Within the last few years the Equal Rights Amendment, ERA has been given a breath of new life. It may be that the 3 year extension sought and dismissed as moot by the courts in 1982 may now be the congressional beneficiary of a no time limit extension. I think that’s good, even great. What worries me is fighting for the ERA the second time around the same way it was fought between 1972 and 1982. I don’t think the ERA’s opponents will use the same tactics, but they will update the old ones. Paul Weyrich, (here he is delivering a speech on the benefits of low voter turnout) founder and CEO of the Heritage Foundation and funder of Renew America U.S. has this to say about a possible ERA revival:
They are back, just when you thought it was safe. I mean the Feminazi (doesn’t Rush use this word?) crowd. And guess what they have in store for you? Why, they intend to re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment in both Houses of Congress.
Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum allowed in 2001 that it was possible ERA may be on the table again. This was their take on it from ERA Mischief in Illinois, a letter to Illinois legislators:
It comes as a surprise that someone is trying to dig up the dead-and-buried ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and pretend it’s alive. Please don’t be fooled. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on October 4, 1982 that ERA is officially dead because its time limit has expired. (NOW v. Idaho, 459 U.S. 809, 1982) (Also see St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 4, 1982)
Schlafly reminds the legislators that not only did not one more legislature endorse the ERA, but five actually rescinded their endorsements between 1979 and 1982. No doubt Ms. Schafley is willing to accept most of the credit for these outcomes. She claims that the more people were exposed to the ERA the more it was reviled, citing these reasons:
Not only does Schlafly contend that the loathsome federal ERA is dead but the states which adopted an ERA should also face a challenge, i.e. a complete rollback in the feminist quest for equality.
Abortion Funding: Without an ERA, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to have abortions paid for by public funds. (Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 1980) That’s why Congress has been able to pass the Hyde Amendment each year since 1977, forbidding the use of federal tax funds for most abortions. The same policy is followed by 34 states, which prohibit the use of state tax funds used to perform most abortions.But the law is different in states that have a “State ERA.” In New Mexico, the state supreme court ruled on Nov. 25, 1998 that ERA requires the state to pay for abortions in exactly the same way as any other medical procedure. The court reasoned that, since only women become pregnant or undergo abortions, the denial of taxpayer funding for them can be construed as sex discrimination. That logic dictates the conclusion that ERA makes taxpayer funding of abortion a constitutional right. (N.M. Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson , 975 P.2d 841, 1998)Likewise, the Connecticut Superior Court ruled that “the regulation that restricts the funding for abortions . . . violates Connecticut’s Equal Rights Amendment.” (Doe v. Maher, April 9, 1986) And, on December 7, 2000, the same result was reached by a state court in Texas, which also has a State ERA: “[W]e hold that the State’s implicit adoption of the Hyde Amendment violates the Texas Equal Rights Amendment.” (The Low-Income Women of Texas v. Bost , Texas 3rd Court of Appeals, No. 03-98-00209-CV, 2000)Same-Sex Marriages: Without an ERA, Congress in 1996 was able to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L. 104-199, codified at 1 U.S.C. 7), which states that, for purposes of federal law, “the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” That federal law, and some 33 similar state laws, would be swept away if ERA would make same-sex marriages a constitutional right. In the article Will the ERA Rise Again by Paul Weydrich, founder of the ultra conservative Heritage Foundation, Mr. Weydrich (2007) covers much of the same ground as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, disputing the strength of the movement for ERA on the second go-round: ERA proponents made no progress during their time extension. When that time expired Phyllis Schlafly held her second victory dinner with her friends in the Conservative movement, who hailed her as a heroine. She was certain, as was I, that this fight was over once and for all.
When ERA was first proposed many opponents said that proponents wanted unisex bathrooms and gay marriage. They claimed that this was the most vicious propaganda that the right had ever adduced. I don’t know about unisex bathrooms but many of today’s proponents do want homosexual marriage.In the House I doubt the ability of the proponents to achieve a two-thirds majority.
In the Senate the question is where Senators Elizabeth Hanford Dole (R-NC) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) will be.
Other Republican female Senators likely will be in the pro-ERA corner. So it is conceivable that the Senate might come close to two thirds. Meanwhile, Phyllis Schlafly, now in her 80s, still is going strong. And she has a strong organization to pick up the fight.Republicans control more state legislatures than during the first go-around. It may be that, rather than this being a serious legislative effort, ERA proponents simply want to draw a bulls-eye on conservatives at the state and local levels. If that is the case two can play the game. Just ask the good lady from Alton, Illinois.
Clearly, what the far right warned us about regarding the ERA has come to pass. Some states DO have marriage equality and the trend seems to be spreading. Will the far right be able to muster the arguments and the forces to fight it? Women ARE taking more places in the military, although still in non-combat, though dangerous, positions. Abortions DO exist although their numbers are fewer. There are even a few unisex toilets. And guess what? The world hasn’t ended. Perhaps public sentiment will continue to move in these directions. Perhaps the radical conservatives won’t forever be able to hold back the tide of change that will culminate in a new ERA. Let’s hope not.