A friend’s son, who lived in Tanzania for a year, gave me this lovely cloth which hangs in my office. The centerpiece is a picture of Julius Kambrage Nyerere who is considered the father of modern Tanzania. Mwalimu is the Swahili term for teacher which was President Nyerere’s first profession before he entered politics.
At the start of this month I (along with several of my Global Legal Research Center colleagues) attended a very engaging and thought-provoking presentation by Professor John Witte, Jr. titled “Sharia in the West? What Place for Faith-Based Family Laws in Liberal Democracies?” Professor Witte recently completed his term as the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at The John W. Kluge Center. He holds the titles of Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Service Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion Center at Emory University, and also serves as a member of the Kluge Center’s Scholars Council.
The day before the presentation, the Library of Congress Blog published an interview with Professor Witte in which he discussed his study of faith-based family law systems and how these operate in different Western countries, including the United States. Professor Witte’s presentation delved into the issues that such family law systems present, and face, when they come into contact with a country’s legal system.
Professor Witte discussed how the governments and courts of some countries, such as Australia, Canada, and England, have started to approach questions relating to the accommodation of religious family laws, including those relating to Muslim marriage contracts. For example, in England, courts have upheld the awards of Muslim tribunals and other religious authorities in marriage and family disputes, while Canada rejected such arbitration but provides various freedoms to apply religious frameworks in other areas.
Marriage is a particularly interesting area as it has long been regarded as both a religious and a legal institution. Professor Witte talked about how the legal framework for marriage has been reformed multiple times over the centuries in the context of tensions and battles between church and state. For example, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when the Catholic Church became an independent legal authority, the church took full jurisdiction over marriage, with only canon laws applying to the institution. Then, in the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers rejected the canon law of marriage and legal control was transferred to the Christian magistrate. Following the French Revolution, marriage in that country became part of the realm of secular state authorities. Professor Witte discussed the “privatization” of marriage in Western societies today, where marriage is primarily a private contract between two people, with various state rules applying both to its creation and dissolution. The roles of both the church and the state in relation to such contracts have been greatly reduced as a result of legal changes over the past century, he said.
Of course some people, including those of Muslim faith living in Western countries, question such developments and seek ways to apply their own traditional or religious marriage norms. Professor Witte said that at the moment, the methods for doing so are informal and temporary, but eventually some type of case will emerge in the United States that gives rise to controversy and questions about religious laws or practices and the extent to which the state can (or should) accommodate or interfere with these. In anticipation of such issues, some argue that Sharia should be placed on firmer ground so that those who wish to adhere to it in their private lives have greater certainty and protection within the country’s legal system. Professor Witte discussed three main arguments that proponents put forward for greater accommodation: religious freedom, religious equality and non-discrimination, and concepts related to political liberalism. He went on to highlight the limitations of these arguments and suggested that there is a need for time and patience in order for compromises to be developed and adjustments to be made by both the religious and state legal systems.
Among Professor Witte’s points were:
- Religious groups in Western countries have various freedoms and some autonomy to govern certain activities of their own members and create their own institutions, such as in the areas of education, charitable work, and some family matters. For example, there are Jewish courts in New York with authority to arbitrate some disputes among members of the community there. However, this is different from allowing a religious group to have full legal power to govern the affairs of its members.
- A private entity, such as a religious body, cannot have coercive powers over individuals – only the state is able to enforce laws through different mechanisms (e.g., police, prisons, fines, and other sanctions). In a modern democracy, the state exercises such powers only in exchange for strict guarantees of due process, equal protection, and respect for fundamental human rights.
- The guarantee of religious freedom does not mean that those that adhere to a particular religion are not subject to the laws of the state. For example, they cannot be exempt from the criminal law and in situations where children are at risk the state will intervene to ensure their protection.
