Sunday, April 10, 2016

Amended Without Amendment

A proposal to amend the United States Constitution passed the U.S. Senate on March 22, 1972 by a resounding vote of 84-8 with 7 not voting. This measure had similarly passed the U.S House of Representatives in October, 1971 by a vote of 354-24 with 51 not voting. In that two-thirds of both houses of Congress had approved the proposed amendment, it directly went to the various States for ratification. (The President has no role when it comes to amending the Constitution. However, President Richard Nixon endorsed the proposed amendment upon its passage by the Congress.)

Within the first month, 14 of the required 38 states (three-fourths of the states) had ratified the proposed amendment. One year after the proposal had been approved by Congress, 30 states had ratified the measure.

It looked like the proposed Constitutional Amendment would be swiftly ratified and become the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Despite the fast start, the ratification effort starting to lose momentum and stall.

It never gained the necessary 38 states by the 1979 deadline established by Congress. The deadline was even extended by Congress an additional three years (to 1982) when the amendment was three states short. However, it never gained the required 38 states. In fact, five states ended up rescinding their earlier ratification.

What was the proposed amendment?

It was popularly called "The Equal Rights Amendment" ("ERA") and was supposedly designed to assure equal rights for women.

It read as follows,

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.

There was one person who was considered the most important voice in stalling, and ultimately stopping, the ratification of the The Equal Rights Amendment. Her name was Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly and the opponents of the ERA were able to defeat the rush to approve the amendment after they made a number of arguments that showed that, rather than protecting women, the ERA could actually undermine rights and privileges that women already had. After all, the ERA was intended to assure equality of rights "on account of sex", not on account of the female gender.

Phyllis Schlafly
Credit: Library of Congress

Legitimate questions were raised as to what would occur to the traditional right of a woman to receive alimony, to receive social security benefits even though they never worked, or to be able to attend a women's only high school or college.

Three other significant arguments were also made by Schlafly and other opponents of the ERA. Of course, the supporters of the ERA brushed these opposing views away by villifying and ridiculing them. They were considered to be ridiculous red herrings that were nothing but a fanciful distraction from the important issue of women's rights.

What were these issues that the opponents warned about should the ERA be incorporated into the U.S. Constitution?

  • Gay couples would be allowed to marry.

  • People would be allowed to choose which gender restroom they wanted to use.

  • Women would be required to register for the draft and serve in combat.

All of this is happening before our very eyes today.

And all of it has occurred in this country without an amendment to the Constitution ever being passed.

Witness what is going on in North Carolina which recently enacted a law (NC House Bill 2) that was in response to a Charlotte city ordinance expanding the "rights" of transgender to use public restrooms based on their gender identity.

Witness the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to allow gays to marry despite the fact that 30 states had specific provisions in their state constitutions limiting marriage to a man and a women and the "Defense of Marriage Act" which has been enacted by Congress (and signed into law by President Clinton) in 1996.

Witness the Defense Department's ruling that opens all combat roles to women that clearly would also require that all women be required to submit to the selective service draft.

Has any of this been done by amendment to the Constitution? No.

Has any of this even been done by consent of our elected representatives in the United States Congress? No.

It is all happening either through the unilateral action of our judiciary or by regulatory action of the executive branch.

The Constitution has been "Amended without Amendment."

This is not the constitutional form of government our Founding Fathers designed.

Isn't it time to return to those founding principles?

No comments:

Post a Comment