Want To Make Phyllis Schlafly's Ghost Real Mad? Let's Ratify The ERA Already!
Once upon a time, a very long time ago (but not that long ago considering the whole of human history), ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment was mostly considered a no-brainer. The very first version of it was written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman back in 1923, and for many years both Democrats and Republicans had it in their party platforms. The plan was to ratify it by 1977, but only 35 of the required 38 states had ratified it, and the deadline was extended to March 22, 1979, and it seemed like things were really headed that way.
After all, it really isn't all that controversial:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
But then a lady named Phyllis Schlafly came along and murdered it by telling everyone that it would be a horrible thing because then ladies could be drafted into wars and wouldn't be able to get alimony or keep their kids after a divorce. Somehow it didn't occur to enough people that abolishing the draft might be a good idea and a pretty easy way of solving this problem. The fact that we still have a draft and require 18-year-old boys to sign up for it when they can't even legally drink (or smoke now!) is completely horrifying.
Then the 1980s happened! And, well, it was the 1980s.
Recently, however, the ERA is back in the news, as Virginia became the 38th state to ratify it. There's a bit of contention as to what this means, given that the last "extension" on ratifying the ERA was in 1982, and several of the states that once ratified it are now far more right-wing and thus less inclined to do so again. In a recent interview, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that although she wants to see it ratified, we're going to have to start over entirely if we want to get it done.
But while politicians may oppose it, the people do not. A new poll from AP-NORC shows that a large majority — 73 percent — of the United States believes it should be ratified. This includes 61 percent of Republicans. Twenty-two percent don't care, and only four percent are opposed. Four percent!
That is a very, very small percentage of people in the United States, likely consisting entirely of former Schlafly acolytes and people who read The Federalist for reasons other than making fun of The Federalist.
The Federalist, by the way, is still real worried about the Equal Rights Amendment in every stupid way it is possible to be worried about the Equal Rights Amendment.
One of the big reasons why right-wingers remain so opposed to the ERA is that they fear it will be used to prevent them from discriminating against trans people. If true, that would be another good reason to ratify it.
About half of Americans think ratifying the ERA would have a positive impact on the country, though about 4 in 10 feel it wouldn't make much of a difference and about 1 in 10 say it would be harmful. Nearly two-thirds think its impact on women would be positive; about 2 in 10 feel it would negatively affect men.
Even if added to the Constitution, the ERA would not on its own bar workplace discrimination. Still, the poll found that women are more likely than men to think the impact on the country — and on them personally — will be positive.
"We'd feel more equal," said Fraley, a Democrat, who said she has experienced employment discrimination in the construction field. "Some men just think that women can't do what (we know) they can do. So if a woman goes and does their job, it's like you're messing with their ego."
The AP is right here. It wouldn't end workplace discrimination. That is something that will have to be achieved through better labor laws (like getting rid of at-will employment). But for heaven's sake, it feels gross at this point to not have it in there. It feels insulting. It also seems like a fairly obvious thing to have — so obvious that 72 percent of respondents actually thought it was already in there to begin with.
It's worth it to at least try again, especially with this level of support. Having it in the Constitution is important. It's important to how we see ourselves, important to how others see us. Not to mention the fact that lot of women — a lot of people — worked very hard for a very long time to get it done, and I think we owe it to them to give it a shot.
Plus it would make the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly positively furious.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse