Right(s) move:
Yes, we must return to, and finally ratify, equality amendment

A new effort to gain the support of three states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is powering up around the country, to the consternation of opponents who somehow link equal rights for women with abortion and same-sex marriage.

New Mexico was one of 35 states originally to have ratified the ERA. We did so in 1973 and incorporated an amendment into our own State Constitution that barred discrimination and legal bias based on gender.

That was a proud moment in New Mexico history. Of all the many stupidities of human thinking, misogyny, or the fear and loathing of women are among the most destructive.

All people are to be treated equally in the eyes of the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, as the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, mandates. But equal protection traditionally has not applied to women.

It wasn't until 1919 that the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage was ratified, after a long battle against state's-rights advocates, business leaders opposed to equal wages for women and those who believed suffrage would threaten the family.

Such worries proved groundless. Women still earn some 23 cents to the dollar for men in comparable jobs with comparable education and experience. The American family has been strengthened by humanitarian anti-poverty laws and domestic-abuse penalties overwhelmingly supported by women.

In 1982, the move to ratify the ERA was stopped by the paranoia of conservatives, three states short of enactment, pinched off by a time limit that ERA backers today consider unconstitutional, based on the precedent of the 27th Amendment, which took 203 years to be ratified.

In 1980, during the last ratification battle, then-New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca countered ERA opponents, saying he could not "see that any provision which ensures equality under the law can adversely affect any legitimate, legal rights or privileges. . . . The ERA, which is actually a human rights amendment, is a very necessary instrument through which we can guarantee that equality under the law exists."

Although the ERA has been promoted largely by women and their male allies, the amendment itself simply forbids denying or abridging rights "on account of sex" - either sex.

It's just political trickery to say the ERA will take away women's freedoms or promote abortion, which is legal and protected on privacy grounds. Same-sex marriage is a privacy matter, too, and a red herring as far as the ERA is concerned.

If it took more than 200 years for the ratification of 27th Amendment, which forbids a sitting Congress from raising its own wages, then surely a 25-year hiatus for the ERA must be legal.

Now's the time for the ERA to become the 28th Amendment.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
April 6, 2007