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Women's Rights Movement in the U.S.

Timeline of Key Events in the American Women's Rights Movement
1980–Present

by Ann-Marie Imbornoni

Discover the key events of the women's rights movement in the United States. This timeline covers the years 1980 to 2009, and includes the Supreme Court ruling on sexual harrassment as a form of job discrimination and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

1984

EMILY's List (Early Money Is Like Yeast) is established as a financial network for pro-choice Democratic women running for national political office. The organization makes a significant impact on the increasing numbers of women elected to Congress.

1986

Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court finds that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

1992

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirms the validity of a woman's right to abortion under Roe v. Wade. The case successfully challenges Pennsylvania's 1989 Abortion Control Act, which sought to reinstate restrictions previously ruled unconstitutional.

1994

The Violence Against Women Act tightens federal penalties for sex offenders, funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence, and provides for special training of police officers.

1996

In United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that the all-male Virginia Military School has to admit women in order to continue to receive public funding. It holds that creating a separate, all-female school will not suffice.

1999

The Supreme Court rules in Kolstad v. American Dental Association that a woman can sue for punitive damages for sex discrimination if the anti-discrimination law was violated with malice or indifference to the law, even if that conduct was not especially severe.

2003

In Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Supreme Court rules that states can be sued in federal court for violations of the Family Leave Medical Act.

2005

In Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also inherently prohibits disciplining someone for complaining about sex-based discrimination. It further holds that this is the case even when the person complaining is not among those being discriminated against.

2006

The Supreme Court upholds the ban on the "partial-birth" abortion procedure. The ruling, 5–4, which upholds the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, a federal law passed in 2003, is the first to ban a specific type of abortion procedure. Writing in the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The act expresses respect for the dignity of human life." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissents, called the decision "alarming" and said it is "so at odds with our jurisprudence" that it "should not have staying power."

2009

President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. Previously, victims (most often women) were only allowed 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. This Act is named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15–40% less than her male counterparts, which was later found to be accurate.

2013

In Jan. 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the ban on women serving in combat roles would be lifted. In a Jan. 9 letter to Panetta urging the change Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said, "The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service." The move reverses the 1994 rule that prohibited women from serving in combat. The change will be gradual; some positions will be available to women immediately but each branch of the military has until 2016 to request exceptions to the new rule.

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“Nebraska” comes from an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water.”

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