One year has passed since the members of the Utah Gender and Justice Task Force published their report.
They'd worked on it for nearly four years before that. Several of the 19 members said they wondered, as they finished the study, if the report would just be left to gather dust on the shelf in some government office.However, the past year proved that the report has a life of its own.
The citizens, lawyers, judges and court employees who were members of the task force helped keep the report in the public eye. They still speak about it around the state.
And they have been joined in their discussion by scores of Utahns - lobbyists, legislators and elected officials - who take the task force recommendations very seriously.
Progress has been slow on some recommendations, amazingly speedy on others.
"Your governor appears to be the stumbling block," a group of Utah women lawyers were told two years ago by Lynn Hetch Schafran. Schafran, head of a national education program to promote equity in the court, was shocked to learn that only 7 percent of Utah judges were female.
That's changing. "I'm happy to report that three out of the last four judicial appointments made by Gov. Bangerter have been women," said Juvenile Court Judge Sharon McCully. McCully, a member of the task force, spoke recently to the Mormon Women's Forum. She said, "For the first time in history we have two women on the district court bench. We are making really significant progress."
At a recent meeting of Women Lawyers of Utah Inc., president Denise Dragoo also celebrated progress in judicial appointments and promised to hold more workshops for women interested in being nominated.
At that same meeting, the lawyers talked about the success of domestic violence measures in the last legislative session.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Janet Rose, D-Salt Lake, removed the spousal exemption for rape. An amendment to the 1990 domestic violence act should remove all question of constitutionality and let police move ahead with enforcing it, said Patricia Christensen.
Christensen and Paula Smith head up the Gender and Justice Implementation Committee for the women lawyers.
Christensen said her committee makes domestic violence the top priority. "We want to facilitate the process of getting [victimsT into the system."
Once women are in court, "we want to see domestic violence treated with the same degree of seriousness as violence between strangers."
Another benefit from the legislative session, said Christensen: "A real coalition formed." She predicts all the groups that came together - from the Utah Nurses Association to Utah Children - will continue to work together next year on a "women's legislative agenda."
Members of the task force don't claim direct credit for the new female judges or the new laws. However, they continue to talk about their findings - and celebrate change when they see it.
In the past few months they've met with religious leaders and police to make surethe first people a woman is likely to talk to will take her complaints about domestic violence seriously.
In a survey at shelters for abused women, lawyers found problems with getting protective orders and convincing women to file criminal charges. They are in the process of making two videos to give to the shelters to help explain a woman's legal rights.
Progress is being made, reiterated Christensen.
She compares the bulk and scope of the gender and justice report to an elephant. "We need to chop it up into bite-size pieces - take on a chapter at a time."