Old tired arguments to deny fairness must be rejected

Guest Opinion//January 3, 2019

Old tired arguments to deny fairness must be rejected

Guest Opinion//January 3, 2019


In March 2017, Nevada ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In 2018, Illinois followed suit making 37 states that have ratified. We need one more. Let’s make sure it’s Arizona in 2019.

The remaining 13 states that have not ratified the ERA are Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. I’m sure the common thread among the states is lost on no one.

Dianne Post (Photo by Martha Lochert)
Dianne Post (Photo by Martha Lochert)

Back in the 1980s when a movement arose to stop the ERA, the main arguments were abortion, the military, same sex marriage, joint bathrooms, and destroying the family.

Four of the same tired arguments are still trotted out today. Same sex marriage of course already happened.

The argument about the military is that women could be drafted (we don’t have a draft) and women might have to fight in combat roles (they already do). Our own U.S. Senator Martha McSally, a Republican, was a combat pilot herself. Margret Corbin became a hero of the Revolutionary War when she fought with her husband to defend New York from the British. When he was killed, she took over the cannon firing until she, too, was cut down.

Women have been in every war – as spies (Harriet Tubman, Civil War), nurses (Crimean War with Florence Nightingale), telephone operators (“Hello Girls” is a book about operators in WWI), cryptographers (“Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Code Breakers of World War II”), and yes, fighting in combat, often in drag. The military is already integrated with women in every role including combat. To suggest that women can’t, won’t, or don’t want to fight for their country is an insult to every woman who ever was in uniform.

It makes no sense to oppose the ERA because of abortion. Abortion is already a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade that was decided on privacy grounds. Opponents have been opposing it and supporters protecting it ever since 1973. That will continue. States that have ERAs report fewer abortions than those that don’t. So rather than increasing the abortion rate, the ERA is likely to reduce it.

While the Supreme Court rejected the Gavin Grimm case regarding the transgender bathroom issue, other cases are in the pipeline. Many businesses, public venues, and government buildings now have three different bathrooms; one that says women, one that says men, and one that is a single lockable room that can be used by a person with a disability, a family needing to corral several children, or a transgender person. Some businesses also have only bathrooms that accommodate everyone. Lockable stalls rather than urinals are all that is needed. Some men would prefer that as well. Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane used the same bathroom as people they didn’t know.

Opponents have argued that because there was a timeline, the entire effort is moot. Not so. The timeline was never part of the original amendment and was changed by Congress twice. It can be changed again or removed entirely. Even if it is not, the established law says there is no timeline on constitutional amendments and in fact the 27th Amendment (regarding salaries of members of Congress) was revived and ratified more than 200 years after it was first introduced.

Opponents have also argued that since five states rescinded, the total is not 37 at all but 32. Rescission is an open legal question that was not decided in the 1980s when the Supreme Court rejected a case because it was moot since the ERA had not yet passed. The ERA supporters and their lawyers believe it’s winnable.

The meme that the ERA will destroy the family has been dragged out every time women have attempted to drag themselves out of the cave. In fact, all of the evidence points the other way. Countries that have higher indexes of equality between men and women have stronger families with less divorce and inter-family violence. If you support the women who serve and have served in the military, if you support reducing abortion, and if you support strong families, then you will support the passage of the ERA in Arizona in 2019.

— Dianne Post is an international human rights attorney with 37 years of experience, on the board of State NOW and ERA Task Force Arizona.