Kim Gandy was President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 2001 to 2009. She also chaired the NOW Political Action Committee (PAC), which in 1997 launched a campaign titled "Victory 2000: The Feminization of Politics," with the objective of electing “2,000 feminist candidates at all levels of political office by the year 2000.”
Gandy was was born in Louisiana in 1954. After graduating from Louisiana Tech University in 1973 with a degree in mathematics, she worked as a forecaster and statistical analyst for the telephone company South Central Bell.
Gandy joined NOW in 1973. Five years thereafter, she graduated from the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and promptly found a job as an assistant district attorney in that city. She later went into private law practice, specializing in child support, marital custody, lesbian custody, domestic violence and related issues. She sued the U.S. Air Force for sex discrimination and, after nine years of litigation, won a $184,000 judgment.
In 1981 Gandy founded the Louisiana Women's Lobby Network. As the organization's Director, she drafted several measures that became law, including the Louisiana Child Support Enforcement Act and Louisiana's first Domestic Abuse Assistance Act.
Gandy served for three years as President of Louisiana NOW. In 1982 she was elected to NOW's National Board. From 1983-87 she was the organization's Mid-South Regional Director. In 1987 she was elected NOW's national Secretary-Treasurer; she also spent four years as Treasurer of the NOW PACs.
During the 1980s and 1990s Gandy was active in the Association of Democratic Women and the Lesbian & Gay Political Action Caucus.
In 1991 Gandy became NOW's Executive Vice President, a move that placed her in charge of the organization's legislative and litigation-related agendas. As such, she guided the landmark NOW v. Scheidler case that used the anti-racketeering RICO laws as a way to silence and jail anti-abortion protestors. She also helped shape the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, wherein she pressed for a selective reading of the First Amendment so as to allow organized labor to picket for higher wages in front of an abortion clinic, but deny anti-abortion demonstrators the same right to picket there.
Gandy played a role in shaping the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which gave women the right to sue for monetary damages in cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
In 1991 Gandy also directed the "Women Elect 2000 Project," designed as a prototype for registering and mobilizing female voters in Louisiana.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Gandy helped coach Democrat candidate Al Gore on how to “reach the women of this country.” “When it comes to the issues that affect women’s lives,” said Gandy, “Vice President Gore has it all over Governor [George W.] Bush.”
In response to a June 2000 conference encouraging heterosexual marriage, Gandy dismissed the notion that marriage is necessarily beneficial to women, especially poor women. “I think promoting marriage as a goal in and of itself is misguided,” she said. “The marriage movement is giving women the message that a bad husband and father is better than none at all. Single moms are being demonized. NOW is committed to exposing and organizing against this deliberate return to the days of unchallenged male control.”
During her ten-year stint as NOW’s Executive Vice President, Gandy lobbied hard against work requirements for female victims of domestic violence. “Work [requirements] would be like making her [the domestic violence victim] stand on a trap door,” she said. In addition, Gandy argued that any cuts to federal public assistance would only lead to more violence against women.
In 2001, after 28 years as a NOW activist and 19 years on its National Board, Gandy was elected President of the organization, with the support of outgoing President Patricia Ireland.
In 2002 Gandy and NOW endorsed the "Call to a Motherhood Movement," which advocated a "fundamental reordering of the priorities of our society, a society so driven by radical individualism and values of commerce that it is losing touch with the values of the mother world -- the essential ethics of care and nuture that are indispensable for both children and a good society."
Though Gandy is married and is the mother of two daughters, she has kept gay and lesbian rights on a front burner of NOW's social and political agenda. In May 2002 she said, vis a vis the issue of gay marriage: "I never cease to be amazed that anyone would actively oppose the marriage of any two people who want to make a legal commitment to love, honor and support each other."
When the Bush administration reacted to 9/11 by launching the war on terror and demanding that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein abdicate his seat of power (under threat of a U.S. military invasion), Gandy said: "The real terrorism is the Bush administration's disregard for international law and destruction of civil liberties at home. This has become an issue of one dictator [Bush] versus another [Saddam]."
Gandy has blamed the Iraq War on a “deceitful” President Bush who “misled the public” and “misled the Congress” in making a case for military action. Characterizing the war as part of a thinly veiled American quest for hegemony in the Middle East, Gandy opposes what she calls “the opportunistic use of fighting terrorism as an excuse for massive imperial expansion, for a war on Iraq, and for the continuation of unilateral policies in violation of international law.”
