Commentary Race

Fired for Complaining About a Dirty Joke: Why I #SupportAdria

Natasha Chart

In Silicon Valley, the scruffy developer swims in a bubble of admiration and impunity not unlike being a star football player in a town like Steubenville, Ohio. This can be a bad thing, as many women in tech have discovered.

Silicon Valley is booming again after an initial wave of busts a decade ago, many of which took down companies with poorly thought out business models and shaky internal controls. But it seems that at least in one regard, not much has changed, as the backlash against former SendGrid employee Adria Richards for complaining about a dirty joke has revealed.

This week, Richards, who had been a developer evangelist at SendGrid, was publicly fired from her job after outing some tasteless jokers at a tech conference on Twitter. Since then, I’ve seen a few people on the border of the liberal politics and tech worlds who don’t get why it was wrong for the guys she outed to make a few sexual comments out loud at a professional conference. I started my professional career in Silicon Valley, so have a lot of insights into the culture.

After taking some night classes in HTML and JavaScript, I was hired from out of state into my first tech industry job at around double my then secretarial salary, plus stock options, with only a high school diploma to my name. That’s how good the job market was in 1999 Silicon Valley. It was also pretty good in my former home of Seattle, with Microsoft and Adobe booming, but not quite so good that I could break out of secretarial work.

(It’s taken me until this year, with a spell of dire poverty and the accumulation of much debt to finally get a degree, to make more in absolute dollars than I made in 2001—something joyous participants in today’s tech bubble might want to take note of. Save it if you’ve got it, folks.)

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My first Valley job involved working in the engineering department. At any given department meeting, there might have been one to three other women in the room, out of dozens of people.

My colleagues treated me pretty well, and I liked them, but I couldn’t help feeling a little out of place. My work wardrobe took a hard shift toward clothes I’d once have only worn out grocery shopping. I shocked the hell out of a co-worker one day when he came around a corner and stopped dead in his tracks to exclaim, “Natasha, you’re wearing lipstick!?” Um, yeah. I wore lipstick every single day of my life from the time my mom first let me use it until I got that job.

I went to another company, not because I was driven out, but because I got offered a raise. I was now in product management. About half the staffers in the department were women, and if I felt like putting on lipstick, dressing like a girl, or putting my hair up in braids with sparkly clips, no one was alarmed. But my status had gone down in subtle ways. I knew it. Coders don’t wear nice clothes to the office. They don’t have to. In an inverse of business culture just about everywhere else in the country, you might wear something close to a suit if you were in human resources or sales, or if you were a senior manager headed to a big meeting, but nice business clothes were usually a sign that you were easily replaceable.

Maybe it’s hard to understand if you haven’t been there, or if you work at a place where the tech-related departments are stuck in the basement. But in Silicon Valley, the scruffy developer swims in a bubble of admiration and impunity not unlike being a star football player in a town like Steubenville, Ohio. If he’s good at his job, he can forget to shower or be widely suspected of drug use, and no one will say anything. If he’s good enough, not only does he get a pass, but coworkers whose company he clearly enjoys get cover too, because the boost to his job satisfaction is worth overlooking a few things.

This has good and bad aspects to it.

On the one hand, this arrangement can be egalitarian in ways that haven’t been possible before. I met a lot of young people who got jobs in Silicon Valley straight out of college and would, in any other industry besides possibly academia, have been confined to low-level work and their talents wasted on account of their minimal social skills—smart, mostly kind people, maybe a bit “Aspie” like me, and a little too blunt, who were finally going to get a chance to shine. I felt about it the same way I felt about the richest men in the world being geeks, instead of arms dealers, like when I was a teen; it filled me with hope.

On the other hand, there are ways in which this situation magnifies the worst of toxic modern masculinity—the freedom to act like a child who doesn’t know any better without suffering any economic consequences. Boys can be boys, even when they’re grown men.

