Woman; 106; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1
[Intro music] [Intro music] [Intro music] [Intro music] [Intro music] [Intro music] [Announcer] Women, an in-depth exploration of the world of women today, with Sandra Elkin. [Elkin] Good evening, welcome to Women. Our topic for this evening is the Equal Rights Amendment. This very controversial issue has been raging for some time now and we're going to try to clear it up a little bit for you. My guests for tonight are Anne Scott. Anne is on the national board of Common Cause. She's a vice president in charge of legislation for the National Organization for Women. She's a member of the Women's Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Labor. She's an Associate Director of the American Association of Higher Education.
And my other guest is Karen DeCrow, who is a lawyer, author of "Sexist Justice", and "A Young Women's Guide to Liberation". She's also chairperson of the Politics Task Force of NOW. Just for the record, how does the Equal Rights Amendment read? [Scott] It reads "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." 26 very simple words. [DeCrow] Which Reverend Billy James Hargis said would lead us to the brink of hell. [Elkin] How did it all start? [Scott] Equal rights moment? The Equal Rights Amendment has been in Congress-- was in Congress for 50 years before it was passed and it was first introduced in 1920 after the suffrage amendment had been passed, and the National Women's Party felt that the way to gain legal equality, and legal and economic equality for women and to erase the inequities under the law was to introduce an amendment to the Constitution of the United
States. And it languished in Congress for lo those many years until it was passed on March 23rd, I think it was, in 1972 and it went to the states for ratification, where it is now. [Elkin] I think that's very startling because I had no idea that it had been around that long and I think most people didn't. [DeCrow] Yeah, you know I've been to school and taken social studies and so on, I'd never heard of it until I went to a NOW conference and it came up in 1967. [Elkin] Was that the first time it had come up? [DeCrow] Well I believe it's the first time that it came up at a national NOW conference. And that was a long time ago. We were all young and the national NOW conference in those days I think had about 90 people at it. This was a very controversial issue because in those days many of the Union women who were involved in national NOW felt that they would have trouble with their unions, in those days very few unions were supporting the ERA. So there was quite a discussion, it was the first time I'd ever heard about it, and I must say that was the first time I realized I wasn't constitutionally equal in my own country when it came up.
You know, we started to debate it at this conference, I think after that of course I read some history on it and I guess what the women were thinking in 1920 was even though we had finally the vote, there was just such a huge number of laws and judicial decisions that were so anti-women and so discriminatory that we really needed a constitutional amendment. [Elkin] Before we get into the legal aspect, let's talk a little bit about the history of the of the states ratifying it. [Scott] Well we have 30 states which have ratified and we need eight more. Three quarters of the states have to ratify in order for a Constitutional amendment to be part of the Constitution so we have eight more states to go. [Elkin] And there's a time limit, right? [Scott] I want to go back to what Karen said about the laws. Even though there have been some strides in the law for women, there are still in the US code alone, 876 separate discriminations on the basis of sex, which discriminate against men as well as against women. Not to mention all the thousands of state laws which are inequitous and the local ordinances also, all of those will be affected
by the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. [DeCrow] Yeah, you could say there are tens of thousands of laws. [Elkin] Let's name a few. [Scott] Well under the US Code there are inequities of course in the Internal Revenue Service and one of the very interesting stories that we got into was that there was recently a case in New Jersey where a woman sued the Internal Revenue Service saying, you know, that she had been discriminated against under the Internal Revenue Code on the basis of her sex. And the Internal Revenue Service of course turned the case over to the Department of Justice, which acts as the government's lawyer, which said-- came up with the perfect defense and said "well of course you're discriminated against on the basis of sex under the Internal Revenue Code. That's not the only place that people are-- women are discriminated against under the code, there are 876 discriminations," so they got them all out including all the citations which was very nice because they did their work for us. And now we have the list-- our work. Now we have the whole list of