- The accommodations given to religious legal systems have come about only after decades and centuries of experience, with gradual adjustments being made by both sides over time. For example, the Jews long ago developed a concept whereby the law of the country where they lived was also the law of their community, to the extent that it did not conflict with core Jewish laws. This meant that they needed to undertake processes to determine which Jewish laws were of core importance and which were more discretionary, with secular laws able to be accommodated. They also needed to litigate and lobby in state courts and legislatures in order to receive various accommodations, while giving up coercive powers that might once have exercised by religious authorities.
- Religious communities, such as Muslims, need to be both persistent and patient, and exercise flexibility and innovation, in order to gain concessions and accommodations over time. Not every religious belief or practice can be claimed as central and essential, Professor Witte said.
- Islamic laws and culture have changed dramatically over time and that there is huge diversity in terms of culture and practices. Professor Witte considers that these factors provide an opportunity for Muslim communities in Western countries to discuss what is core and what is discretionary in their religious lives. Part of the adaptation process also involves accommodating the core values of their secular host nations. To gain concessions, Professor Witte argued, these communities need to show that religious laws and democracy can co-exist and complement each other.
- Professor Witte used the example of the developments and debates over time that led to compromises relating to religion and education. The result was concessions in terms of some religious groups being able to maintain separate institutions, but with the state having the ability to impose and enforce certain minimum standards and requirements – religious schools could add to these, but could not subtract from them. Such an arrangement, Professor Witte argued, holds lessons for questions of religion and marriage and for the adjustments that could be considered and made by Muslim minorities in Western countries.
You can read more details about Professor Witte’s consideration of these issues in his afterword to a book called Sharia in the West? (Rex Ahdar and Nicholas Aroney, eds., 2010). The Law Library holds a copy of this book in its collection as well as many books on Islamic law.
Professor Witte stated in his interview that “[s]cholars can and should widen the conversation [about the use of faith-based family laws, including Sharia] by encouraging antagonists to look beyond the particularly inflamed issue that’s before the public media. Scholars can give comparative and historical reflection on what other legal systems past and present have done.” Here at the Law Library of Congress we have vast resources available to researchers who wish to study foreign laws, legal systems, and legal history, including materials on religious and customary laws and how these operate in countries all over the world. We also have legal specialists and analysts with knowledge about such topics as customary laws in Africa and religious laws in Israel, the Middle East, and South Asia who can assist with locating information.
Highlights of minor updates include:
- Member profiles search order tuning;
- Clarification of “Party history” for Members who have changed party;
- Leadership designations on Member profile pages where appropriate;
- Fine-tune display of website and contact information for current Members;
- Retention of user source selection when searching on legislation or Member landing pages;
- Improvement of presentation of “more” page for sponsor/cosponsor; and
- Release of three additional legislative process videos – Introduction and Referral of Bills, Committee Consideration, and Calendar and Scheduling.
We will also roll out more legislative process videos as they become available. Another update to the videos is that they stream on mobile devices (an item suggested via feedback).
This minor update is the last before the bigger enhancement coming before the start of the next Congress that will include the Congressional Record. In the meantime you can enjoy it on an iPad or iPhone or on THOMAS. Once the Congressional Record is added, Pam and Judy will update their Congress.gov Training to include it. There are a few free webinars scheduled in January and February. You can register now knowing that the Congressional Record will be added to Congress.gov by then.
Please remove the “Rep.” and “Sen.” titles before member names. Makes it impossible to, for example, hit the “N” key to go to members with last names starting with “N.”
Thanks for sending us your feedback for Congress.gov and please continue to do so. We have received many great comments that we have reviewed and plan to incorporate a lot of them. From my inside the Library of Congress perspective, it is great to see comments on enhancements that we already have planned. It is nice to know that we are headed in the right direction.
