in support of CEDAW that supporters held high.