Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, April 16, 2012

Resurrecting the Dead

“She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it.”  Margaret Hope Bacon, The Valiant Friend

This testimonial was written about abolitionist and suffragist Lucretia Mott in the 19th Century, though it could have just as easily been written about Sarah Palin or Ann Romney.  The suffragettes were all about the politics.  They believed that women should have the equal right to vote. They weren’t concerned about a woman’s right to free contraceptives or abortion.

 On March 22, 2012, nine Senate Democrats – Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (DJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ.) and, Barbara Mikulski (MD) -  proposed that states be given another chance to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. This is the 40th anniversary of the Senate's passage of ERA and the first time the Senate has ever considered an ERA bill other than the "Start-over."

 SJ Res. 39 was introduced by Sen. Cardin on March 22, 2012 to mark the 40th Anniversary of when both Houses of Congress first approved ERA and sent it out to the states. SJ 39 Res. is the companion bill to HJR 47.  Cardin and the other eight other Democrats proposed a joint resolution that would remove the 1972 deadline for getting 38 states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). By 1982, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states, three short of the 38 needed to become an amendment. Cardin said, that Congress “should give the states another chance,” and said passage of a joint resolution by both the House and Senate extended the deadline once before, in the late 1970s.

Cardin noted that last year, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that “certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't.”

Cardin also stated that the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits congressional pay raises from taking effect immediately, was ratified in 1992 - 203 years after first being proposed in 1789 by James Madison.

In 1992, following passage of the 27th Amendment, the ERA Summit, a national coalition working to jump-start a new ratification effort, sought a legal analysis as to whether the ERA's time limit could be removed. The conclusion of this study: “Why the Equal Rights Amendment Remains Viable and Legally Before the States" pointed out that there was: No time limit in the Constitution, the time limit has already been changed once from 1979 to 1982 and, the ERA's time limit is in the proposing clause not the Amendment.

Therefore, it was entirely up to Congress whether or not to remove the deadline.  Following this analysis, in 1993, ERA activists were successful in getting a Resolution in the U.S. House that would authorize Congress to recognize and accept the ratification by three more states. This bill, known as the “Three-State Strategy” was introduced into every Congress through 2008. During this time, efforts were made by ERA supporters to obtain a companion bill in the US Senate but they were never successful.

In 2009, Carolyn Cook, DC Coordinator for ERA Campaign Network, authored a bill that would remove ERA’s ratification deadline in support of the Three-State Strategy.  Jean Landweber, Wisconsin Coordinator for ERA Campaign Network, convinced Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to sponsor the House bill HJ Res 47. It was introduced on the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day. March 8, 2011.  Since then, Carolyn Cook worked tirelessly to get a companion bill introduced in the Senate.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constituion. ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. The ERA failed to receive the requisite number of ratifications before the final deadline mandated by Congress of June 30, 1982 expired and so it was not adopted.

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.

Although the 19th Amendment had prohibited the denial of the right to vote because of a person's sex, Paul argued that this right alone would not end remaining vestiges of legal discrimination based upon sex. She drafted the Equal Rights Amendment and, in 1923, presented it as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments.

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Like many Quakers, Lucretia Mott considered slavery an evil to be opposed. Inspired in part by minister Elias Hicks, she and other Quakers refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods. In 1821 Mott became a Quaker minister. With her husband's support, she traveled extensively as a minister, and her sermons emphasized the Quaker inward light, or the presence of the Divine within every individual.  Her sermons also included her free produce and anti-slavery sentiments. In 1833, her husband helped her found the American Anti-Slavery Society.

By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Mott was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. She tested the language of the society's Constitution and bolstered support when many delegates were precarious.  Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, Mott and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Integrated from its founding, the organization opposed both slavery and racism, and developed close ties to Philadelphia's Black community. Mott herself often preached at Black parishes. Around this time, Mott's sister-in-law, Abigail Lydia Mott, and brother-in-law, Lindley Murray Moore were helping to found the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.

Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Mott continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donate to charities. Mott was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, “She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it.”  Mott and other female abolitionists also organized fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the anti-slavery movement.

