Monday, July 27, 2009

Today In Rhode Island History

Wow, I don't remember this at all!! At that time - 30 years ago - I was five years out of high school and obviously wasn't paying attention to what was going on around me. It's a little scary that the law needed to be changed to keep your name. - Maria Armental

It was 30 years ago today that women gained --- in the eyes of the law --- the right to decide what name when married to use in registering a car once they were married.

Until then, women had to take their husband's names.

Requiring married women to use their husbands' names, said the state registrar of motor vehicles at the time, Eugene Petit, "is in the best interest of the safety of the community. It will keep bad drivers off the road and give us better control of the registry." The safety of the community??? Holy smokes, this guy was completely out of touch!

Petit, whose comments were including in the landmark state Supreme Court case Traugott v. Petit, called the requirement "patriotic."

"Listen," Petit is quoted as saying, "I respect gals in every phase. I hope they just respect society in this." Gals??? Certainly doesn't show a lot of respect when he called women gals!

To the ACLU and the women --- and supportive men -- for whom they filed suit, the matter was a simple one: "The very least you can have in this damned life is your own name." That's how Sheila Cabral-Sousa, the volunteer lawyer who successfully litigated the case for the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, summed up the case at the time. Damn right!

The ACLU issued a press release Monday recalling the anniversary, and adding: ""It is true that the past thirty years have seen many victories for women's rights. ... However, the struggle against gender-based discrimination continues to this day in the fight for equal pay for equal work and similar issues. A look at some of the comments made by public officials only 30 years ago in this case serves as a stark reminder that gains for women's rights remain of recent vintage and, therefore, remain far from complete." Sometimes, ya just gotta like and agree with the ACLU!

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