Fighting for Title IX with Legal Advocacy

June 22, 2012

This week, as we celebrate Title IX’s 40th birthday and the advances the law has inspired for gender equity, it’s worth remembering AAUW’s year-round efforts to support women who have challenged sex discrimination in education. AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund has been instrumental in the success of many gender discrimination cases — in education and in the workplace — during its 31-year history. LAF’s case-support program provides financial and organizational backing for a select number of lawsuits that have the potential to set significant precedents for gender equity. The funds to do this come directly from the generous contributions of AAUW members. Other LAF initiatives include community and campus outreach programs, our Online Resource Library with downloadable advocacy tools, a Legal Referral Network, and research reports.

One case in which LAF played a major role is Mansourian v. Regents of the University of California. LAF first took up this case in 2005, but the women had been fighting long before that. In 2003, Arezou Mansourian, Christine Ng, and Lauren Mancuso filed suit after UC Davis eliminated women’s opportunities in wrestling and dozens of other sports. While the case continued long after they graduated, the women racked up a series of precedent-setting court victories for Title IX, including a landmark win at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which rejected the imposition of procedural hurdles to Title IX suits that challenge inequities in athletic participation. After a bench trial, the court found that the university had violated Title IX. Settlement of a spin-off, class-action lawsuit prompted improvement in the athletic participation ratios of women at UC Davis and provided funds to female athletes at the school.

After their court win, Mansourian, Ng, and Mancuso thanked AAUW members in a letter:

The case simply could not have happened without AAUW’s support. We could not have litigated this fight to victory without the fiscal support of AAUW and the moral support of its members. This case has been embraced at countless AAUW conventions and events across the country. During this long battle, AAUW had our back, and we will continue to have yours.

Mancuso told AAUW that while she was pleased by the outcome of the case, it “serves as a reminder that no matter how much progress we have made in the struggle for equality, there is still much more that needs to be done.”

As former Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) once said, “Title IX is rather simple — don’t discriminate on the basis of sex.” But when discrimination does occur, AAUW is ready to support women like Mansourian, Ng, and Mancuso, who spent years fighting in court in order to see Title IX enforced for all of us. The Legal Advocacy Fund exists for precisely that purpose — to combat sex discrimination wherever it occurs.

A great way to celebrate 40 years of progress in education and to recognize and support future Title IX enforcement is to help us continue our case-support work by donating to the Legal Advocacy Fund.

By:   |   June 22, 2012

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