discriminations and we're moving-- the NOW legislative office has a program where we have asked lawyers if they would be interested in writing up a proposal to change the separate discriminations on a piece by piece basis. So we're starting to take them around Congress now to the right chairpersons and committee chairperson and say "look what's in your title of the code. Please do something about it." [Elkin] It's an enormous job. I mean I think most people don't really realize. [DeCrow] Yeah, it's being done state by state too, I know Maryland did it, New York is thinking of doing it I hope soon in anticipation of the fact that of course the ERA will be ratified very soon. Then the states have two years in which to get their laws into shape. And so various states are forming commissions to go through all the state laws and find out, you know, how people are discriminated against on the basis of gender. To go back to something you said Sandy, you know you said "Give some examples." Things are really although much better than they were in 1920, very grim, the Supreme Court just handed down a decision that
has me in a state of shock. I don't know how you feel about it. But they ruled in mid-November of 1973 that a Men's Grill in a hotel in New Orleans Louisiana could continue to be a Men's Grill. And there was, God help us, an eight to one decision, only Douglas dissenting. And this is an area that I had assumed was concluded. We had in NOW in like 1968 all kinds of actions on public accommodations and for example we changed the law in New York state, we changed the law in many states, unfortunately not in Louisiana, so that women finally were considered, you know, members of the public and people that could go into public accommodations, you know, it's not a very interesting issue, I just assumed it was closed. And here I pick up my New York Times and I almost collapse. The Supreme Court has decided that, you know, some hotel wants to decide women aren't members of the public, that this is OK. So although we who work in the movement and are interested in
the movement and you know it's our lifeblood and so on feel that things are getting better, in very significant places like the U.S. Code, like Supreme Court decisions, apparently women are not people still. [Elkin] Then you would really violently disagree with the people who say we don't need the ERA. [DeCrow] Violently. [Scott] Corporations are people, but women are not, under the Constitution. [Elkin] What are some of the opportunities that the ERA, the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment will provide for women? [Scott] Well first of all let's not say "will provide for women" because the opportunities will be for both men and women. When the amendment says that the right shall not be denied on the basis of sex, it means that some of the inequities for instance in Social Security, which discriminate against men, will also be erased. So it means simply that-- what it really means is that people will be looked at in terms of their own individual worth rather than simply classified in terms of whether or not they are men or women. [Elkin] How does social security discriminate against men? [Scott] It's a very complicated
question. It is in terms of how the computations are made which determine the basis on which-- how much money you receive. Men receive-- men can receive full reimbursement from if they go work to the age 65. Women can receive full reimbursement if they work to the age 62. Men can retire at 62 but they receive a lower reimbursement. And this would wipe out that inequity and allow men and women each to retire at 62 on the same basis, or at 65 on the same basis, as well they should. [DeCrow] Social Security discriminates I think more heavily against women. A woman who's worked all her life and has put money into the Social Security pool. If she is married at the time that she retires only gets a percentage of what she's put in. Which is, you know, just plain old economic discrimination. I think the major effect of the ERA is going to be economic.
And it's going to put more money in the hands of women. That's a very simplistic way. [Elkin] How is it going to do that? [DeCrow] Well we have, as people cite constantly, a lot of laws to protect. Women in employment and to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work and are not discriminated against in promotions and so on, but that is not-- it is not in effect. Women today still earn about 60 cents on the dollar. This is a boring statistic, everybody quotes it on every program, but it still is true. And so these laws are not enforced. And this is in no way to make a so-called anti-male statement, but all this enforcement mechanism is in the hands of people who are male, who are not feminists for the most part, and who have not made sure that despite the fact that since 1963 we've had laws protecting women in employment, that women are getting the same amount of money. They're also in the various states which do control labor legislation for the
most part. As far as who can work where, there are all kinds of prohibitions on women say working overtime, so that you'll find that in factory situations, I know of New York State, the high paying factory jobs will be eliminated to women. Women, just one example, cannot be bartenders in many states but can be cocktail waitresses, so that means they're in the same place at the same time earning less money. This kind of law will be erased. Also I think it will create a climate so that there will be no out, this is speaking sort of legally, but right now very often sex as a class is considered a reasonable distinction and I think if the ERA is finally an amendment to the Constitution that will no longer be possible. And it will be a suspect classification in every case and there will have to be, as they say, a compelling state interest in order to make this classification. I think this will be very significant.
