Day by Day

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Equal Rights Amendment

There has been increasing chatter about Washington circles (one example of the reporting of it is here in the Washington Times and another here at Cybercast News Service) regarding reviving the Equal Rights Amendment now that there's a Democrat controlled Congress. Michelle Malkin, to whom I owe so much and hold much admiration, has some nice commentary as well.

For those of you who don't recall the ERA, it's very short (unusual in its own right in DC) - one sentence: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.".

My question is this. When did advocates of the ERA stop considering women to be persons?

"Huh?" you ask.

Well, perhaps it's been awhile since you've read your US Constitution and accompanying amendments (not everyone carries a copy around in their pocket).

So, let's go down memory lane and review the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified back in 1868 (nearly 140 years ago, for government school graduates).
"Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yes, it's wordy. But, let's look. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens..." And "... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

So, back to my question. When did women become unpersons (Give yourself 10 bonus points if you catch the reference)? The only way we NEED the ERA is if the women persons of this country aren't protected. But, they are. And have been for some time now.

Instead of going through a lot of time and effort to enact a redundant amendment, why don't we put that effort into enforcing current laws, hmmm?

Or... is the ERA an opportunity to make noise and show how much you're doing for the women of your constituency without them realizing that they don't need you to do it in the first place?

1 comment:

M.J. O'Brien said...

If you look at the bare text of the 14th amendment's guarantee of equal protection, you'd be right: the WEA/ERA wouldn't be necessary. But the courts have narrowly construed the 14th and haven't deemed gender to be a "suspect classification" like race or religion. The legislative history of the 14th contains no evidence that it was intended to prohibit gender discrimination. The ERA/WEA would correct that historical "oversight."

To be completely accurate here, there's one notable exception to my statement that the courts have "narrowly construed" the 14th. That came in 2000, when the conservatives on the Supreme Court shocked legal observers by relying on the 14th in deciding Bush v. Gore.

Thanks for the comment on my blog.