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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Pub. L. 92-318, 86 Stat. 235, 373 turned 40 years old on June 23, 2012. Its birthday passed much like it became law—quietly and unassumingly. Its impact, however, has been loud and confident as evidenced by the display of medalists representing the United States of America at the 2012 Olympic Games who were women, the increase in the number of women who have become CEOs of domestic and international corporations and presidents of colleges and universities, and the variety of positions held by women in the political arena. Many of these women are or were affiliated with academic institutions as professors and students. All of this is so much a part of the present fabric of society that we have taken these advances for granted. I imagine even those who initiated its inclusion in the Education Amendments of 1972, Pub. L. 92-318 Title IX, 86 Stat. 235, 373 did not realize its broad and far-reaching effect. As is often commented there were only 37 words:
Sec. 901. a) No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, . . .(p. 373)
Edith Green, Patsy Mink, and Birch Bayh are the most noted members of Congress involved in the passage of Title IX. Each wanted language inserted into the underlying Education Amendments Act that would prohibit sex discrimination in institutions of higher education; however, each wanted it for different reasons. Rep. Edith Green discovered there were programs in place to keep boys in school but no programs for girls in the 1960s. Rep. Patsy Mink, who had personally experienced discrimination in the academic world, led on education and gender equity issues throughout her legislative career. Sen. Birch Bayh wanted to prohibit sex discrimination in all forms; he helped write this legislation as well as the Equal Rights Amendment.
The passage of Title IX is a wonderful example of the workings of the legislative process. Having served in the House of Representatives since 1955, Rep. Green became Chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee and subsequently, Chair of the Special Subcommittee on Education. In 1970, she used the special subcommittee to hold the first hearings on sex discrimination in education. Her House colleague Rep. Patsy Mink submitted a statement along with others who testified. Many of those who spoke were affiliated with academic institutions and organizations. Mink said: “Discrimination against women in education is one of the most insidious forms of prejudice extant in our nation.”
During the subcommittee debate, Rep. Green offered an amendment to the bill banning sexual discrimination (Title IX). The bill was sent to full committee without the amendment, which failed in subcommittee. The provision banning discrimination was put back into the Higher Education bill in the full committee with the aid of Reps. Patsy Mink and Shirley Chisholm who were members of the full committee during the 92nd Congress. When the bill went before the full House, Rep. Green sought to ensure the provision remained in the bill through its passage, just as Sen. Bayh did in the Senate. Congress passed the Education Amendments Act with Title IX on June 8, 1972. President Nixon signed it into law on June 23rd. There is a wealth of information contained in the congressional documents on the Education Amendments Act. However, it is imagining these two women talking and negotiating with other members to get their support and keep the provision intact in the bill that makes it so exciting. Remember in the 92nd Congress (1971-1972) of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 13 were women.
In addition, to the Congressional documents, the Library’s Manuscript Division houses the Patsy Mink Papers. I heard the archivist, Margaret McAleer, during the Capitol Visitors Center Constitution Day series speak on Title IX and the Patsy Mink Papers. During Margaret’s talk she discussed the richness of the Patsy Mink collection which includes letters from constituents and organizations, staff notes, photographs, and newspaper articles pertaining to Title IX. In 2002 the law was renamed Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act to honor the Representative’s vital role in crafting, defending, and providing continued support for Title IX.
To emphasize the importance of the law over its existence Margaret cites some statistics:
Between 1951 and 1970 the education for women was shockingly discriminatory. There were quotas on admission to undergraduate and graduate programs, discrimination in access to scholarships and financial assistance, and discrimination in the hiring of women faculty. Only 18% of women had bachelor degrees and only 7.5% (294,015 girls) of high school girls participated in athletics in 1971. Today, close to 60% of undergraduates are women. During the 2012 Olympics women representing the USA won 45 medals – 29 of them gold.
