Arguments in Support of the Equal Rights Amendment (1973)

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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

Arguments in Support of the Equal Rights Amendment (1973)

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first drafted in 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. In 1972, the ERA easily passed Congress with large bipartisan support and seemed headed to full ratification by the states. In this clip, Anne Scott and Karen DeCrow offer their arguments in support of the ERA.

Woman; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 1 | WNED | November 29, 1973 This video clip and associated transcript appear from 01:40 - 08:00 in the full record.

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