I won’t defend such behavior by citing how many code geeks were bullied in school, maybe abused at home, possibly autism-spectrum, and didn’t get a chance to be well socialized. All of that is just as true of me, and it’s not a license to stop trying, stop learning, abandon compassion, or treat other people like crap. If you can master C++, you can learn how to exercise a basic level of politeness. Even if it does take some people longer than others. We’ll be waiting for a better world for an awfully long time if each person insists on paying forward every unkind thing ever done to him or her.

What happened to Adria is reflective of the “boys will be boys” culture that still reins in the tech world. As Catherine Bracy wrote:

Adria was at PyCon sitting through a plenary session when some men behind her starting making “dongle” jokes. You get the idea. Adria (who was SendGrid’s developer evangelist), fed up with having to sit through sexist crap at tech conferences all the time, took a picture of the offenders and tweeted it at the conference organizers. She’s documented the exchange with context on her blog though you may or may not be able to see it since last I checked it was under DDoS attack. You can read more at VentureBeat.

The first question some have asked: Aren’t women capable of dealing with frank sexual talk?

Of course women can deal with frank and salty language. We might even occasionally indulge in it ourselves, among friends or in our writing. But to add historical and social context, which so many discussions in post-modern technical environments lack, when women make similar comments in public in a professional environment, we lose status. It demeans us or makes us be seen as trashy in ways that never apply to men. Women can’t generally talk, in person and among professional colleagues, like little kids looking at their first naughty pictures. We have to be more adult than that, more respectable.

But men get to break out bathroom and genitalia-related humor with impunity, and they often do so specifically to mark out a social or professional space as “no girls allowed.” Crazy as it may sound, this actually works in real life. And when those jokes inevitably become directed at a woman participating in the same realm, she’s more likely to lose status than the man indulging his fondness for juvenile humor—she may be called a prude if she doesn’t laugh at her own humiliation.

Women who copy that behavior are often considered unprofessional, or sluts. They’re called sexist hypocrites if they later on dare to complain about men’s behavior that they feel has crossed a line. You’re only allowed to be a humorless prude or a woman who’s asking for it, and very little in between.

People working in technology, many of whom think they’ve already built a utopian, post-bias meritocracy, aren’t exempt from that context.

When you talk about sexism or racism in tech, many members of the community respond by acknowledging that racism and sexism are bad but denying that it happens in their institutions. They’re also often terrible at recognizing racist and/or sexist remarks, I think in large part because they tend to disregard the idea that the race and gender of a person can completely change the meaning and impact of their actions. The real racist, some will say, is Adria Richards, who once tweeted a link to an article by a white guy about white male privilege.

In other words, you end up with a lot of privileged individuals insisting on defining the terms of bigotry in ways that exclude their own behavior—because they’re good people, and they don’t do that kind of thing, so it’s your own fault if you were uncomfortable.

Then the person who complained gets harassed. Often in shockingly racist or sexist ways.

Have you read the public comments to SendGrid’s post about firing Adria Richards? I don’t recommend it, because there is horrible, godawful stuff in there, but I will include these examples and then rest my case.

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Then you have the same hacker collective that did a lot to publicize the Steubenville rape case declaring a vendetta against SendGrid and all its customers if Adria Richards wasn’t fired immediately. Which she was.

The problem is that among many men, and even some women, rape is considered a “real” offense, while the sexist culture that permits men to think it’s OK to objectify women and ignore the conditions that exclude us from economic opportunities is not. The “it can’t happen here” mentality is the same one that leads people to make excuses for rape, claim that a rape wasn’t really a rape, say that a perpetrator is a good person who couldn’t have done something like commit a rape, or blame the victim for speaking out and “ruining her rapist’s life.”

A dirty joke isn’t an assault. It shouldn’t be punished like an assault, and it’s not even reasonable to have predicted that these men would have been punished for it. The engineering departments of most the Valley would be decimated if dirty jokes were commonly understood to be an automatic firing offense. From what little I know, firing someone over the dirty joke in question was an overreaction, and probably wouldn’t be a proportional response in most comparable situations.