[Elkin] And aside from Social Security and the economic situation, what are some of the other-- [Scott] Well I think there's going to be of course a tremendously powerful psychological effect. The interesting thing about the Equal Rights Amendment to me is that it creates a situation of what I call ecumenical feminism, that is, that women across all kinds of religious, social, political barriers are agreeing and are banding together to achieve ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The lists of groups in the states that have got together are sometimes very astounding. They include very far-out feminist groups with church groups, Democrats, and Republicans. Very conservative women's groups, and very radical ones, and they're all working together each using their own tactics, understanding that passage of the Equal Rights Amendment depends upon a wide variety of tactics that each group has to work in its own way. And I think that the coalitions that are being forged and
the recognition of common interest in the issue is going to create a situation where women will be working together on issues of mutual concern far beyond passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. I think another major spinoff of the Equal Rights Amendment-- my feeling is that there is no possible way we can lose on the Equal Rights Amendment. First of all, we're going to pass it. But even beyond that, there are such tremendous advantages for women simply in the struggle and in the fight to get the amendment passed. For the first time, the issues of legal and economic rights of women are being raised in places where they would never be raised under any other circumstances or where it may take 50 years before they're raised, but there is not for instance today a single rural Georgia legislator who does not know something about the women's movement. Who does not know something about the issues that are raised by the Equal Rights Amendment, and it does raise the right issues because it raises legal and economic issues, it does not raise social issues, it has no effect on social issues, it has no effect on the family. It has no effect on the
social status or practices of men or women, only on the legal and economic practices. And I think that it is vitally important that these are the issues that are raised. I don't see how any American can disagree with economic and legal rights for all on an equal basis for all citizens of the United States. [DeCrow] There's another aspect to that, just as every rural Georgia legislator at least now has to contend with these concepts, it also I think is an extremely conscious-raising issue for women because in the debate I think women hear often what their legislators think of them, and think people that they hadn't assumed were so-called anti-women. [Elkin] Do you have some examples? [Scott] You mean of -- Of course you know the arguments get very ferocious in some cases. Oh, well there are a number of religious arguments. God meant for women to stay in the home.
[Elkin] Maybe she did. [laughs] [Scott] Right, maybe she did. [laughs] And you know, if women were meant to not to stay in the home then they wouldn't have been created from Adam's rib second, and so forth, you know, I mean the arguments get worse, and of course the bathroom argument is raised all the time. [Elkin] What is the bathroom argument? [Scott] That the Equal Rights Amendment will require de-sexification of public facilities, which of course is nonsense. That a constitutional right to privacy prevails. [DeCrow] But I think when a woman hears grown-up men actually discussing this, you know, the horror of integrated bathrooms, especially grown-up men who've lived in a family situation, probably use integrated bathrooms, I think they must go "click" and say "My goodness you know where [inaudible]". Also the opponents of the ERA have said it's a communist plot, said it's a Jewish plot. [Elkin] Let's define the opposition. Can you do that?
[Scott] Well the opposition is very clearly politically defined and I think this became very clear about a year ago. The Equal Rights Amendment passed through a number of states with very little opposition, but around last October, November, some opposition began to surface from some strange fringe groups. One is called Happiness of Womanhood, which was HOW as opposed to NOW. And a number of right wing groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society, The National States Rights Party, which is a white supremacist organization. Groups of this caliber, the Christian Crusade. Groups of this caliber are the ones which were opposing. And on the other side we had the Democratic and Republican parties, a number of labor unions, a number of church groups. [Elkin] By the other side you mean people for it. [Scott] People on our side, right. The Church Women United, the YWCA, the League
of Women Voters has recently come in common cause, and so forth. And I think, you know, our strongest suit is simply to look at those organizations which support and those organizations which oppose. The opposition is extremely highly financed. There is one very curious political alignment, that is that the Communist Party of the United States opposes the Equal Rights Amendment along with the John Birch Society, which is, you know, very interesting. And in Cleveland there was a debate where two women from NOW were on the pro side and on the opposition side they got in somebody from the John Birch Society and somebody from the Communist Party who were sitting there. Neither of them could stand the fact that they're sitting next to each other on the same side of an issue. [Elkin] I'd be curious to know why the Communist Party of the United States objects. [Scott] Well I think probably because it followed the line of the AFL CIO which until last October also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment
