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West Hollywood’s female elected officials took a leading role in commemorating the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Last Thursday, 90 years to the day after the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the right to vote, West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath convened a group of women’s rights activists at West Hollywood City Hall to honor attorney and activist Gloria Allred.
For the previous 30 days, Allred had been on a solid-food fast, designed to renew support for the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment, which would guarantee equal rights for women, was first proposed in 1923, but has never been ratified.
“I hunger for equal rights,” said Allred, who broke her fast at the West Hollywood event.
Horvath and West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land again joined Allred on Sunday, when the National Women’s Political Caucus of California (NWPC CA) honored both city councilmembers with the Jeannette Rankin Courage to Run Award.
Teray Stephens, president of the NWPC CA, said it was important to recognize women who ran for public office, because the percentage of women elected officials is in decline, down from 27 percent to just 13 percent nationally and 17 percent in California.
“It takes courage for anyone to run for office, but women are held to a different standard,” Stephens said. “Two things need to be reformed to get more women in office. First, we have to get some campaign finance reform. So many races are about money, and that will level the playing field. Second, we need to address term limits. When you have great people, you should be able to keep them in office.”
Land, who first joined the West Hollywood City Council in 1986, spoke about some of the challenges that face women running for office.
“Women face some specific challenges,” Land said. “There is a lot of pressure and attention on how you look and what your fashion is. Things are changing, but there are still walls and barriers to be broken.”
Horvath, who was appointed to the city council last year following councilmember Saul Guarriello’s death, said that as a young woman she faces additional challenges.
“Sometimes, a young woman’s voice isn’t as valued in society, and it requires a little extra effort to be on the front lines and make sure we get heard,” Horvath said. “Over forty percent of the population in West Hollywood is made up of single women under forty-five years old. So the young woman’s perspective represents a significant percentage of the city.”
Locally, both Land and Horvath touted West Hollywood’s record on women’s rights, noting that the city became the first officially pro-choice municipality in the nation in 1993. Both councilmembers also maintained that support for women’s rights was part of the city’s commitment to equal rights for all citizens.
“My colleagues have always voted unanimously for equal rights,” Land said. “We’re always fighting for equality for everyone.”
Horvath, whose work on women’s rights issues predates her arrival at West Hollywood City Hall, said it was important to focus on overall women’s health, not just reproductive rights and legal equality.
“We just created the lesbian disability committee,” Horvath said. “We need to pay attention to the needs and interests of lesbian women. Sometimes we focus a lot more on guys in the LGBT community. It’s important to focus on gay women as well. It’s also important to make sure transgender women are included. No one is equal until everyone is equal.”
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