But publicly complaining about a dirty joke isn’t an assault either. It does not deserve to be met with death threats, rape threats, or the threatened financial ruin of one’s employer.

The code of conduct for the conference at which the incident occurred made clear that no such jokes, from any attendee, would be tolerated, specifically because of the very well-known effect they have in creating an atmosphere that keeps women out of the tech industry and makes them uncomfortable at conferences, if it does not escalate to actively driving them out. Instead, what seems to have happened is that the industry closed ranks around a male developer who faced consequences for behaving in an unprofessional way—he was one of several men who behaved that way that day—in the presence of one woman who was milling around in a very large crowd. Think anyone will dare to complain again any time soon?

Guys, you don’t get to call yourselves committed egalitarians while you refuse to allow members of your own community to be scrutinized for violating that ethos.

Women in tech have just been told quite loudly that they need to be “good girls” and know their place. And that place is not to call out a male colleague for acting like a child in a professional venue; not even among the people who built Facebook and Twitter culture, at the epicenter of the Open Source movement, in a room likely scattered with people whose secret mission in life is to liberate private information and shame the powerful. To me, it’s a bit like being ostracized for taking a picture of the attendees at a tabloid photography conference.

Adria Richards didn’t know it that day, but she was only a guest in their culture, and not a community member like she probably thought she was. Too bad for her.

Analysis Law and Policy

Do Counselors-in-Training Have the Right to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People?

Greg Lipper

Doctors can't treat their patients with leeches; counselors can't impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Whether they’re bakers, florists, or government clerks, those claiming the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people have repeatedly sought to transform professional services into constitutionally protected religious speech. They have grabbed headlines for refusing, for example, to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to make cakes for same-sex couples’ weddings-all in the name of “religious freedom.”

A bit more quietly, however, a handful of counseling students at public universities have challenged their schools’ nondiscrimination and treatment requirements governing clinical placements. In some cases, they have sought a constitutional right to withhold treatment from LGBTQ clients; in others, they have argued for the right to directly impose their religious and anti-gay views on their clients.

There has been some state legislative maneuvering on this front: Tennessee, for instance, recently enacted a thinly veiled anti-LGBTQ measure that would allow counselors to deny service on account of their “sincerely held principles.” But when it comes to the federal Constitution, providing medical treatment—whether bypass surgery, root canal, or mental-health counseling—isn’t advocacy (religious or otherwise) protected by the First Amendment. Counselors are medical professionals; they are hired to help their clients, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation, and no matter the counselors’ beliefs. The government, moreover, may lawfully prevent counselors from harming their clients, and universities in particular have an interest, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, in preventing discrimination in school activities and in training their students to work with diverse populations.

The plaintiffs in these cases have nonetheless argued that their schools are unfairly and unconstitutionally targeting them for their religious beliefs. But these students are not being targeted, any more than are business owners who must comply with civil rights laws. Instead, their universities, informed by the rules of the American Counseling Association (ACA)—the leading organization of American professional counselors—merely ask that all students learn to treat diverse populations and to do so in accordance with the standard of care. These plaintiffs, as a result, have yet to win a constitutional right to discriminate against or impose anti-LGBTQ views on actual or prospective clients. But cases persist, and the possibility of conflicting court decisions looms.

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Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley

The first major challenge to university counseling requirements came from Jennifer Keeton, who hoped to receive a master’s degree in school counseling from Augusta State University. As detailed in the 2011 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision considering her case, Keeton entered her professional training believing that (1) “sexual behavior is the result of personal choice for which individuals are accountable, not inevitable deterministic forces”; (2) “gender is fixed and binary (i.e., male or female), not a social construct or personal choice subject to individual change”; and “homosexuality is a ‘lifestyle,’ not a ‘state of being.'”

It wasn’t those views alone, however, that sunk her educational plans. The problem, rather, was that Keeton wanted to impose her views on her patients. Keeton had told both her classmates and professors about her clinical approach at a university-run clinic, and it wasn’t pretty:

  • She would try to change the sexual orientation of gay clients;
  • If she were counseling a sophomore student in crisis questioning his sexual orientation, she would respond by telling the student that it was not OK to be gay.
  • If a client disclosed that he was gay, she would tell him that his behavior was wrong and try to change it; if she were unsuccessful, she would refer the client to someone who practices “conversion therapy.”

