Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether Dukes v. Walmart, the mammoth gender discrimination case, may go forward as the largest employment class action in history.
On Thursday, the case cast something of a shadow on the 37th anniversary luncheon of Equal Rights Advocates, which has been been litigating Dukes alongside The Impact Fund and others for 10 years.
"You are in a very interesting in-between moment," keynote speaker Anna Deavere Smith told an audience of about 800 at the S.F. Marriott, which included name plaintiffs Betty Dukes and Edith Arana.
The Supreme Court heard argument on Dukes in March, with some observers perceiving hostility toward ERA's position.
The group's executive director, Arcelia Hurtado, ticked off some of ERA's recent legislative victories and noted that the organization is at trial right now with the University of California over the expulsion of female wrestlers from UC-Davis' wrestling team. However the court rules in Dukes, she vowed, ERA will continue to press its case. "The vehicle may be uncertain at this time," she said, but "this is what ERA has been fighting for -- the right to be heard in the legal system -- fighting for 37 years now."
Smith, meanwhile, drew inspiration from characters she has portrayed, including a real life bull rider. "I don't ride with confidence, I ride with determination," she recalled him saying in an interview.
"You know, you weigh 150 pounds, they weigh 2,000," she added. "That's always been the story of justice."