mostly on an historical basis because in the 1920s they had been very instrumental in passing protective legislation which had originally been genuinely protective but had come through time to discriminate against women, to be used to exclude women from jobs rather than to protect them. And now the AFL has changed its position, George Meany himself has endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment before it came to the floor. It was unanimous and the resolution on the Equal Rights Amendment that the AFL-CIO has passed says that not only do they endorse but that the state federations are directed to work for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. [DeCrow] You know it's interesting, I was reading some stuff by Samuel Gompers and he very early, like in 1920, recognized that so-called protective legislation wasn't really to the advantage of women and he talked about how we needed protective legislation for everyone, which is of course what we're saying now. So at that time
the women's movement was kind of divided, some women felt, as I guess the Communist Party felt, that this was something that we needed, and other women, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is just one that comes to mind, thought that any time you were going to make gender distinctions it was not going to be to the benefit of women. So this was just sort of a debate that's been raging. Actually, just to stress what Ann said, the victory of getting the AFL-CIO on our side is just an enormous one. [Scott] Well it's one that we worked for very hard and that the union women within the union itself, within unions themselves, worked very hard on their unions. There was an interesting inside-outside alliance of forces which did bring this about. We raised the political issue. We pointed out that most of the organizations which opposed the Equal Rights Amendment had right to work positions and this political argument of course was one that the unions were very sensitive to and aware of. I think it's going to have a tremendous effect and I think it's the right kind of thing. [Elkin] And you feel that the Equal Rights Amendment will pass? Do you have a date?
[Scott] Oh I believe it'll pass by 1975, I think we will get several legislatures within the next-- starting in January to June. But then of course in 1974 there are state elections and we will be raising NOW, the women's groups, will be raising the issue as an element in the primaries to try and get every legislator to take a stand on the Equal Rights Amendment, which is not going to be easy but-- [Elkin] Is this part of the NOW two-year plan? [Scott] Yes, this is part of our two year strategy. [Elkin] Want to go into it? [Scott] Be very happy to. We're using an issue strategy rather than a candidate strategy, we do not endorse candidates. What we will do instead is try to raise the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment in every possible race and get all candidates to take a stand for or against. One of the elements in our strategy has been our political action research book which we have been working on, we have our members all over the country filling these out on every possible legislator and candidate in the States and we ask information on who their campaign contributors are, who's endorsed
them, what issues they ran on pro and con, and we really have learned a tremendous amount of information about them. I think in some cases we have the most informed state files on state legislatures that exist. [Elkin] That's very valuable information, I would imagine. [Scott] It certainly is, and it's very effective in lobbying. For instance, if you find that someone has certain campaign contributors or certain organizations which endorse and you find that that person is a no vote and if the organizations which have endorsed have a pro-position on the Equal Rights Amendment, you can call them up and say get on the legislators. [DeCrow] Also just make people nervous if they know-- [Elkin] Right. There are two things that I want to ask before we run out of time. There are two arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment that you hear an awful lot. One is that, you know, it will be terrible because women will be drafted. The other is that child support and alimony would disappear. Would you care to comment? [DeCrow] I'd like to comment on the second because I think that is the most critical thing that we have to address ourselves to. About half of the women in this country are supported by men
because they're married and they're housewives and they have no other source of support. So I think that we would be wearing blinders if we didn't realize that this was a very important issue. The fact is that the Equal Rights Amendment will not take away a woman's right to support simply because a woman does not have a right to support now. Equal Rights Amendment will not deal with that issue at all, and this is I think the biggest smokescreen that the opposition to the ERA has put up. I think certain facts should be known because people get very nervous about the fact that women will be out in the street. One fact is for example that at the time of divorce, only 2 percent of the women are granted alimony. This is a statistic. Another statistic is at the end of five years, only 20 percent of the people who are awarded child support are still getting it. So that you see that women are in fact not getting supported and when there's a divorce and women get the children, even if the father say is supplying 10 percent of his income to supporting those children, the woman's working and
