Why was the Equal Rights Amendment so controversial?

You are not interpreting the amendment strictly. Quite the opposite; you are reading a great deal into it that is not there. You are making the fundamental mistake of confusing the government with private organizations. This is the same mistake that people make when they claim that the “freedom of the press” clause in the first amendment compels privately owned media to publish anything. For example, I heard some ignorant souls accuse CBS of violating the constitution when they decided not to broadcast their Reagan documentary on network television.

The proposed amendment stated that

Most of your examples either do not involve federal or state government, or they do not involve a denial or abridgment of rights.

Do women have a right to serve equally in all parts of the military?

What right is abridged or denied by single sex bathrooms?

If these bars and clubs are privately owned, how do you, under your “strict interpretation”, apply this amendment to them?

Whose (and what) rights are abridged or denied by a separate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Be specific.

See (3).

See (3). Where do you get these ideas? Has the fourteenth amendment outlawed ethnic organizations?

First of all, the amendment could only conceivably apply to state-run colleges and universities. Second, “separate but equal” was bad in the case of race because it demonstrably led to inequality. Do you argue that inequality follows from separate dorms? If not, then what rights to you see being denied or abridged by them?

What rights are being denied or abridged, and to whom, by such benefits? Be specific.

This would only follow if the rights of fathers’ are being denied or abridged under the current system. If this is so, isn’t it an argument for the amendment?

See (7)

Why on Earth does this follow? You do know that alimony can be and is paid by both sexes, depending on the circumstances, right? Alimony is paid disproportionately by males because income is earned disproportionately by males.

Read the amendment. It is not mysterious or obscure. It quite explicitly applies to “the United States or . . . any state”. These are public institutions. If the language worked the way you seem to think it does, then churches would be prevented from respecting an establishment of religion and newspapers would have to publish every “letter to the editor” they received.


bzzt! Equitable facilities, though. But as long as facilities are equitable in accomodations and quantity, no argument can be easily made and defended to the effect that sex segregated bathrooms are illegal due to the ERA.


oh give me a fucking break. next thing you’ll be arguing that it’s illegal to use words like “Mother” and “Father”? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day aren’t official government holidays!

see #2 above

to an extent, see #2 above, but if the organization: •provides sociopolitical usefulness in terms of connections and •is not sex-segregated for a meaningful reason, for instance Elks’ Club versus Ladies’ Auxiliary newly renamed Elk’s Club for Women or somesuch thing, yeah, could be found to be illegal. Could be.

see #2 above, but segregation would probably have to be with the consent of the segregated. FYI, some colleges have ethnically-segregated dorms with the consent of the segregated. Forcing students to live in male-only or female-only dorms and refusing to offer integrated dorms might be found illegal. Might be.

check. they’d have to be equally available to working fathers under comparable circumstances.


see arguments under #7 above. I could probably enroll as a male but colleges could continue to seek and promote themselves as colleges for women, as Marshall U. does for blacks.

bzzzt! Alimony could continue to exist, it just couldn’t be earmarked as from the male to the female, specifically. It would have to be based on need & etc.

Shoud’ve previewed. **Tyrrell McAllister ** did a better job. I gave Shagnasty far too much credit for things that would probably not be affected. Probably because I wish more of these areas would be reachable by such legislation.\

Tyrrell McAllister

What would it do then? Nobody seems to want to answer that question.

I understand the difference federal and state law and private entities that is why I admitted my ignorance of the effects of the ERA on private property and organizations. However, other amendments have spilled over to have effects on private entities through court decisions.

Many of my examples were ridiculous to test how far the ERA would actually reach. However, I truly believe that it would have implications for women in combat, the draft, seperation of college dorms on state college campuses, and seperate bathrooms on government property. My short form of this argument is that seperate is inherently unequal even if it is a small inequality. That is exactly the same reason why segregated schools were forced to integrate even if neither group wanted it.

I’ll give my view at the end of this post after I address your points.

Can you give a specific example of private entities being affected in the manner you indicate by amendments which explicitly describe themselves as applying only to the government?

As I said in my last post, “separate but equal” was unacceptable in the case of race because it clearly led to inequality. Very, very few people claim that inequality follows from segregated dorm rooms and bathrooms. As for women in combat, why should a soldier’s participation in combat be based on anything other than whether that soldier’s presence is a tactical asset? The only a priori reason for keeping women out of combat is because if their role in reproduction. But we are a nation of 300 million, a tiny fraction of which is involved in the military. We are not in danger of dying out because of too many women dying in combat.

As for my view of the ERA, there are only two possibilities. Either some people are having their rights denied or abridged by the state on account of sex, or no people are. In the first case, I assume that no one here would deny that the ERA would be a good thing.

However, even if the second case holds, and there is no denial of rights today on account of sex, then at worst the ERA would be enshrining in a more permanent fashion protections which have been hard-won over the last century. The more difficult we can make it to take away protections of rights, the better.

This is beside the point because no Constitutional Amendment will change this. But I am so freaking tired of one particular long-lasting putdown:

For the last eleven years I have done business with one car dealership. My husband has leased three cars and I have bought one and leased two. Both of our names are on both cars.