President Nixon did not mention Title IX as he signed it into law. The legislative at the time focus was on the school busing components, which were another part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Shortly after Title IX’s passage, it began to appear in the news with negative connotations. Those affiliated with college and university athletic departments realized the potential impact. Financial assistance dollars would have to be shared with existing and ‘those to be created’ women’s athletic programs. Universities with long-standing football and/or basketball programs were very vocal in their opposition. Title IX was included in the legislation to prohibit sexual discrimination on all levels of the academic world, not just athletics. Women fought through the years to show Title IX was not just about athletics. Examples like former Provost of Stanford University and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law Professor and the newly elected Senator from Massachusetts give evidence to Patsy Mink’s remarks:
Few people realize the extent to which our society is denied full use of our human resources because of this type of discrimination …The most unfortunate thing of all is that education is the very process we rely upon to make the changes and advances we need and yet we find that even education is not imparted on a fair and equitable basis.
The unexpected aspect of Title IX was the increased participation of girls and women in organized sports. We saw the results in the display of the mastery, strength and grace of the women athletes in a range of sports during the 2012 Olympics and in the existence of a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Moreover, in 2011 41.4 % of high school athletes were female (3.2 million).
I am often reminded of how things have changed when I see a college or WNBA player take the ball to the hoop or see a guard dribbling from one end of the court to the other. I think back to my days as a stationary guard who was only allowed to dribble to half-court and say Happy Belated Birthday, Title IX.
Although they are not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, Executive Orders have been considered one of the President’s powers since George Washington’s administration. Executive Orders are exactly what they sound like—orders produced by the President, as head of the executive branch, that are “generally directed to, and govern actions by, Government officials and agencies.” These Executive Orders can have the force of law, even if they do not follow the same procedure as bills passed by Congress. [ibid.]
It is the rather idiosyncratic nature of this process which can cause so many problems for researchers seeking information about these Executive Orders. Luckily, there are several resources, both at the Library of Congress and on the Web, that can help provide access to these researchers.
Resources Available at the Library
An easy-to-use reference guide available at the Law Library of Congress Reading Room is the Congressional Information Service’s Presidential Executive Orders and Proclamations and its attendant Index, which can be used to quickly track down Executive Orders issued from 1789 to 1983 by subject and number, or date.
If the Executive Order you seek was issued after March 1936, it has been published in the Federal Register, and then reprinted in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Print and microform versions of these resources can be requested in the Law Library Reading Room. In addition, the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides access to the Federal Register and the CFR from the mid 1990s:
Free Online Resources
Researchers also have the benefit of several free online resources. A good place to start, particularly if the Executive Order was issued before 2005, is the Table of Congressional Publication Volumes and Presidential Issuances produced by the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C. This Table provides information about which presidential administration issued the Order, what year the Order was issued, and where the Order can be found in a publication.
Another excellent source is the American Presidency Project, created and maintained by the University of California Santa Barbara. In addition to collecting presidential speeches, statements, and proclamations, the American Presidency Project also has an almost complete collection of Executive Orders (1826 to the present).
Finally, there are a few governmental websites that offer either Executive Orders or the means by which to find them. For the most current Executive Orders (2009-present), try the White House’s official compilation of Executive Orders. Further, the National Archives offers its Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders, which is a “convenient reference source proclamations and Executive orders with general applicability and continuing effect.” It consists of:
- A chapter-based index that organizes the proclamations and executive orders into 50 chapters, by subject
- An alphabetical index that allows for the searching of proclamations and executive orders by subject
- Disposition Tables that list the executive orders by number and by President
For any questions about these sources, or about the Executive Orders found in them, simply contact us via our Ask a Librarian service.
 House Comm. on Gov’t Operations, 85th Cong., 1st Sess., Executive Orders and Proclamations: A Study of a Use of Presidential Powers (1957).
Update on November 20, 2013: The post was updated to fix an outdated link.
We’ve had an update to the Law Library of Congress physical spaces. The front doors to our main office were recently replaced with glass doors. We often talk about transparency in government, and the doors are our small symbolic contribution to making our inner workings “see-through.”
The glass also lets visitors see into the space as they approach our offices…and keep them from mistaking it for the Reading Room!