Unsurprisingly, Keeton also told school officials that it would be difficult for her to work with LGBTQ clients.

Keeton’s approach to counseling not only would have flouted the university’s curricular guidelines, but also would have violated the ACA’s Code of Ethics.

Her conduct would have harmed her patients as well. As a school counselor, Keeton would inevitably have to counsel LGBTQ clients: 57 percent of LGBTQ students have sought help from a school professional and 42 percent have sought help from a school counselor. Suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBTQ adolescents; that’s twice or three times the suicide rate afflicting their heterosexual counterparts. And Keeton’s preferred approach to counseling LGBTQ students would harm them: LGBTQ students rejected by trusted authority figures are even more likely to attempt suicide, and anti-gay “conversion therapy” at best doesn’t work and at worst harms patients too.

Seeking to protect the university’s clinical patients and train her to be a licensed mental health professional, university officials asked Keeton to complete a remediation plan before she counseled students in her required clinical practicum. She refused; the university expelled her. In response, the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom sued on her behalf, claiming that the university violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

The courts disagreed. The trial court ruled against Keeton, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously upheld the trial court’s ruling. The 11th Circuit explained that Keeton was expelled not because of her religious beliefs, but rather because of her “own statements that she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on clients and refer clients to conversion therapy, and her own admissions that it would be difficult for her to work with the GLBTQ population and separate her own views from those of the client.” It was Keeton, not the university, who could not separate her personal beliefs from the professional counseling that she provided: “[F]ar from compelling Keeton to profess a belief or change her own beliefs about the morality of homosexuality, [the university] instructs her not to express her personal beliefs regarding the client’s moral values.”

Keeton, in other words, crossed the line between beliefs and conduct. She may believe whatever she likes, but she may not ignore academic and professional requirements designed to protect her clients—especially when serving clients at a university-run clinic.

As the court explained, the First Amendment would not prohibit a medical school from requiring students to perform blood transfusions in their clinical placements, nor would it prohibit a law school from requiring extra ethics training for a student who “expressed an intent to indiscriminately disclose her client’s secrets or violate another of the state bar’s rules.” Doctors can’t treat their patients with leeches; counselors can’t impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Ward v. Polite

The Alliance Defending Freedom’s follow-up case, Ward v. Polite, sought to give counseling students the right to withhold service from LGBTQ patients and also to practice anti-gay “conversion therapy” on those patients. The case’s facts were a bit murkier, and this led the appeals court to send it to trial; as a result, the student ultimately extracted only a modest settlement from the university. But as in Keeton’s case, the court rejected in a 2012 decision the attempt to give counseling students the right to impose their religious views on their clients.

Julea Ward studied counseling at Eastern Michigan University; like Keeton, she was training to be a school counselor. When she reviewed the file for her third client in the required clinical practicum, she realized that he was seeking counseling about a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. As the Court of Appeals recounted, Ward did not want to counsel the client about this topic, and asked her faculty supervisor “(1) whether she should meet with the client and refer him [to a different counselor] only if it became necessary—only if the counseling session required Ward to affirm the client’s same-sex relationship—or (2) whether the school should reassign the client from the outset.” Although her supervisor reassigned the client, it was the first time in 20 years that one of her students had made such a request. So Ward’s supervisor scheduled a meeting with her.

Then things went off the rails. Ward, explained the court, “reiterated her religious objection to affirming same-sex relationships.” She told university officials that while she had “no problem counseling gay and lesbian clients,” she would counsel them only if “the university did not require her to affirm their sexual orientation.” She also refused to counsel “heterosexual clients about extra-marital sex and adultery in a values-affirming way.” As for the professional rules governing counselors, Ward said, “who’s the [American Counseling Association] to tell me what to do. I answer to a higher power and I’m not selling out God.”