In 1848, Mott and Stanton organized a women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y.  Stanton noted the Seneca Falls Convention was the first public women's rights meeting in the United States.  Stanton’s resolution that it was “the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise” was passed despite Mott's opposition. Mott viewed politics as corrupted by slavery and moral compromises, but she soon concluded that women's “right to the elective franchise however, is the same, and should be yielded to her, whether she exercises that right or not.”  Mott signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. Over the next few decades, women's suffrage became the focus of the women's rights movement. While Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott’s mentoring of Stanton and their work together that inspired the event.

 The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) stated:   

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.

The National Woman's Party took ERA to Congress in the 1920s, where Sen. Charles Curtis, a future Vice President, and Representative Daniel R. Anthony, Jr.—Susan B. Anthony's nephew, both Kansas Republicans - introduced it for the first time as Senate Joint Resolution No. 21 on Dec. 10, 1923, and as House Joint Resolution No. 75 on Dec. 13, 1923, respectively. Though ERA was introduced in every Congressional session between 1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either the Senate or the House for a vote — instead, it was usually “bottled up” in committee. Exceptions occurred in 1946, when it was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 38 to 35 and, in 1950 and 1953, when it was passed by the Senate with the Hayden Rider, making it unacceptable to ERA supporters. The Hayden Rider said:

The provisions of this article shall not be construed to impair any rights, benefits, or exemptions now or hereafter conferred by law upon persons of the female sex.

In 1958, President Eisenhower asked a joint session of Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, the first President to show such a level of support for the amendment. However, whenever the ERA was proposed, the Hayden Rider was added; this would make the amendment unacceptable to the National Woman's Party, who would then ask that the ERA be withdrawn.

The Republican Party included support of the ERA in its platform beginning in 1940, renewing the plank every four years until 1980.  ERA was strongly opposed by the American Federation of Labor and other labor unions, which feared the amendment would invalidate protective labor legislation for women. ERA was also opposed by Eleanor Roosevelt and most New Dealers, who either contended that women needed government protection, that men did not, or otherwise did not want the only labor protections abolished before they could be extended to men as well, as it would likely be a blow to unions and the movement for labor laws.

The amendment was opposed by most northern Democrats, who aligned themselves with the anti-ERA labor unions but the ERA was supported by southern Democrats and almost all Republicans.  In 1944, the Democrats made the divisive issue to include the ERA in their platform, but the Democratic Party did not become united in favor of the amendment until Congressional passage in 1972.  The main support base for the ERA until the late 1960s was among wealthy, conservative women. The League of Women Voters, formerly the National American Women Suffrage Association, opposed the Equal Rights Amendment until 1972, fearing the loss of protective labor legislation. Despite this, the amendment kept in line with the views of women's rights advocated by early feminists like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

In 1961, feminists encouraged newly-elected President John F. Kennedy to support ERA. Though Kennedy was elected on a pro-ERA platform and took a position favoring the amendment in a letter to Mrs. Emma Guffey Miller, the chairman of the National Woman's Party, he did not speak out in favor of the amendment due to his ties to labor.  Esther Peterson, , a feminist and the highest-ranking woman in the Kennedy administration, publicly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and referred to the National Woman's Party members, most of them aging suffragettes, as the “Old Frontier.”

As a concession to pro-ERA feminists, Kennedy appointed a blue-ribbon commission on women, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, to investigate the problem of sex discrimination in the United States. The Commission was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt who dropped her opposition to the ERA in the 1950s to support the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which had similar language. In the early 1960s, Roosevelt announced that, due to unionization, she believed the ERA was no longer a threat to women as it once may have been and told supporters that they could have the amendment if they wanted it. The Commission helped win passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which banned sex discrimination in pay in a number of professions (it would later be amended in the early 1970s, at the demand of feminists, to include the professions it initially excluded) and secured an Executive Order from Kennedy eliminating sex discrimination in the civil service. 

The commission, made up largely of anti-ERA feminists with ties to labor, proposed remedies to the widespread sex discrimination it unearthed and in its 1963 final report held that on the issue of equality "a constitutional amendment need not now be sought.”   The commission established state and local commissions on the status of women and arranged for follow-up conferences in the years to come. The following year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned workplace discrimination not only on the basis of race, religion, and national origin, but also on the basis of sex, thanks to the lobbying of Alice Paul and Coretta Scott King and the skillful politicking of Representative Martha W. Griffiths of Michigan.