This interview is with Nana Ghvaladze, a parliamentary staffer from the Republic of Georgia who spent four weeks in October and November at the Law Library of Congress as a participant of the Legislative Fellows Program supported by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the American Councils for International Education, .
Describe your background
I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia, which is a small country located in Eastern Europe between the Black and Caspian Seas. Before becoming an independent state in 1991, my country was a part of the Soviet Union. I was brought up in a family of doctors with a younger sister and a brother. It was very unusual to decide to become a lawyer in a doctor’s family, but it was my choice and my family respected it because my parents taught me to achieve goals and work hard in order to make dreams come true. As a child I spent all of my summers in Kutaisi, a town about 100 miles to the west of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Now, the entire Georgian legislature is relocating to Kutaisi.
What is your academic/professional history?
In 2005, I graduated from the Tbilisi State University School of Law. Prior to that, because I always wanted to become a lawyer, I joined the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association when I was about 14 and participated in mock trials, debates, and other competitions. As a university student, I worked at the Constitutional Court of Georgia. My career has been a mixture of private and public sector employment.
I joined the private sector in 2006, working as a lawyer for a company that was at the time the largest real estate developer in Georgia. In 2008, I was given a chance to join the public sector and started working in the Parliament of Georgia as a chief legal specialist in the office of the Deputy Speaker. My job gives me the opportunity to look at the law from different angles. Of course, the most enjoyable part of my work is legislative drafting, mainly because of the impact it has in peoples lives. My other responsibilities include liaising with other government institutions; communicating with individuals who petition the legislature; and preparing legislative initiatives for introduction by the Deputy Speaker.
About half of the members of the Parliament of Georgia are elected through party lists based on a proportional electoral system and the other half are elected from majoritarian electoral districts. Because my boss was elected from a Tbilisi area called Samgori, I am involved in providing constituent services for her constituents.
I also serve as a lawyer in the Gender Equality Council of the Georgian Parliament, which was established two years ago. This part of my work is probably the most gratifying because in this capacity I draft laws relating to gender equality and amendments to existing laws, including the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and Assistance to Domestic Violence Victims. This legislation criminalizes domestic violence in the country.
In 2011, I decided to continue my studies and entered a Ph.D program at the Tbilisi State University. I am doing my research in international law, specifically on the extradition procedures in Georgia and whether they meet international standards.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I was at the Law Library of Congress as a Legislative Fellow. Legislative Fellows are selected by the U.S. Department of State for one-month internships in various American federal and state offices and in non-governmental organizations. The goal of the program is to foster understanding among people and develop professional cooperation. Our group included about 30 government employees from different Eastern European countries. Together with my colleague, a parliamentary staffer from Turkey, I was placed at the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Center (GLRC). During the fellowship, I developed an understanding of how the legal research needs of the U.S. Congress are served, and was given the opportunity to contribute to GLRC’s online publication, the Global Legal Monitor, providing summaries of recent legal developments in my home country. Also, I observed the work of legal specialists, attended trainings, seminars, and other events organized by the Law Library. In addition, I assisted my supervisor Dr. Peter Roudik, Director of the GLRC, in reviewing the Law Library’s collection on Georgia.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
Actually, it was not my decision. Based on my qualifications, I was placed here by the American Councils for International Education. I realized how lucky I was to be here because it was a unique opportunity to be associated with such a prestigious institution and observe the work of the country’s legislative branch closely. The work here gave me a feeling of happiness and professional fulfillment. Of course, I was impressed by the size of the collection. But what is more important, because research is part of my daily work in Georgia, I will take with me invaluable knowledge of how people work here, what kind of materials and databases they use, and how they increase their knowledge and share it with members of Congress, their staff and constituents. During this month I learned many things about the United States, its culture and people, and I am taking back unforgettable memories. I would like to express my great gratitude to all the people who gave me the opportunity to be here.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
It might sound funny but I love to cook and do it well. At home, I always prepare dinner for my family. I like our traditional food and European cuisine. During the program all participants were placed with local host families. My host mother is a very good cook and she taught me interesting things about American food and kitchens. We had lots of fun.
