Equal Rights Amendment
October 5, 2004 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

How could anyone possibly be against THAT?


I sincerely hope I'm not setting off political argument here, but I have a question about the Equal Rights Amendment. Having failed to pass many times, I wonder strongly.. well.. how could it? There MUST be a better argument than "women are not equal," or it would have passed by now.

So, and again, I emphasize my total sincerity here, I cannot see what objections could be held about this amendment (unless someone is simply misogynist.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Law & Government (11 answers total)

the wiki has some of the arguments against the ERA
posted by reverendX at 9:09 PM on October 5, 2004

The passing of the ERA would have an theoretical impact on military service, single-sex school taxation, the boy scouts, abortion, parental rights, and any number of smaller but significant legal issues. Just look up ["Equal Rights Amendment" +Why not] for all the info you could possibly want.

At the same time, many say that the laws of the United States and the individual states protect the rights of women enough. Of course, the counter is that those laws can change as governments do.

Regardless, the issue is more complicated that simply "women are/are not equal to men", sort of like that whole gun control thing.
posted by loquax at 9:10 PM on October 5, 2004

Generally, the "against the ERA" contingent argue that it's unnecessary to to alter the Constitution with an amendment which is already fully-covered by the first section of the 14th Amendment. 1

However, when the ERA was first floated, many women's groups were against it as well, arguing that the phrasing of the ERA would *require* men and women to share co-ed bathrooms, showers, dormitories, etc., etc.. Certainly, there were old-guard misogynistic arguments against it as well, but stastistically, female voters probably tipped the balance against it because of implications like these.

Though I am a feminist, I'm not all that concerned with passing the ERA for the first reason. I'm more interested in enforcing the equality amendment we already have than gilding the Constitution with another iteration of the same.

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.
posted by headspace at 9:15 PM on October 5, 2004

Others have hit the basic reasons, but:

There MUST be a better argument than "women are not equal," or it would have passed by now.

It can't be passed now. It had a time-bomb provision in it to render it null if it hadn't been ratified in seven years, to avoid weird legal limbos like the now-27th Amendment wandered in for ~200 years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:19 PM on October 5, 2004

I remember at the time that people seemed really worried about unisex bathrooms. Go figure.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:35 AM on October 6, 2004

headspace: but if the ERA would have implications for issues as listed by loquax, how does that fit with whether they're covered within the 14th amendment?
posted by biffa at 9:41 AM on October 6, 2004

I think there'd be an argument for ending child support (for totally non-custodial parents) if the ERA were to pass, since the woman can rid herself of the obligation through abortion, but a man is stuck with financial responsibility, whether he wants it or not. But of course this raises the point that sexes AREN'T equal; obviously, this isn't an argument against "equal rights" but nonetheless it effects issues such as abortion and the draft (which is for males for the same reason its for ages 18-25, on average they're the best candidates for grunt labor).

Yeah, and when we discussed this in my government class, I seem to recall bathrooms being a big thing. But that class was kinda surreal and on-crack, so I wouldn't put much stock in it, interesting to see this isn't solely my teacher's....weirdness.
posted by dagnyscott at 11:41 AM on October 6, 2004

I don't understand how the 14th Amendment can be considered equivalent to the ERA, since its language would also suggest that children born in the US are entitled to equal protection under the law, yet no one would use it to argue that children should have the same rights as adults. Especially since women were about the only class of people who could not vote when it was passed, but can vote today. Any legal minds want to explain?
posted by transona5 at 11:55 AM on October 6, 2004

I don't understand how the 14th Amendment can be considered equivalent to the ERA

It has since been used to achieve some of the goals of the ERA, such as admission to previously men-only public universities. And women-only, for that matter.

Age is a red herring. On the one hand, youth is not a suspect classification since people normally age out of it, while people do not, in the normal course of events, find themselves turning male or turning white. On the other hand, there remain what courts would consider valid reasons to put restrictions on children, which is that they are incompetent to manage their own affairs. On the other other hand, there are legal mechanisms to emancipate yourself from any connection to sufficiently onerous parents.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:49 PM on October 6, 2004

headspace: but if the ERA would have implications for issues as listed by loquax, how does that fit with whether they're covered within the 14th amendment?

My position is what matters most is whether or not I have the same employment and education opportunities, the same protection and redresses available to me under the law, and the right to live as an autonomous being without needing a man's approval or permission. (Until the mid-eighties, banks still regularly refused loans to women who did not have a male co-signer, for example.) I don't, however, feel the need to share a bathroom with a man and I think that some single-sex institutions (Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, for example) are a good thing.

My needs for parity as a woman and citizen of the United States are fully covered by the 14th and 19th Amendments; the law is already there- my activist concern is in seeing that the law is fully implemented. Personally, I think custody laws do need revision, to favor the best interests of the child rather than the assumption that the woman is automatically the best parent; likewise, I think laws at a local level need to punish female offenders equally to their male compatriots, but I feel that those are issues that have been addressed by the Constitution, and now must be addressed in local, state, and federal statutes to bring them into compliance.

Mind you, I wouldn't throw a hissy if the ERA were re-introduced and passed, because it does at least meet the bar of amending the Constitution to extend and grant rights, but I really don't think it's necessary. We already have what we need there, we just have to make sure that our functional laws acknowledge that.
posted by headspace at 3:06 PM on October 6, 2004

Interesting. My thanks to all who answered.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2004

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