The Rules Committee held a hearing today regarding ratification of the ERA. Yep -- the one that we've been trying to ratify since I was a baby.
I was surprised how many people came to testify against ratification. I applaud people who are willing to take time away from work, school or home to drive to town and make their voices heard, but I was saddened by the baseless propaganda that was delivered by those who would oppose ratification of the amendment. The opposition wore large "Stop ERA" stickers and claimed that ratification of the amendment would mandate public funding for abortions, legalize gay marriage and require the "fairer sex" to serve on the front lines in Iraq. Cites and sources were provided for the assertions, but none of them can hold up to close scrutiny.
Another popular argument is that we don't need to protect women under the constitution because we already protect women with existing laws. Concerned Women for America seems to think that protections provided to women should be the exclusive domain of the legislature. Funny -- CWA sang a different tune two years ago when it lobbied to enshrine discrimination in the constitution and ban gay marriage, even though state legislators had already passed legislation prohibiting same sex marriage in Missouri.
The bottom line is this -- women do not enjoy equal rights in this country. Although a person's race is considered a "suspect classification," the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that gender is not. The suspect classification doctrine holds that laws classifying people according to race, ethnicity, and religion are inherently suspect and are subject to the strict scrutiny test of judicial review. Strict scrutiny forces the state to provide a compelling state interest for the challenged law and demonstrate that the law has been narrowly tailored to achieve its purpose.
Because the Supreme Court has declined to make sex a suspect classification, it uses the intermediate standard of review for sex-based policies. According to this test, "classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives." Weaker than the strict scrutiny test, intermediate scrutiny results in fewer sex-based laws being struck down. Adopting the ERA would result in gender’s inclusion in the list of suspect classifications. It does matter.
I’m not hopeful that the resolution will pass in Missouri this year. I’m excited to report that it looks like Arkansas will pass its resolution in 2007, though. I’m also happy that countries around the world are including equal rights for both sexes in their constitutions. Even Afghanistan has an ERA equivalent in its constitution. Regardless of its chances, I will continue to fight and educate my colleagues on the issue. Here’s hoping that my daughter won’t face the same intolerance when she is in the senate.
(This one's for you Angel :)