Civil Rights Aren’t Free — Demand Funding for Enforcement!January 17, 2012
The Obama administration will release its budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 in the next few weeks. This will be the first budget proposed since last summer’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling, which committed the federal government to reducing spending by $1 trillion over the next decade. No doubt the new budget will receive a chilly reception from Congress, which will likely attempt to cut funding for many federal agencies, particularly those charged with protecting our rights. AAUW urges the administration to defend Americans’ civil rights by fully funding government agencies that protect and enforce those rights and by opposing congressional attempts to cut funding for these important programs.
AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals. Adequate enforcement of all civil rights laws requires full funding and staffing of federal civil rights agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs, and the civil rights divisions of various departments — especially the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.
These offices should be given the resources necessary to pursue their work. Some key initiatives include clarifying Title IX protections against the sexual harassment, assault, and bullying of students as well as updating affirmative action guidelines for federal contractors, developing a compensation data-collection tool to investigate wage discrimination, and adopting protections for pregnant workers and parents. In this economy, it is critical that the government make civil rights enforcement a priority because many workers are too scared to speak up for themselves in the workplace.
Americans deserve fair pay, equal access to education and employment, and vigorous protection of their civil rights. The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund has worked for decades to combat sex discrimination in education and in the workplace. Additionally, the AAUW Action Fund has launched My Vote, a nationwide voter education and turnout campaign. Women wield great power in America, and our voices will be heard in 2012. More than ever before, women are registering to vote and casting ballots in greater numbers and with more consistency than men. We are a powerful and influential bloc of voters. The national budget should reflect women’s priorities — including full funding for civil rights enforcement.