Women's Rights Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Women's Rights

The ACLU has argued more women's rights cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other organization. Despite the great strides that have been made in recent decades, gender discrimination remains a very real concern. This discrimination still takes many forms – glass ceilings in the workplace, differential treatment in health insurance coverage, attempts to limit access to reproductive health care, and so on.

Gender Discrimination

It was not so long ago that the ACLU of Rhode Island had to file a lawsuit to overturn a state law that gave a town a one-time exemption from the Fair Employment Practices Act in order to allow its acquisition of an all-male private fire and rescue service. Until full equality is a reality, the ACLU will continue its advocacy work in support of women’s rights.

“Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and Founder of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project

Women’s Rights in the News

  • Nov, 20, 2019: Lawsuit Settled Against Harmony Fire District Over Alleged Sex-Discriminatory Firings
  • Oct, 02, 2019: Settlement Reached in Discrimination Suit Against Newport Grand Casino
  • Jul, 24, 2019: ACLU Commends RI Officials for Urging US Supreme Court NOT to Roll Back LGBTQ Rights

View All Women's Rights Related News Releases »

Women’s Rights Court Cases

2019: Benson v. Raimondo
Category: Abortion    Active Case    Privacy    Women's Rights    

About this Case:
This is a lawsuit filed by private parties challenging the constitutionality of the Reproductive Privacy Act on the grounds that it violates the Rhode Island Constitution.  The ACLU of RI has filed an "friend of court" brief challenging the plaintiffs position.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in June 2019. Defendents have filed a motion to dismiss, and the ACLU of RI brief supports that motion.

Lynette Labinger and Faye Dion

Supporting Documents
2018: Foxy Lady v. City of Providence
Category: Discrimination    Gender Discrimination    Free Speech    

About this Case:
This is “friend of the court” brief filed in the R.I. Supreme Court, arguing that the Providence Board of Licenses’ revocation of the Foxy Lady’s entertainment license, and the failure to issue a stay of the decision pending full judicial review, violate the club’s First Amendment rights.  Our blog post on this ordeal can be found here (The Providence Board of Licenses Comes for the Foxy Lady).

Current Status:
On January 3, 2019, the RI Supreme Court decided to review the case (scheduled for April 2019) and ruled that the Foxy Lady could resume operations in the meantime.

Cooperating Attorney:
Jared Goldstein

Supporting Documents

View All Sex Discrimination Court Cases »

Women’s Rights Legislation

Reproductive Privacy Act (H 5125 Sub A, S 0152 Sub A) Passed
Category: 2019    Abortion    

As the attitude of the US Supreme Court towards abortion rights becomes murkier, pro-choice organizations, including the ACLU, continue to push for the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade to be codified into Rhode Island law. The Reproductive Privacy Act, introduced by Representative Anastasia Williams and Senator Gayle Goldin (H 5125 Sub A and S 0152 Sub A), preserves the status quo of abortion healthcare in Rhode Island, and ensures that the shifting ideology of the Supreme Court does not impede upon a person’s right to choose. The RPA also repeals several state laws on the books which have been found to be unconstitutional, such as a spousal notification requirement. The ACLU testified (read our two pieces of testimony here and here) in support of the critical provisions contained within this bill. We also submitted a detailed memo rebutting the spurious claims of bill opponents that the legislation went beyond the principles of Roe.

Supporters of the RPA celebrated a huge victory when the bill passed the House with no amendments by a vote of 44-30. However, in May, the Senate Judiciary Commitee defeated the bill on a 5-4 vote. The Affiliate also prepared a detailed rebuttal to an alternative proposal offered by Sen. Stephen Archambault, who voted against the bill in committee. In early June, the Senate Judiciary Committee transmitted an amended version of the House bill, H 5125 Sub B, to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it passed out of committee with a vote of 8-2. The bill passed the Senate floor on June 19th with a vote of of 21-17 and was immediately transmitted to the House floor for a vote in concurrence. The bill passed the House by a vote of 45-29 and was signed by the governor later in the evening.