Buffy Wicks was denied a ‘vote by proxy’ during maternity leave
In case you’re still somehow not convinced that the United States of America hates working mothers (and in the middle of this pandemic, still being wholly unconvinced of that is a remarkable feat in denial), like many female legislators are all too familiar with, a California lawmaker was forced to show up to the assembly floor after she was denied a “vote by proxy” during her maternity leave.
Buffy Wicks, an assemblywoman who literally just gave birth one month ago, brought her newborn into a public space during a pandemic after being denied her request to vote by proxy on a measure regarding California’s housing crisis.
Absolutely devastated about #SB1120. Our housing crisis requires us to act, and tonight we failed to do that.
But I promise you this: I will *always* show up for housing — no matter what. pic.twitter.com/I4n6X07CNp
— Buffy Wicks (@BuffyWicks) September 1, 2020
Wicks represents Berkeley and Oakland in the state’s general assembly, and a vote for State Bill 1120 came to the floor while she was on maternity leave. The bill is designed to help ease housing problems in California, making it easier for developers to build duplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes. Wicks is a strong supporter of the bill, so she requested to vote by proxy — as she had just delivered a baby and all. Her request was denied.
In order to vote by proxy in the California Assembly during the pandemic, one must be “at a higher risk from the COVID-19 virus.” According to the CDC, pregnancy is considered an immuno-compromised state in regard to the virus. So why wouldn’t the early weeks post-birth fall under this umbrella, at least when it comes to an assemblywoman’s votes? The risks involved with securing childcare outside people you live with during this pandemic are valid, as are the risks involved with bringing your brand-new baby into a public space.
When news of Wicks’ appearance began making headlines, many people took to Twitter to share her story. Everyone had her back, including her husband, Meena Harris, and even Hillary Clinton.
Yesterday, my wife @BuffyWicks packed up our one-month-old Elly and every baby calming apparatus we own and drove through the wildfire smoke to Sacramento where she provided the decisive 41st vote for what will be California's new paid family leave law 👏https://t.co/xIwZA56ifG
— Peter Ambler (@PeterMAmbler) September 2, 2020
California Assemblymember @buffywicks was told that having recently given birth wasn’t sufficient excuse to cast a vote remotely.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 1, 2020
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) September 1, 2020
"Please, please, please please pass this bill, and I'm gonna go finish feeding my daughter," says Asm. @BuffyWicks as her newborn daughter fusses in her arms and Assembly debate approaches midnight. As @LaurelRosenhall notes, Wicks was denied ability to vote by proxy. pic.twitter.com/ro67zimQ8r
— Christine Mai-Duc (@cmaiduc) September 1, 2020
— #ElectionsMatter (@Shanmckinley) September 1, 2020
California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who gave birth in late July, traveled to Sacramento from Oakland with her newborn and debated legislation until midnight after she was told that her recent labor did not qualify her as high-risk for COVID. https://t.co/XQZm0qlUtE
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 1, 2020
While Wicks’ efforts are most certainly worth applauding, the fact that anyone even has to glorify a new mother, still recovering from childbirth, being forced to show up to work during a pandemic while on maternity leave because the systems in place do not actually accommodate new mothers — well, it’s honestly just so disheartening.
Regardless of the circumstances, Wicks made her case, even begging her fellow lawmakers to pass the bill, she said: “Please, please, please pass this bill. And I’m going to go finish feeding my daughter.”
Unfortunately, the housing bill failed to pass the Assembly. Wicks later tweeted that she was “absolutely devastated,” saying, “Our housing crisis requires us to act, and tonight we failed to do that,” she wrote. “But I promise you this: I will *always* show up for housing — no matter what.”