[EDITORIAL NOTE: This is reposted from blogher.org.]
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.
Lost in the blogosphere brouhaha last week in the matter of Kathy Sierra, was an announcement that federal and state lawmakers are launching a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment proposed in 1972. What a blast from the past.
Those of us who lobbied for passage in those days remember Eagle Forum leader, Phyllis Schlafly, charging that if it were added to the Constitution, women would be drafted into the military and be forced to use unisex rest rooms in public establishments.
So much for that argument: women choose to join the military nowadays and use unisex facilities without blinking an eye. So Ms. Schlafly’s new argument against the amendment is that its passage will force courts to approve same-sex marriage (horrors!) and deny Social Security benefits to housewives and widows.
Legal scholars say it is hard to predict how the amendment, now renamed the “Women’s Equality Amendment,” would be interpreted by the courts, although some say it would make it possible for women to sue for equal pay and other benefits.
Others argue against passage on the grounds of Constitutional redundancy – that women are already protected from discrimination by the 14th Amendment which refers to “all persons.”
The amendment has 194 co-sponsors in the House, ten in the Senate, and no longer contains a deadline for ratification. Rep. Lindsley Smith (D – Ark) has vowed to bring the Amendment for a vote when the next legislature convenes in 2009, which allows a lot of a time for public discussion.
A two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress are required to send the Amendment to the states for ratification. Three-quarters of the states (38) are required for passage.
[PICKY LANGUAGE USAGE NOTE: As to the almost archaic phrase "on account of sex," when the Equal Rights Amendment was written, the word "sex" was still used to denote biological difference - that is, male or female of a species. "Gender" referred to grammatical categories such as masculine, feminine, neuter of which there are up to 20 in some languages. During the past 35 years, "gender" has come to be used in place of "sex" to refer to biological difference as in "gender gap" while "sex" is most frequently used to mean the physical act.
Definitions of words change over time as new or different usages are adopted. It amuses me that as our language in other respects, during the same period, has become more vulgar (example - when I was a teenager, "gang bang" referred to group rape of a woman and I am frequently startled these days to hear someone referred to as a "gangbanger" which has nothing to do with rape), the sex/gender usage appears to be an attempt to sound more genteel.]