However, on the cars which I drive, I did all of the research and negotiating. At first it was very hard to find a salesman that would direct his comments to me since my husband was present. With one salesman I had to remind him several times that I was the one buying the car. Eventually he argued with me about a certain feature on the car. (He was wrong and didn’t bother to check.) I walked out and went back another day to a different salesman.

I have made all of the payments and paid for all of the maintenance and repairs. My husband has been there strictly to sign the papers with me, including those accepting joint financial obligation.

And yet during those eleven years, I have been unable to get the dealership or Jeep or Chrysler to send any of the mail having to do with my car to me. They have always sent it to my husband. I have brought it to their attention at least twenty times, including once within the past six weeks.

The lease on my car will be up next April. I love Chrysler. But they are either going to send me a letter correcting the mistake or I will buy from another dealer.

Many people discriminate and never know that they are doing it. Sexual discrimination is so ingrained that I catch myself at it from time to time and I have been a long time advocate of the ERA because of its benefits for both women and men.

I can certainly understand your frustration. Last year my wife and I were thinking of replacing my Saturn so we started hitting the dealerships around town. For the most part the sales associates didn’t really want to talk with my wife. The Nissan sales associate went so far as to ignore her direct questions only answering when I asked something. Needless to say even if I want a Nissan I won’t ever be going back to that particular dealership.

I’m not really sure what benefits the ERA would have for men or women. I think it would be a superfluous addition to the Constitution considering the other Amendments we’ve already added.



Race segregated bathroom - and drinking fountains- are Illegal. “Separate but Equal” doesn’t fly for race segregated stuff, thus neither will it fly for Sex segregated stuff.
Note also that Federal Laws have a tendency to spill over into private areas- sometimes as they are more brodly interpreted, but also note that many private businesses getFederal funs through contratcs, and the Feds won’t be able to allow discrimination in that case.

In how many areas & places is Racial discrimination allowed these days? I can think of none. The ERA wil become the same, through time.

Now- there is almost no discrimination against women- in anything Laws can help with, that is. Most of the stuff that woul go bye-bye under the ERA is protections for women. Under the Law- women don’t have 'equal rights"- they are more than “equal” to men. For example- they are immune to the Draft- and that’s pure discrimination based upon sex.

Other that the types of discrimination that no law can really help with- can anyone show one area where the rights of women would increase?

Tyrrell- “If it ain’t broke- don’t fix it”. :stuck_out_tongue:

One reason the ERA amendment didn’t get broader support, as I recall, is some felt it was unnecessary. The reasonable rights (excluding same-sex bathrooms, etc.) were already being acquired thru normal legal channels and challenges. And in retrospect, that may have been right. Nowadays, are women being discriminated more than they would have been if ERA has passed?

I think the push for the ERA amendment did bring the problem to the forefront of politics and legislation, and in doing so, negated the very need for an actual amendment to reach the same goal. More law, more lawyers, and more layers of law aren’t necessarily a good thing.

You are simply repeating Shagnasty’s assertion without providing any additional evidence. It is an empirical matter of fact that in the case of race, “separate” implies “not equal”. What is your evidence that segregating dorm rooms by sex leads to the state providing unequal facilities? I suspect that you can provide no such evidence because you don’t believe it yourself. You just believe that other people will think this and try to integrate bathrooms and dorm rooms. If your belief in this is itself rational, then I’m sure you’ll have no trouble pointing to many prominent individuals who sincerely argue this way. But can you cite even a single such individual?

I extend to you my challenge to Shagnasty: Can you give a specific example of private entities being affected in the manner you indicate by amendments which explicitly describe themselves as applying only to the government?

I’m not sure what your point is here. What would the ERA become the same as? Are you saying that the fourteenth amendment was unnecessary?

How can anyone have so much trouble reading such a short amendment? The amendments says that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged . . . on account of sex.” It does not say that men and women must be treated precisely the same in all matters.

You mention the draft. Why do you think that the ERA would affect the draft, especially if an amendment specifically outlawing “involuntary servitude” did not? Whose rights are denied or abridged by a sex-specific draft? You only have two logically possible responses. Either no one’s rights are being denied or abridged, or someone’s rights are being denied or abridged. If you go with the first possibility, then you are admitting that the ERA doesn’t apply. If you go with the second possibility, then you are admitting that something wrong is happening (a rights violation) which the ERA would specifically outlaw. How then can you oppose it?

Perhaps your rebuttal was only meant to be facetious, because it is easily refuted. Something can be “not broken”, but still in a precarious state where it is more likely to be broken in the future. Prudence recommends that precautions be taken against this.

The vast majority of human civilizations, including our own, have violated rights on account of sex. This indicates that it is a very “natural” state for a culture to enter if it is not vigilant. Even if you believe that we have at long last achieved a state of equality for the sexes under the law, history should encourage you to want to make this state as secure as possible. The ERA would be a step in this direction.