All this led the university to expel Ward, and she sued. She claimed that the university violated her free speech and free exercise rights, and that she had a constitutional right to withhold affirming therapy relating to any same-sex relationships or different-sex relationships outside of marriage. Like Keeton, Ward also argued that the First Amendment prohibited the university from requiring “gay-affirmative therapy” while prohibiting “reparative therapy.” After factual discovery, the trial court dismissed her case.

On appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Ward eked out a narrow and temporary win: The court held that the case should go to a jury. Because the university did not have a written policy prohibiting referrals, and based on a few troubling faculty statements during Ward’s review, the court ruled that a reasonable jury could potentially find that the university invoked a no-referrals policy “as a pretext for punishing Ward’s religious views and speech.” At the same time, the court recognized that a jury could view the facts less favorably to Ward and rule for the university.

And although the decision appeared to sympathize with Ward’s desire to withhold service from certain types of clients, the court flatly rejected Ward’s sweeping arguments that she had the right to stray from the school curriculum, refuse to counsel LGBTQ clients, or practice anti-gay “conversion therapy.” For one, it said, “Curriculum choices are a form of school speech, giving schools considerable flexibility in designing courses and policies and in enforcing them so long as they amount to reasonable means of furthering legitimate educational ends.” Thus, the problem was “not the adoption of this anti-discrimination policy, the existence of the practicum class or even the values-affirming message the school wants students to understand and practice.” On the contrary, the court emphasized “the [legal] latitude educational institutions—at any level—must have to further legitimate curricular objectives.”

Indeed, the university had good reason to require counseling students—especially those studying to be school counselors—to treat diverse populations. A school counselor who refuses to counsel anyone with regard to nonmarital, nonheterosexual relationships will struggle to find clients: Nearly four in five Americans have had sex by age 21; more than half have done so by the time they turn 18, while only 6 percent of women and 2 percent of men are married by that age.

In any event, withholding service from entire classes of people violates professional ethical rules even for nonschool counselors. Although the ACA permits client referrals in certain circumstances, the agency’s brief in Ward’s case emphasized that counselors may not refuse to treat entire groups. Ward, in sum, “violated the ACA Code of Ethics by refusing to counsel clients who may wish to discuss homosexual relationships, as well as others who fail to comport with her religious teachings, e.g., persons who engage in ‘fornication.'”

But Ward’s approach would have been unethical even if, in theory, she were permitted to withhold service from each and every client seeking counseling related to nonmarital sex (or even marital sex by same-sex couples). Because in many cases, the need for referral would arise well into the counseling relationship. And as the trial court explained, “a client may seek counseling for depression, or issues with their parents, and end up discussing a homosexual relationship.” No matter what the reason, mid-counseling referrals harm clients, and such referrals are even more harmful if they happen because the counselor disapproves of the client.

Fortunately, Ward did not win the sweeping right to harm her clients or otherwise upend professional counseling standards. Rather, the court explained that “the even-handed enforcement of a neutral policy”—such as the ACA’s ethical rules—”is likely to steer clear of the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-exercise protections.” (Full disclosure: I worked on an amicus brief in support of the university when at Americans United.)

Ward’s lawyers pretended that she won the case, but she ended up settling it for relatively little. She received only $75,000; and although the expulsion was removed from her record, she was not reinstated. Without a graduate counseling degree, she cannot become a licensed counselor.

Cash v. Hofherr

The latest anti-gay counseling salvo comes from Andrew Cash, whose April 2016 lawsuit against Missouri State University attempts to rely on yet murkier facts and could wind up, on appeal, in front of the more conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In addition to his range of constitutional claims (freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, equal protection of law), he has added a claim under the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The complaint describes Cash as “a Christian with sincerely-held beliefs”—as opposed to insincere ones, apparently—”on issues of morality.” Cash started his graduate counseling program at Missouri State University in September 2007. The program requires a clinical internship, which includes 240 hours of in-person client contact. Cash decided to do his clinical internship at Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, which appeared on the counseling department’s list of approved sites. Far from holding anti-Christian bias, Cash’s instructor agreed that his proposed class presentation on “Christian counseling and its unique approach and value to the Counseling profession” was an “excellent” idea.

