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

  • Mar, 29, 2018: ACLU Applauds Filing of Formal Regulations to Protect Rights of Trans Students
  • Dec, 08, 2017: Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Involving Rhode Island’s Public Breastfeeding Law
  • May, 12, 2017: ACLU Sues YMCA in Westerly for Violating Woman’s Right to Breastfeed

View All Women's Rights Related News Releases »

Women’s Rights Court Cases

2017: Gooding v. Ocean Community YMCA
Category: Discrimination    Gender Discrimination    Women's Rights    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the Ocean Community YMCA in Westerly, RI, on behalf of Elizabeth Gooding for violating her right to breastfeed in public.  The suit, filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, claims that the facility repeatedly prohibited Gooding from breastfeeding her baby there, in violation of state anti-discrimination laws and a statute specifically allowing breastfeeding in public.

Current Status:
Lawsuit settled in November 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
H. Jefferson Melish

Supporting Documents
2016: Perreault v. Harmony Fire District / Ferragamo v. Harmony Fire District
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Gender Discrimination    Women's Rights    Workplace Rights    

About These Cases:
These are two separate lawsuits on behalf of two female EMT/firefighters who were terminated from their jobs at the Harmony Fire District after they raised concerns about unequal treatment of male and female firefighters. Both women were EMT/firefighters for the Harmony Fire District for more than a decade. Ms. Perreault was terminated in January 2015 for purportedly being “unhappy” with the fire department and Ms. Ferragamo was terminated in August 2015 after raising concerns about gender discrimination. Notably, none of the male firefighters who raised concerns about equal treatment of male and female employees were disciplined or terminated.

Current Status:
Lawsuits filed in December 2016.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger, Sonja Deyoe

Supporting Documents

View All Sex Discrimination Court Cases »

Women’s Rights Legislation

Abortions Across State Lines (H 7735, S 2791)
Category: 2018    Abortion    

The General Assembly is considering a host of anti-choice legislation this year aimed at restricting or eliminating the ability of Rhode Islanders to make their own reproductive choices. Among these is legislation (H 7735, S 2791) imposing felony penalties against any person who assists a minor in obtaining an abortion in another state without the consent of the minor's parents or the courts. While many minors may be able to rely on their families to have their best interests at heart when it comes to reproductive freedom, many others do not. Youth who are unable or afraid to obtain a court order for an abortion should not be forced into a desperate and dangerous position when deciding whether or not to continue a pregnancy, and no caring adult should face five years in prison for giving them a ride. 

Abortion (H 7340, S 2163)
Category: 2018    Abortion    

With the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance in light of a divided U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. Edith Ajello and Sen. Gayle Goldin have introduced legislation  (H-7340, S-2163) that would codify the principles of that seminal court decision into state law and ensure that women in Rhode Island continue to have access to safe reproductive health care. The bill also repeals a number of state laws on the books that have been declared unconstitutional over the years. While a similar bill has been introduced for several years, 2018 brings a major push by a coalition of pro-choice organizations, including the ACLU, to enact the bill. The ACLU testified before the House Judiciary committee in April and before the Senate Judiciary committee in May.  Click here for a printable factsheet on this issue