she's supplying 100 percent. Another thing that I think we have to bring out is that while a marriage is ongoing, no court will come in and determine that a woman has a right to support. A husband is supposed to in most states supply necessaries. But this is a meaningless concept because if he tells the merchants "don't give my wife any credit", they won't. And therefore she can't get necessaries, you know, unless he deems it proper. The classic case I guess that we all go around citing is this McGuire case out of Nebraska where this guy had all kinds of money and land and stocks and so on, he was some kind of a nut. They had outdoor plumbing. She wasn't allowed to make long distance calls, she hadn't had a winter coat in eight years, and the court would not step in to that marriage because marriage and the family is some kind of sacrosanct thing in the law of the United States and the various state laws and this woman, Mrs. McGuire, and I dare say any other woman that any of us come in contact with, will never have a court step in and say a husband has to support his wife. The Equal Rights Amendment, if it has any effect in this area, will strengthen the
position of women in their rights to financial support. [Elkin] What about the draft? [Scott] The draft. Well obviously if women want equal rights they should take on equal responsibilities. At this point we have no draft. But if the Equal Rights Amendment is passed it is true that women would be drafted. This means several things: First of all, it means that for the first time women would have equal access to the benefits that veterans who are entitled to, which include loans for houses, education, medical rights and so forth. But also the question arises-- women do serve in the service now, of course. But it also means that in the service, people serve according to their abilities, and of course I maintain this means that women will end up in the intelligence corps. [laughs] [DeCrow] There are a couple more points on the draft issue.
The specter of, you know, a mother with a new baby running out into the field is absolute nonsense, absolutely ridiculous, because at any time any group of people could be exempted. You could simply-- assuming the draft was back in and we were in some big state of war-- you'd say any parent with a child under 6 is exempt, this was done even in World War Two. And another point is that I think it's a bogus issue because Congress always had the power to draft women. [Scott] It did draft women in World War Two, they passed a draft law for nurses but President Truman did not sign it because it was so close to the end of the war that it was clear he didn't need it. So there's already precedence for drafting women. I still think it's a silly issue. [DeCrow] It's a bogus issue but it brings up a psychological point that I think is interesting. When the opponents talk about we want our daughters killed. The idea that they don't find having their sons killed equally horrible always impresses me because these are supposed to be the feminine, you know, man-loving women, and yet that they don't find men going to war equally horrible to women going
to war, I always found sort of freaky. [Elkin] What will Equal Rights Amendment change for us, what are the biggest changes that you see and the most important? That you haven't listed already. [Scott] Well I think the biggest change really is the principle of equality under the law. That means that new laws can't be passed which will affect women more than men, or men more than women. And I think simply the articulation of the statement that women are equal citizens under the law where they never have been in this country will have a tremendous effect. [DeCrow] And no municipality, no state, no federal agency will be able to discriminate on the basis of sex anymore. [Scott] Either in law or regulation either. [Scott] In other words, the executive branch cannot make regulations that discriminate which is very important. It's almost easy to pass laws compared to getting them enforced and they can very easily be nullified in regulations which they
frequently are. I find that running the NOW legislative office in Washington, I spend more of my time trying to keep the government from nullifying laws through executive regulation than I do trying to pass them. And so you always have to be putting out the executive branch fires all the time, but they won't be able to do that discriminating against women. [Elkin] We've run out of time. I thank you both very much. It's been very interesting and very informative. Thank you for watching. Goodnight, and we hope to see you next week.
- Episode Number
- Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1
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- WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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- Episode Description
- This episode features a conversation with Anne Scott and Karen DeCrow. Scott is on the National Board of Common Cause, is the Vice President in charge of Legislation for N.O.W., a member of Women's Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Labor, and Associate Director of American Association of higher education. DeCrow is a lawyer, author of "Sexist Justice" and "A Young Women's Guide to Women's Liberation," and is the Chairperson of the Politics Task Force of N.O.W.
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- Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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- Social Issues
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Director: George, Will
Guest: DeCrow, Karen
Guest: Scott, Anne
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
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Identifier: WNED 04282 (WNED-TV)
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- Chicago: “Woman; 106; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1,” 1973-11-29, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-49t1g6j5.
- MLA: “Woman; 106; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1.” 1973-11-29. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-49t1g6j5>.
- APA: Woman; 106; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-81-49t1g6j5