But the presentation itself revealed that Cash intended to discriminate against LGBTQ patients. In response to a question during the presentation, the head of the Marriage and Family Institute stated that “he would counsel gay persons as individuals, but not as couples, because of his religious beliefs,” and that he would “refer the couple for counseling to other counselors he knew who did not share his religious views.” Because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates ACA guidelines, the university determined that Cash should not continue counseling at the Marriage and Family Institute and that it would be removed from the approved list of placements. Cash suggested, however, that he should be able to withhold treatment from same-sex couples.

All this took place in 2011. The complaint (both the original and amended versions) evades precisely what happened between 2012 and 2014, when Cash was finally expelled. You get the sense that Cash’s lawyers at the Thomas More Society are trying to yadda-yadda-yadda the most important facts of the case.

In any event, the complaint does acknowledge that when Cash applied for a new internship, he both ignored the university’s instructions that the previous hours were not supposed to count toward his requirement, and appeared to be “still very much defend[ing] his previous internship stating that there was nothing wrong with it”—thus suggesting that he would continue to refuse to counsel same-sex couples. He continued to defend his position in later meetings with school officials; by November 2014, the university removed him from the program.

Yet in challenging this expulsion, Cash’s complaint says that he was merely “expressing his Christian worldview regarding a hypothetical situation concerning whether he would provide counseling services to a gay/homosexual couple.”

That’s more than just a worldview, though. It also reflects his intent to discriminate against a class of people—in a manner that violates his program’s requirements and the ACA guidelines. Whether hypothetically or otherwise, Cash stated and reiterated that he would withhold treatment from same-sex couples. A law student who stated, as part of his clinic, that he would refuse to represent Christian clients would be announcing his intent to violate the rules of professional responsibility, and the law school could and would remove him from the school’s legal clinic. And they could and would do so even if a Christian client had yet to walk in the door.

But maybe this was just a big misunderstanding, and Cash would, in practice, be willing and able to counsel same-sex couples? Not so, said Cash’s lawyer from the Thomas More Society, speaking about the case to Christian news outlet WORLD: “I think Christians have to go on the offensive, or it’s going to be a situation like Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, where you aren’t safe to have a guest in your home, with the demands of the gay mob.” Yikes.

Although Cash seems to want a maximalist decision allowing counselors and counseling students to withhold service from LGBTQ couples, it remains to be seen how the case will turn out. The complaint appears to elide two years’ worth of key facts in order to present Cash’s claims as sympathetically as possible; even if the trial court were to rule in favor of the university after more factual development, Cash would have the opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, one of the country’s most conservative federal appeals courts.

More generally, we’re still early in the legal battles over attempts to use religious freedom rights as grounds to discriminate; only a few courts across the country have weighed in. So no matter how extreme Cash or his lawyers may seem, it’s too early to count them out.

* * *

The cases brought by Keeton, Ward, and Cash not only attempt to undermine anti-discrimination policies. They also seek to change the nature of the counselor-client relationship. Current norms provide that a counselor is a professional who provides a service to a client. But the plaintiffs in these cases seem to think that counseling a patient is no different than lecturing a passerby in the town square, in that counseling a patient necessarily involves expressing the counselor’s personal and religious beliefs. Courts have thus far rejected these attempts to redefine the counselor-patient relationship, just as they have turned away attempts to challenge bans on “reparative therapy.”

The principles underlying the courts’ decisions protect more than just LGBTQ clients. As the 11th Circuit explained in Keeton, the university trains students to “be competent to work with all populations, and that all students not impose their personal religious values on their clients, whether, for instance, they believe that persons ought to be Christians rather than Muslims, Jews or atheists, or that homosexuality is moral or immoral.” Licensed professionals are supposed to help their clients, not treat them as prospective converts.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.