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The late Phyllis Schlafly, an American constitutional lawyer and conservative political leader, is famous for her crusade against the Equal Rights Amendment. It was on October 1972 that Phyllis Schlafly founded and appointed herself national chairman of STOP ERA. Before then, Schlafly had been a political activist for 20 years.
Since 1923, the ERA has been introduced annually into the U.S. Congress records. Many labor unions were opposed to the ERA in its early years due to concerns that it would overturn workplace accommodations and guidelines that the unions had fought to put into place to support female workers.
Fast forward to 1970. That year the version of the ERA that was introduced by its sponsors into the U.S. Congress omitted the Hayden modification which had been part of the pending amendment for twenty years. It states: “Nothing in the amendment will be construed to deprive persons of the female sex of any of the rights, benefits, and exemptions now conferred by law on persons of the female sex.”
The broad-reaching 1970 ERA version of ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and was sent to the states for ratification (The Constitution requires that three fourths of the states ratify an amendment for it to become law.). Noted below is the ERA amendment.
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. Red Flag: Requires compelled absolute equality, without exceptions. The Hayden modification, which did allow for reasonable differences of the sexes, was left out of the amendment.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.Red Flag: Designates enforcement power to the U.S. Congress which would effectively give Washington the power to rewrite state laws if they did not meet a national standard. Anytime Congress has the power to enforce a law, then the individual states lose the power over their own affairs.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification. Red Flag: Dispensed with the usual time of seven years for an amendment to take effect after its ratification.
Supporters argued that anyone who believed in simple equality could not be against the ERA. Opponents argued, however, that the ERA did not allow for reasonable differences in treatment of the sexes. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s analysis of the impact of the ERA on our U.S. Code reinforced opponents’ concerns when she stated that the ERA would require men and women to be included in the military draft and front-line combat in equal ratios; social security benefits for stay at home wives would be eliminated; and prisons would have to be sex integrated.
Statements from the supporters of the ERA also raised concerns. One of the major pro-ERA supporters was Betty Friedan of Now. She suggested that ERA was the emancipation of women from the slavery of love, family, and the housewife image. This still rings true with the feminists of today. Betty Friedan was a signer of the Humanist Manifesto II in 1973. Another big pro-ERA voice was Gloria Steinam who advocated that the “institution of legal marriage” be “abolished” or “reformed” for the sake of equality.”
Due to concerns over the lack of reasonable exemptions, the ERA failed to be fully ratified by its 1979 deadline. When an extension of three years was granted, Illinois, like other states who had voted down the ERA every year for 7 years, now had until June,1982 to change its mind and vote yes. In spite of great pressure in 1980 to pass the ERA in Illinois, the ERA failed by three votes.
Phyllis Schlafly’s fierce opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment over a 10-year period is widely credited with the ERA’s failure to be ratified by enough states to become law, as well as for Illinois’s 1980 defeat. At the time Phyllis Schlafly lived in Alton, Illinois where she could rally a thousand women for a routine demonstration in Springfield and elsewhere by calling on her top lieutenants, of which there was one for each legislative district.
This year Illinois is now at the center of the revived Equal Rights Amendment fight. Illinois has always been a very important state in relation to the ERA. The supporters have tried many times in Illinois. Liberal groups such as NOW have announced that passing the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois will be their major focus this year. They are putting lots of pressure on our state legislators to support the ERA.
Thirty-eight states are needed for the amendment to become law. Between two and seven more states must ratify the ERA to reach the 38 states needed for the amendment to become law. Nevada became the 36th state to ratify ERA on March 22, 2017, but five states have also voted to rescind or otherwise withdraw their ratification of the ERA: Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota. Seven more states are needed for ratification if it is determined that the 5 states who rescinded are not recognized as doing so in the final count of ratifying states.
The talking points below were provided by Elise Bouc, state chairman of STOP ERA in Illinois. She spoke about ERA at a pro-life legislative event on Saturday, February 17th, 2018, sponsored by Lake County Right to Life.
- The broad language of the ERA does not allow for any distinctions or differential treatment whatsoever to be made between men and women in our laws, policy or practices, even when it makes sense to make distinctions based on biological differences.
- The ERA will be used to write abortion rights into our U.S. Constitution with the rationale that restricting access to abortion is a form of gender discrimination (since it singles women out for a physical aspect unique to them).
- We’ve already seen states mandate taxpayer funding for elective Medicaid abortions based on their state ERAs.
- Several of our Supreme Court Justices have also voiced their willingness to see abortion restrictions as a form of gender discrimination. A federal ERA would give them the ability to establish full access to abortion during all 9 months of pregnancy as a guaranteed civil right.
- The ERA does not allow exemptions for privacy in bathrooms, locker rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes or prisons – all would have to be unisex.
- Current beneficial programs for women will be abolished – Some of these programs include separate prison facilities for men and women, workplace accommodations for pregnant women, WIC (medical and nutritional support for low income mothers and their children), and domestic abuse shelters for women.
- The ERA will mandate that women be included in the military draft and placed in front-line combat in equal numbers to men.
- In spite of current gender-neutral language, social security benefits for stay at home wives and mothers would be abolished because Justice Ginsberg says it violates the “equality principle” by encouraging women to stay home.
- The ERA will not resolve the gender wage discrepancy. Much of that discrepancy is based on the life choices women make. Instead the ERA would overturn programs that currently exist to support women who are re-entering the workforce after child rearing.
- Laws already exist that mandate equal treatment in regards to employment, salary, education, credit, and housing, as well as laws that provide redress for sexual harassment.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the Equal Protection mandate of the 14th Amendment applies to women.
- We as women, will gain nothing beneficial from the ERA. On the contrary, we and our unborn children will be harmed by the stringent, illogical unisex restrictions that will be placed on our society by the ERA.
It is important that you reach out to your Illinois state representative and state senator by phone and email as soon as possible to encourage them to vote against the ERA. They need your support and must be reminded that the ERA will harm women, the unborn child and our society.
[Originally Published at Illinois Review]