According to Gandy, the U.S. military routinely mistreats "our soldiers, especially our female soldiers." "There are women soldiers in Iraq,” she elaborates, “who died of dehydration because they were afraid to drink any liquids after three or four in the afternoon because they would be raped if they had to go to the latrine at night. Raped by our own soldiers."
Gandy opposes the U.S. government’s passage of the Patriot Act as a means of thwarting terrorist activities. She claims that the Act’s real purpose is to abrogate the First Amendment and “stifle political dissent.”
In a 2003 interview, Gandy expressed her burning desire to keep abortion legal. “I don't want to be part of the generation that won reproductive rights and then lost it before our daughters had that benefit,” said Gandy. “And I look at my two little girls. They’re seven and nine. And I know that I'm in this movement because I want to make sure that they will have choices.”
For Gandy, the issue of abortion is the primary litmus test that determines whether or not a woman is an authentic feminist. “To say you’re a feminist and to say you’re anti-choice is definitely a contradiction,” she asserts. Gandy also supports pro-abortion litmus tests for judicial appointees.
In 2004 Gandy lent her name to a letter, addressed to President Bush, denouncing America's use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, and calling for an inquiry into "the shameful abuses that have been exposed and are being investigated at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and at other military prisons." Fellow signatories included Nan Aron, Michael Avery, Marjorie Cohn, Peter Edelman, Ralph Neas, Michael Posner, and Kenneth Roth.
On April 25, 2004, Gandy was a featured speaker at the March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC, which focused chiefly on preserving and expanding women’s right to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. Other speakers at the event included Gloria Feldt, Barbara Boxer, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Medea Benjamin, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Patricia Ireland, Frances Kissling, Madeline Albright, Maxine Waters, Kate Michelman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carol Moseley Braun, Dolores Huerta, Ted Turner, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg, Carole King, Cybill Shepherd, and Susan Sarandon.
As NOW President, Gandy made it a priority to prevent George W. Bush and other Republicans from “turning back the clock” on women’s rights. She has accused Bush of "reversing women's rights here [in the U.S.] and abroad." In February 2005 she said:
“[W]e see our health, our rights and our democracy teetering on the brink. … Our hard-won gains of the past thirty years are in jeopardy, as George W. Bush takes from the poor and gives to the rich, as he appoints judges determined to take away our rights and our choices, and as an increasingly loud and empowered backlash against women’s equality takes hold.”
In 2006 Gandy spoke out against a Michigan bill to permit single-sex programs in public schools. She said:
“We strongly oppose these bills because the separation of boys and girls, and the underlying (and false) assumption that girls and boys are so different that they shouldn't even be educated together, introduces harmful gender stereotypes into public education. This could lead to, among other possible outcomes, emphasizing math and science for boys, and for girls, less rigorous course work.”
On July 27, 2007, Gandy spoke at a Washington, DC anti-war rally sponsored by United For Peace and Justice. She accused males in the U.S. military of committing “rapes and assaults of female soldiers and female Iraqis, with few consequences.” A moment later, in an oblique call for socialized medicine, Gandy expressed compassion for these same alleged abusers, who she said “are being sent home, physically and psychologically damaged, to a drastically inadequate health care system.” Also speaking at the rally were: Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, John Conyers, Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Lerner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Eleanor Smeal, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.
At the onset of the 2008 election season, Gandy supported Hillary Clinton for President. Along with such notables as Eleanor Smeal and Olga Vives, Gandy was a member of a NOW PAC called “Women for Hillary in Pennsylvania.” After Mrs. Clinton ultimately failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, Gandy implored presumptive nominee Barack Obama to follow Clinton’s example in being sensitive to women’s issues and not “talking down to us [women].”
Gandy was contemptuous of Republican Senator John McCain’s September 2008 choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate. Gandy called Palin “a woman who opposes women's rights, just like John McCain.”
Since 1990, Gandy has contributed money to the campaigns of a number of political candidates -- all Democrats. Among the recipients of her donations were Hillary Clinton, Donna Edwards, Carol Moseley Braun, Mary Landrieu, Linda Bowker, and Louise McIntosh Slaughter. Gandy also has made contributions to the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and NOW PAC.
Gandy favors race-and gender-based preferences in employment and academia. She has identified Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as “one of my heroes.”
In 2009, Gandy stepped down from her role as NOW's president.