A new women’s movement gained ground in the later 1960s as a result of a variety of factors: Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique; the network of women's rights commissions formed by Kennedy's national commission; the frustration over women's social and economic status; and anger over the lack of government and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII the Civil Rights Act.   In June 1966, at the Third National Conference on the Status of Women, Friedan and a group of activists frustrated with the lack of government action in enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act formed the National Organization for Women to act as an “NAACP for women,” demanding full equality for American women.  In 1967, at the urging of Alice Paul, NOW endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. The decision caused some union Democrats and social conservatives to leave the organization and form the Women’s Equity Action League (within a few years WEAL also endorsed the ERA), but the move to support the amendment benefited NOW, bolstering its membership.

By the late 1960s NOW had made significant political and legislative victories and was gaining enough power to become a major lobbying force. In 1969, newly-elected Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York gave her famous speech “Equal Rights for Women” on the floor of Congress.

In February 1970, NOW picketed the United States Senate, a subcommittee of which was holding hearings on a Constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18.  Feminists disrupted the hearings demanding a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment and won a meeting with Senators to discuss the ERA.  That August millions of American women held a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality to demand full social, economic, and political equality.  Said Friedan of the strike, “All kinds of women's groups all over the country will be using this week on August 26 particularly, to point out those areas in women's life which are still not addressed. For example, a question of equality before the law; we are interested in the Equal Rights Amendment.”

In Washington, D.C., protesters presented a sympathetic Senate leadership with a petition for the Equal Rights Amendment at the U.S. Capitol. In 1970, Congressional hearings began on the ERA.  In 1978, the Congress approved a controversial joint resolution by a simple majority (not a two-thirds supermajority) that purported to extend the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982.   As the 1979 deadline approached—the 95th Congress adopted House Joint Resolution No. 638 (H. J. Res. 638), by Representative Elizabeth Holtzman of New York.  H. J. Res. 638 received less than two-thirds of the vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate; for that reason, it was deemed necessary by ERA supporters that H. J. Res. 638 be transmitted to then President Jimmy Carter for signature as a safety precaution. Carter signed the joint resolution, though he questioned—on procedural grounds—the propriety of his doing so.  During this disputed extension, no additional states ratified or rescinded.

The legislatures of four states rescinded their ratifications before the original March 22, 1979 deadline. A fifth state, South Dakota—while not going quite so far as to rescind—adopted a resolution declaring its ratification to be valid only up to and including March 22, 1979.

Here are details of the rescissions:

1.      Idaho, which ratified the ERA on March 24, 1972, by approving Senate Joint Resolution No. 133, then adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 10 on February 8, 1977, to rescind that ratification.

2.      Kentucky,  which ratified the ERA on June 26, 1972, by approving House (Joint) Resolution No. 2, then adopted House (Joint) Resolution No. 20 on March 17, 1978, to rescind that ratification; then Lt. Gov. of Kentucky, Thelma Stovall,  who was acting as Governor in the Governor's absence, issued a veto of the rescinding resolution, but the U.S. Constitution does not provide a role for a state's governor in the federal constitutional amendment process.

3.      Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, which ratified the ERA on March 29, 1972 by approving the erroneously-worded Legislative Resolution No. 83 (and then approving the correctly-worded Legislative Resolution No. 86), later adopted Legislative Resolution No. 9 on March 15, 1973, to rescind only the aforementioned Legislative Resolution No. 83.  This meant that Nebraska remains officially in the "ratified" column, but appears to have been widely misconstrued at the time to have been a full rescission of Nebraska's previous ratification.

4.      Tennessee, which ratified the ERA on April 4, 1972, by approving House Joint Resolution No. 371, then adopted Senate Joint Resolution No. 29 on April 23, 1974, to rescind that ratification.

In a fifth state, South Dakota lawmakers ratified the ERA on February 5, 1973, by approving Senate Joint Resolution No. 1. Then, they adopted Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 on March 1, 1979, stipulating that the ERA's opportunity for ratification—by any state of the Union—would expire on March 22, 1979; furthermore, Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 made clear that South Dakota's own ratification of the ERA would only be valid up until March 22, 1979, and that any ratification activities transpiring after that date anywhere would be considered by South Dakota to be null and void.

