No Equal Rights For You!

In case you consider the concerns addressed in the book I promoted yesterday to be exaggerated, allow me to offer the following evidence that that the GOP is indeed waging war on women–that the Republican Party is working overtime to ensure that we females remain decidedly second-class.

The “Grand Old Party” is focused on denying us bodily autonomy, and in case we missed getting the message, has recently reinforced the message by refusing to extend the deadline for passing the Equal Rights Amendment.

The ERA passed Congress in 1972, having been first proposed in 1923. Constitutional amendments, under U.S. law, must be ratified by three-quarters of all state legislatures, meaning 38 states.

In 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, but it did so after the 1982 deadline to ratify the amendment had passed.

The Senate resolution would have removed the deadline so that the ERA could become the 28th Amendment. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Murkowski were the resolution’s lead co-sponsors.

Murkowski and Collins were the only Republicans to support the extension. The vote was 51 to 47 to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed, falling short of the 60 votes it it needed.

This would be a good time to reiterate my opposition to the filibuster as it is currently employed. In its current iteration, it bears little or no resemblance to the original rule.

A filibuster used to require a Senator to actually make a lengthy speech on the Senate floor–unlike today. In its current form, it operates to require government by super-majority, and it has become a weapon routinely employed by extremists to hold the country hostage.

The original idea of a filibuster was that so long as a senator kept talking, the bill in question couldn’t move forward. Once those opposed to the measure felt they had made their case, or at least exhausted their argument, they would leave the Senate floor and allow a vote. In 1917, when filibustering Senators threatened President Wilson’s ability to respond to a perceived military threat, the Senate adopted a mechanism called cloture, allowing a super-majority vote to end a filibuster, and in 1975, the Senate again changed the rules, making it much, much easier to hold the Senate hostage.

The new rules allowed other business to be conducted during the time a filibuster is (theoretically) taking place. Senators no longer are required to take to the Senate floor and publicly argue their case. This “virtual” use has increased dramatically as partisan polarization has worsened, and it has effectively abolished the principle of majority rule. It now takes sixty votes to pass any legislation, and has brought normal government operation to a standstill.

Operating together, gerrymandering, the Electoral College and the current iteration of the filibuster have allowed a minority party to exercise unwarranted power and throw sand in the levers of government.

In this case, a majority of Senators voted to assure the equal rights of America’s female citizens–but that majority vote was blocked by the members of what I have come to call the “anti” party–anti-woman, anti-Black/Brown, anti-Gay, anti-“woke.”


I still remember long-ago arguments with what were then fellow Republicans about the necessity or advisability of the Equal Rights Amendment. Those who opposed its passage tended to rely on the language of the 14th Amendment, arguing that women could achieve legal equality under that language, and that a separate amendment was unnecessary.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, which upended fifty years of 14th Amendment jurisprudence, that argument no longer passes the smell test.

Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would establish gender equality as a fundamental constitutional right–something that, thanks to Justice Alito, we now know the Constitution doesn’t explicitly guarantee.

It would also bring the United States into compliance with international standards for human rights. (Granted, those standards are widely disregarded, but the United Nations has recognized gender equality as a fundamental human right.)

It took a hundred years for women to win the right to vote–and we have now fought (thus far, unsuccessfully) for an Equal Rights Amendment for exactly that long– it has been proposed and supported by feminists for nearly a century. (A representative of the National Women’s Party, Alice Paul, was the person who first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment to Congress in 1923.)

Currently, an overwhelming majority of Americans (81%) support passage of the amendment. The White Christian Nationalist cult that now controls the Republican Party disagrees.( Actually, it disagrees with pretty much anything promising equality for non-whites, non-Christians or non-males…)

Congress will not reflect the desires of the majority of Americans–and women will not have equal rights– until and unless we reform the systems that have turned our country into a failed democracy: gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and the current iteration of the filibuster.


ERA Redux?

A recent editorial in the New York Times suggests that the time for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment–long comatose (actually, I thought it was dead)–may finally be at hand.

The editorial begins with a recognition of the Trump Administration’s negative consequences, especially for women:

Having a sexist in the Oval Office who curries favor with conservative religious groups is having dire consequences. Health workers in developing nations are preparing for a rise in unsafe abortions due to President Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rulethat prohibits federal funding of groups that provide abortion services or referrals. Here at home, his administration has been hostilenot only to abortion access, but even to birth control.

A full list of the “Trump Effect” would be much longer, of course; it is a mistake to put “women’s issues” in some sort of separate category limited to matters of reproduction and discrimination. Women’s issues are human issues, and vice-versa–the damage this administration is doing to policies ranging from the environment to poverty to international relations affects all genders, just as family planning and child care policies affect men as well as women.

That said, the daily assaults have generated a monumental resistance.

Rage at the election of a man who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals helped set off the #MeToo movement’s reckoning with sexual misconduct. A record number of women are running for office around the country, many of them announcing their candidacies after participating in women’s marches the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

And now, on Mr. Trump’s watch, feminists could reach a goal nearly a century in the making, and that many assumed would never come to pass — ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

What prompts this possibility?  Evidently, the Illinois State Senate recently passed a bill to ratify the E.R.A.  If the Illinois House passes the same legislation (supporters are cautiously optimistic) — then Illinois will become the 37th state to ratify the amendment.

Just one additional state would be needed, and the long-languishing amendment would become part of the Constitution. Maybe.

Thirty-five states had signed on by 1977, ahead of the 1982 deadline established by Congress. Extensive–one might say hysterical– conservative opposition then arose, preventing further ratification. Virtually nothing happened after that, until Nevada suddenly ratified it last year.

There are some questions about what will happen if a 38th state ratifies the amendment, given that it would miss the deadline Congress set by at least 36 years, and five states have even voted to rescind their ratifications. But E.R.A. supporters and some legal experts make a plausible case that the amendment should still be recognized, pointing to, among other things, the 27th Amendment, on congressional pay, which was ratified more than 200 years after its passage by Congress, although no deadline had been set.

If the ERA were to be ratified, I’m not sure what it would do. As the editorial notes, there is a substantial body of 14th Amendment jurisprudence that protects the equal rights of women.

The fight against the E.R.A. is being led by groups on the religious right like the Illinois Family Institute, using arguments that are the ideological heirs of those so vociferously expressed by Phyllis Schlafly, whose group Stop E.R.A. — the first word standing for “Stop Taking Our Privileges” — which became the Eagle Forum, prevented the E.R.A.’s ratification at the time.

Those arguments include fearmongering about how coed locker rooms could become standard and alimony for women outlawed — arguments that are hard to take seriously but that nonetheless helped Mrs. Schlafly to very effectively convince Americans, including many women, that the E.R.A. was bad news. (Mrs. Schlafly, who died in 2016, would no doubt be appalled that her home state, Illinois, could now play such a pivotal role in ratification.)

Another conservative talking point is that the E.R.A. would lead to abortion restrictions being struck down. That outcome is not at all certain, but it would help many women. (For obvious reasons, the anti-E.R.A. crowd already had to slink away from an argument that the amendment would lead to legalizing same-sex marriage.)

Do we still need the ERA? Case law can be overturned; a constitutional amendment cannot–at least, not easily. Ratification would add an extra layer of protection against discrimination for both men and women . Given the appalling people that are being placed on the federal bench by Trump and the GOP, that’s no small matter. And of course, as the editorial pointed out, “This could become especially important if Mr. Trump gets to pick additional conservative Supreme Court justices.”