DrDeth wrote:

To which I replied:

I should clarify that my challenge is in response to your claim that “Federal Laws have a tendency to spill over into private areas- sometimes as they are more brodly interpreted”. The fact that companies applying for federal contracts must conform to certain criteria is not a restriction on how private companies may behave; it is a restriction on how the federal government may spend our tax money.

Are bathrooms labeled “whites only” and “coloureds only” illegal? Yes- no matter how identical they are. Thus, bathrooms labeled “men” and “women” would also be illegal. When they passed the 14th & 15th Admendments- they thought then that “separate but equal” woudl be legal- and in fact it was for decades. It is NOT "an empirical matter of fact " that "in the case of race, “separate” implies “not equal”, it is a matter of interpretation of those Admendments and the enabling laws.

My “evidence that segregating dorm rooms by sex” would be illegal is because segregating dorm rooms by race is illegal (unless entirely voluntary, and even that’s iffy). It not that they would be “unequal” in usage- it is simply that they’d be unequal by law. And of course- the womens room is often bigger, nicer & cleaner than the mens room. It could not be so if the ERA passed.

The 14th and 15th Admendments “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” apply only to the Feds and the State. But yet it is illegal for a Private Company to discriminate based upon race- government contract or no.

Never heard of “potty parity”? Let’s take a look at the result of Texas’ potty parity law, passed by our lovable GeeDubya

In response to the fact that women usually have much longer waits for bathrooms than men, this law mandates twice the number of womens bathrooms as mens in public buildings, like stadiums. What would the ERA say about this? On one hand, it’s unfair for women to wait longer for bathrooms. On the other hand, it’s unfair for women to get more toilets than men, or to get more toilet-related dollars than men. To achieve TRUE equality, you need unisex. Well, maybe not, but you know some people will argue that, and argue it well.

And is that because of any amendments to the constitution? No- it is because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

As the case of race shows, this would not follow from the ERA alone. It would have to be independently leglislated, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement pushing for such legislation. It’s also very unclear to me why you think and ERA would make such a movment more likely.

And why did the interpretation change over the course of those decades? Because it took that long for sufficient evidence to accumulate to convince the courts that “separate” implies “not equal”.

From the decision BROWN ET AL. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA ET AL., in which this doctrine became law:

(emphasis added)

The court did not concern itself with showing that “seperate” in all cases logically implies “not equal”. To them it was an empirical question: How has it played out in the specific case of public education? Will you please explain why the court’s reasoning applies to sex-segregation of dorm rooms and bathrooms?

For your evidence to suffice, you need to show that the reasons that segregating dorm rooms by race is illegal also apply to segregating dorm rooms by sex. To give an analogy, suppose that there were an amendment which stated that no one’s rights may be denied or abridged by the state on account of the location of their residence. Do you really think that this would lead to school districts being declared unconstitutional? After all, they do amount to the segregation of educational facilities according to location of residence.

Cite that state institutions “often” provide bigger and nicer dorm rooms to females? Whether they are cleaner is, of course, the responsibility of the occupants.

As explained above, the 14th and 15th amendments to not prevent private companies from descriminating. It is the Civil Rights Act which does that.

The Civil Rights Act is only there because of the 14th & 15th Adm. It is basicly enabling legislation, and also codified much Common law based upon cases brought forth under those Adm.

The ERA isn’t needed, would reduce Womens rights, most women don’t want it, so it hasn’t be ratified. It is simply bad law.

“Only there because of”? “Brought forth under”? What does that mean? If you just mean that those amendments helped create a climate in which the public favored such legislation – sure, I’ll grant that. The civil rights movement probably would never have happened without the freeing of the slaves. But that doesn’t mean that it was constitutionally mandated.

But if you mean that everything the CRA made illegal was already held to be unconstitutional, I’m going to have to ask for a cite.


(emphasis added)

I understand that these are your claims, but we are at the part of the conversation where you are supposed to provide evidence to back them up – particularly for the “reduce Womens rights” part.

All you have produced is you opinion- stated loudly as Facts- and I don’t see why my opinion- which seems to match the voters- should be any different.

I didn’t say that everything the CRA bought forth was already common law- read my post. “much” is the word I used, if you need a hint.

The voters don’t want it, women don’t want it, and we don’t need it.

My apologies. Cite that much of what the CRA made illegal was already held to be unconstitutional?

Many won’t like this, and is does reflect on the gay marriage issue but many people really truly believe that f and m are different, not that one is ‘better’ then the other, but just are not the same.

Just to extend that I think the next major step in humanity is to recognize differences in humans, not in a ‘I’m better then you’ way but in a way that will benefit us all. (Just my humble O)

Anyway that’s why I feel that the ERA failed and Gay Marriages will fail (hopefully).

:confused: Could you elaborate on what you mean by recognizing “differences in humans” “in a way that will benefit us all”? We already recognize all kinds of differences – between individual humans, not arbitrarily defined groups. And we recognize cultural differences between persons of different cultural (national, ethnic, religious, social class, regional) backgrounds, but we also recognize those are cultural, i.e., products of environment, not heredity. What kinds of differences should we be recognizing, that we do not recognize now?