A Blast From the Past – the E.R.A.

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Lost in the brouhaha last week in the matter of Kathy Sierra, was an announcement that federal and state lawmakers are launching a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment proposed in 1972. What a blast from the past.

Those of us who lobbied for passage in those days remember Eagle Forum leader, Phyllis Schlafly, charging that if it were added to the Constitution, women would be drafted into the military and be forced to use unisex rest rooms in public establishments.

So much for that argument: women choose to join the military nowadays and use unisex facilities without blinking an eye. So Ms. Schlafly’s new argument against the amendment is that its passage will force courts to approve same-sex marriage (horrors!) and deny Social Security benefits to housewives and widows.

Legal scholars say it is hard to predict how the amendment, now renamed the “Women’s Equality Amendment,” would be interpreted by the courts, although some say it would make it possible for women to sue for higher pay and other benefits.

Others argue against passage on the grounds of Constitutional redundancy – that women are already protected from discrimination by the 14th Amendment which refers to “all persons.”

The amendment has 194 co-sponsors in the House and ten in the Senate, and no longer contains a deadline for ratification. Rep. Lindsley Smith (D – Ark) has vowed to bring the Amendment for a vote when the next legislature convenes in 2009, which allows a lot of a time for public discussion.

A two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress are required to send the Amendment to the states for ratification. Three-quarters of the states (38) are required for passage.

* Contributing Editor Ronni Bennett also blogs at Time Goes By - What it’s really like to get older.,

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