Skip to comments.After 20 years the BRA burners are coming back - ERA zombie night of living dead alert
Posted on 01/08/2003 8:11:05 PM PST by mandingo republican
ERA activists undaunted by 20-year delay Opponents say the Supreme Court sealed the amendment's defeat in 1982 and efforts to revive it are moot. By JULIE HAUSERMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 2, 2003
TALLAHASSEE -- Remember the Equal Rights Amendment?
Twenty years ago, the ERA went down in defeat after a divisive political battle over women's rights and roles in the home and workplace.
But now, even though Republicans are in charge of both the state and federal governments, a coalition of women's and civil rights groups is trying to revive the ERA.
"Of course it's daunting, but women never made any progress easily," said Jennifer Macleod, a 73-year-old New Jersey woman who is the national coordinator for the new ERA campaign. "Look at Susan B. Anthony. There she was up in New York state and she spent her entire life going from town to town on a horse -- no telephone, no nothing. Was she daunted?"
The new ERA leaders are grandmothers and retirees, like 68-year-old Sandy Oestreich of St. Petersburg, who says, "It's a flame in me that just will not die."
The goal is to add these words to the U.S. Constitution:
"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
Congress approved that wording in 1972. Both the Republican and Democratic parties included it in their party platforms. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter supported it.
But, to add it to the Constitution, 38 states had to ratify it. By a 1982 deadline, only 35 states had ratified the ERA. Now, supporters say the 35 ratifications are still valid -- although that question will probably end up in court. They are looking to get three more states to ratify the ERA. Activists are building support in Illinois and Missouri, and hope to get people talking about the ERA in Florida again, even though they say their chances of getting anything passed here are slim.
On Jan. 19, former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado will come to the University of South Florida's campus activity center for an ERA kickoff rally.
Today's ERA rhetoric -- both pro and con -- goes over some of the same ground it did 20 years ago. There is a new wrinkle: Both sides are invoking America's post-Sept. 11 climate to make their case.
Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist, lawyer and mother of six from Illinois, was credited with nearly single-handedly defeating the ERA. Now in her late 70s, Schlafly is still fighting the ERA.
"Fighting the Taliban is a job for real men," she wrote in January 2002. "When the national media interviewed some of our Marines, one of our guys said, 'There's no place I'd rather be than here.' America is fortunate that the warrior culture has survived 30 years of feminist fantasies and that some men are still macho enough to relish the opportunity to engage and kill the bad guys of the world. ... Watching the war pictures on television, we almost expected to see High Noon sheriff Gary Cooper or John Wayne riding across the Plains."
On the other end of the spectrum, a July 2001 issue of the ERA Campaigner, a newsletter for supporters, says: "One of the things that the terrorists hate most about America is that here, women live as free and autonomous human beings, instead of being brutally subjugated as voiceless, caged, domestic animals. ... So what better time than now to make it clear to all our citizens, and to the world, that American women are, finally and for all time, to be guaranteed by our Constitution fully equal rights with men?"
The ERA's text seems simple enough. But it has always inflamed Americans. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, supporters marched on state capitols and on the White House. They chained themselves together and called men who opposed the measure enemies of the country's mothers, grandmothers and daughters.
Schlafly argued that the ERA would allow unisex bathrooms, gay marriages, taxpayer-funded abortions and military draft for women.
In a 1994 article in the Phyllis Schlafly Report called "Beating the Bra Burners," Schlafly described her victory over the ERA this way: "The unstoppable was stopped by our unflappable ladies in red. They descended on state capitols wearing their octagonal Stop ERA buttons. They treated legislators to home-baked bread. And they sweetly and persistently made their case that the ERA was a fraud: It would actually take away legal rights that women possessed, such as the right of an 18-year-old girl to be exempt from the military draft and the right of a wife to be supported by her husband."
Macleod, the New Jersey ERA leader who went to Radcliffe in the 1940s when women were not allowed to go the Harvard Business School, said Schlafly brought up "red herrings" to "demonize" the ERA.
Every developed nation with a Constitution has a clause in it that says all men and women are created equal, Macleod said. But not the United States.
"The fact is, in the United States, it is not unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of sex," Macleod said. "We have laws against sex discrimination, but the problem with laws is that they are easy to change. We need it in the Constitution."
Even now, she says, a commission appointed by President Bush is proposing to weaken Title 9, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination at schools and universities receiving federal funds.
So far, Florida conservatives haven't geared up to fight the ERA again.