The following are the top 10 most viewed articles from the general content of the Global Legal Monitor in the order of their popularity:
- China: Maternity Leave Extended from 90 Days to 98 Days
- France: Law on Immigration, Integration and Nationality
- U.N. Human Rights Council: First Resolution on Internet Free Speech
- South Korea: Permanent Dual Nationality Allowed after 60 Years
- China: Revision of Catalog of Industries for Foreign Investment
- Taiwan: Proposed Changes to Data Protection Act
- China: Amendment of Criminal Procedure Law
- Turkey: New Minimum Wage
- Indonesia: Labor Law to Be Revised
- Hong Kong: Minimum Wage Law Takes Effect
In addition, the Global Legal Monitor published 35 articles on a wide range of legal issues in October. Of these articles, I found the following three particularly interesting:
- An article discussing an Israel District Court decision in which the Court ruled that Google search keywords are in the public domain. The plaintiff, a plastic surgeon who bought an advertisement on Google Adwords, sought to have the Court declare that two other companies, which provide similar services and have placed advertisements that pop up when his name is used as a search keyword, violated his right to privacy. The Court disagreed.
- An article discussing a recent decision of the High Court of Botswana, which held that customary laws excluding women from inheriting real property violate the country’s constitution. The facts of this case involved three elderly women who lived in their parents’ house. Their nephew, whose father, the women’s older step-brother, had been promised the property by the women’s older brother but who had died, sought to have them evicted on the basis of the Tswana customary rites, which accord the family home to a male member of the family. Although the country’s customary court system at the lower level and at its appeals level sided with the nephew, the High Court of Botswana, in what is being lauded as a landmark case, ultimately abrogated the customary practice under the “fundamental rights and freedoms of an individual” clause of Botswana’s Constitution stating that fundamental rights apply regardless of gender.
- An article describing the defeat of a measure to impose a ban on the wearing of face covering veils, including burqas, in the Swiss Parliament. Supporters argued that the measure was intended to ensure public safety and champion gender equality. Those opposed noted that the measure would only serve to alienate Muslim tourists without any meaningful upside, as burqas are not commonly used in the country. Ultimately the measure was defeated in an up or down vote.
Mark your calendars! In recognition of International Human Rights Day, the Law Library will host a panel discussion on issues surrounding bioethics: “Bioethics and Human Rights: Privacy and Consent.” The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6 in the Mumford Room, which is on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540. Partially sponsored by the Friends of the Law Library, this event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.
Moderated by Ruth Levush, fellow In Custodia Legis blogger and Senior Foreign Law Specialist at the Law Library of Congress, the panel will include Erin Williams of MITRE Corporation; Gerald Schatz, an affiliated scholar of Georgetown University Medical Center; and Theresa Papademetriou of the Law Library of Congress.
A range of topics will be covered by each panelist, including: “What Was That Form I Just Signed? Snapshot of U.S. Federal Requirements Governing Informed Consent for Medical Research” by Williams; “Privacy Rights and Ethical Tensions in Medicine and Research” by Schatz; and “A Human Rights Dimension of Informed Consent: Sterilization of Women in Europe” by Papademetriou.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted and proclaimed in Paris, France, on December 10, 1948. The UDHR was designed to provide a global framework for human rights following World War II and the colonial era. The Declaration, the first global enunciation of human rights, is considered the most translated document in modern history. It is available in more than 360 languages, and new translations are still being added. Each year the Law Library celebrates Human Rights Day with a panel discussion focusing on a different aspect of human rights. We hope to see you there!
Last year’s Human Rights Day Event, “Women’s Rights and Opportunities,” is available on YouTube.
Update: The event video was added below.