In Idaho v. Freeman, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho ruled that the rescissions — all of which occurred before the original 1979 ratification deadline — were valid. According to research by Professor Jules B. Gerard, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, of the 35 legislatures that passed ratification resolutions, 24 explicitly referred to the 1979 deadline.  The court also ruled that the extension of the ratification deadline was unconstitutional. The National Organization for Women appealed both rulings. In NOW v. Idaho, 459 U.S. 809 (1982), the U.S. Supreme Court declared the entire matter moot on the grounds that the 1972 ERA was dead with or without either the rescissions or the purported deadline extension. Since 1995, ratification resolutions were introduced, but failed to win full approval in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

On Dec. 23, 1981, a United States District Court ruled that the ERA’s deadline extension was unconstitutional and that a state legislature may rescind its prior ratification of a proposed amendment to the Constitution.  The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Administrator of General Services claimed that the required number of states (38) had not ratified the amendment even if the deadline extension was valid and the rescissions were invalid:

 "the Amendment has failed of adoption no matter what the resolution of the legal issues presented here.”

The political momentum changed during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. At the 1980 Republican National Convention, the Republican Party platform was amended to qualify its support for the ERA. The most prominent opponent of the ERA was Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative Republican. Critchlow and Stachecki argue that public opinion in key states shifted against the ERA as opponents, operating on the local and state levels, won over the public to their side. The state legislators in battleground states followed public opinion in rejecting the ERA.

Many ERA supporters blamed their defeat on sinister undemocratic special interest forces, especially the insurance industry and conservative organizations, suggesting they funded an opposition that subverted the democratic process and the will of the pro-ERA majority.  They argued that while the public face of the anti-ERA movement was Phyllis Schlafly and her STOP ERA organization, there were other important groups in the opposition as well, such as the powerful National Council of Catholic Women and (until 1973) the AFL-CIO.  Critchlow and Stachecki say the anti-ERA movement was based on strong support among Southern whites, Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and Roman Catholics, including both men and women.

Twenty-one states have a version of the ERA in their state constitutions. Sixteen of those states ratified the federal ERA, while five did not.

Ratified the federal ERA

Did not ratify the federal ERA

The three-state strategy, unveiled at a press Conference in Washington, D.C. by a coalition of women’s groups operating under the name “ERA Summit,”  is an argument made by some ERA supporters that the earlier 35 state ratifications are still valid and therefore only three more are needed in order to add the ERA to the Constitution, without Congress resubmitting it to state lawmakers. Since 1994, proponents of the three-state strategy have promoted ratification resolutions in the legislatures of most of the 15 states that never ratified the ERA approved by Congress in 1972.  These attempts have met stiff resistance—some opponents characterize the

In 1996, the Library of Congress’s Research Service issued a report that said, “There is no precedent for Congress promulgating an amendment based on state ratifications adopted after a ratification deadline has expired. However, proponents of this course cite as possible precedent the ratification activity of the states regarding the 27th Amendment... proponents of the ERA might wish to adopt a strategy of urging its ratification by state legislatures because their actions might prompt this or a future Congress to proclaim the amendment had been ratified.”  CRS stressed that it “takes no position on any of the issues.”

Women have already been guaranteed the right to the two most important issues – valid issues:  the right to vote and the right to equal pay.  With regard to equal pay, women still aren’t measuring up evidently.  Motherhood tends to get in the way of a progressive career, which necessarily affects one’s ability to “get ahead.”  That’s just one of ERA’s socialist goals.  Children are a sticky commodity, in the Progressive view.

 As with all things Liberal, when they tell you that women (or any other group) need the ‘government’s help,’ it’s a sure sign that Progressives, not women, are at work.  The election of Bill Clinton in 1993 gave them new hope to resurrect a bill that was renounced in every way long ago.  Those “sinister” Conservatives knew what they were doing when they put a deadline on this bill.  The big problem with ERA is that its intention is that a Socialist government should wear the pants in the family.


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