"I don't know that anyone knew it was rearing its ugly head," said Valerie Evans, a conservative Orlando lawyer who opposes the ERA. "The U.S Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that it was dead."
ERA supporters are floating a new argument: In 1992, Congress revived an amendment that had languished for 203 years, ever since James Madison proposed it. New states ratified the 27th amendment (which deals with congressional pay raises), and it is now part of the Constitution.
Argues Macleod: "If 203 years is not too much, then 30 years is certainly not too long."
The Florida Legislature took up the ERA seven times between 1972 and 1982, and defeated it every time by a narrow margin: Three times it lost by just two votes. Several male lawmakers who had promised to support the ERA switched sides and voted against it.
In 1978, Florida voters defeated a proposed ERA to Florida's Constitution by a 57 percent majority.
Even lobbying by Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, first lady Rosalyn Carter, first lady Betty Ford and Gov. Bob Graham couldn't save the ERA. A boycott of Florida tourism by ERA supporters didn't work either.
In the spring of 1979, when the ERA was defeated 21-19, Pat Frank, a Democratic legislator from Tampa who is now a Hillsborough County commissioner, took the floor.
"Go home and tell your daughters what you did today," she said.
Today, she says: "Most of the boys in the Panhandle were against it. It was an insult to me personally and to any woman that they had respect for."
Democratic Sen. Guy Spicola of Tampa and another senator switched sides, sealing the ERA's defeat that year.
In Florida, bitterness still lingers. And many women who fought for the ERA are prominent in public life. Among them: Gwen Margolis, a Democratic senator from Miami who went on to become Florida's first female Senate president. She is returning to the Republican-led Senate this year, and says she would be glad to sponsor a bill to ratify the ERA in Florida. Another who fought for the ERA was Betty Castor, then a Democratic senator from Tampa, who went on to become the state's education commissioner and president of USF.
Macleod says she believes the public is behind the concept of equal rights for men and women. The ERA campaign commissioned a July 2001 poll by Opinion Research Corp. The results: Ninety-six percent of people said they believe men and women should have equal rights. Eighty-eight percent believe the Constitution should make it clear that male and female citizens should have equal rights.
"Overwhelmingly, people want this in the Constitution," Macleod said. "So, why aren't they making more of a fuss?"
Here's why, she said: Seventy-two percent of those polled believe that equal rights for men and women are already part of the U.S. Constitution.
ERA chronology 1972: Two days after the ERA is sent to states, the Florida House votes 91-4 to ratify it, but the ERA was not brought before the Senate because some supporters believed the Legislature could not legally ratify it before another election.
1974: The House votes 64-54 against ratification.
1974: In its first test on the Senate floor, the ERA fails 21-19.
1975: The House approves the ERA 61-58, but the Senate rejects it 21-17. Two senators, Republicans Jim Glisson of Tavares and William Zinkel of Fort Lauderdale, switch sides and vote against ratification.
1977: Even though proponents believed the 1977 elections had given them a majority in the Senate, the ERA fails 21-19. Those voting against the amendment included four earlier ERA supporters, Democrats Philip D. Lewis of West Palm Beach, Ralph Poston of Miami and Alan Transk of Winter Haven and Republican Henry Sayler of St. Petersburg.
1978: The Equal Rights Amendment is resoundingly defeated by Florida voters who overturned a proposal to add it to the state's Constitution. Although 57 precent voted no, the ERA supporters once again believed they had elected a majority in the Senate by ousting Poston and Zinkel.
1979: The House votes to ratify the ERA 64-52, but the measure fails again in the Senate 21-19, after Democrats Guy Spicola of Tampa and Pete Skinner of Lake City switch sides.
1982: Even though the ERA supporters know they do not have the votes in the Senate, they bring the measure up one last time. The House approves it 60-58, but the Senate turns it down again, 22-16. Republican Rep. Tom Lewis of North Palm Beach switched sides to vote against the amendment.
On the Web Anti-ERA: www.eagleforum.org
However, I bet she believes in a "living" Constitution which (while it may be hard to change) can be re-interpreted at the drop of a hat to mean any old thing.
But we have clever lawyers and idiot judges manufacturing new "rights" every day. And does "sex" refer only to biological sex, or to sexual preferences as well? The wording is a minefield and a playground for everybody and their sibling of indeterminate sex to demand things they are not really entitled to.
And the insistence that it isn't real until the Constitution says it is absolute proof that the supporters know that this is merely a trojan horse for other things.
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