Monday, April 27, 2009

Banks on Thurgood Marshall as "Race Man" and "Pragmatic Feminist"

Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Bench: 'Race Man' and 'Pragmatic Feminist' is a new paper by Taunya Lovell Banks, University of Maryland School of Law. Here's the abstract:
Most people think of Thurgood Marshall as a champion of racial equality. Few legal scholars hail him as a great friend to women when he was on the United States Supreme Court. Yet between 1971, when the Court in Reed v. Reed invalidated a state law preferring men over women as administrators for estates on equal protection grounds, and 1991 when Marshall announced his retirement from the bench, he cast “pro-feminist” votes 92% of the time in gender employment discrimination cases, one percent more than Justice Brennan. ….This overwhelmingly pro-woman voting record might even cause some to call Marshall a feminist… a closer examination of the man, and his record, particularly three decisions, two of which he authored (Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, Florida Star v. B.J.F and Alexander v. Louisiana) where he votes against women’s interests, discloses a more mixed picture…. Without question Thurgood Marshall was a race man, but this article asks whether a good race man can also be a good feminist….I conclude that Marshall, while a friend to women, was no feminist in the contemporary meaning of the word, and at best could be classified as a practical as opposed to an idealistic feminist.
Image: Marshall accepts Supreme Court nomination.