Some women ‘out of touch’ as U.S. Congress breaks again on fairness & equal pay
Bernadette Cahill – WNN Opinion
(WNN) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES: Last May, an AP (Associated Press) news story reported that women were now moving into new jobs in previously all-male units in the United States army. The move opens up about 14,000 military jobs for women – making official the practice in Iraq and Afghanistan, where women have been “fighting and dying” alongside men.
The irony is that while women of the United States have already died for their country, women do not have human rights or equal rights under their Constitution. But U.S. diplomats have worked to ensure equal rights for women under the new Iraqi and Afghan constitutions.
The new U.S. army openings for women demonstrate that discrimination against women still exists in the United States; but to hear many people speak, equality of the sexes has been established for years.
Many advocates say that sex equality has actually never existed in the U.S.
Now as the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Congressional extension of the ERA amendment is coming on June 3o, 2012, the recent talk to revive the Paycheck Fairness Act has met again with the same U.S. Congressional stop that the original ERA has suffered. The Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified in the 1970s. Yet a poll that the Opinion Research Corporation conducted for for the ERA Campaign Network, a member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations revealed that even in 2001, seventy-two per cent of the population believed it had been.
Young American women seem ignorant they aren’t equal under the law. Khloe Wigginton, 19, a Nashville, Tennessee hairdresser, said she was “upset and shocked” to hear it. Adelia Kittrell, 29, a Little Rock, AR executive assistant said she “never imagined…women still were not recognized as equal under the law.”
Both Wigginton and Kittrell said they knew many women like themselves.
Equality A Founding Principle
Equality, stated in the Declaration of Independence as “all men are created equal,” was a founding principle of the United States. Yet it became clear very early that “men” did not include women – a fact borne out particularly in U.S. marriage laws throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century.
Discrimination against women was most famously upheld in constitutional law in the case of Minor v. Happersett in 1875 when women lost their attempt to have the Supreme Court declare that equal voting rights applied to them under the 14th Amendment.
The most recent attempt to resolve this ancient issue was when Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972. It achieved only 35 of the 38 ratifications necessary.
Further ratifications have not been forthcoming partly because the law relating to constitutional amendments in the United States, in the words of Walter Dellinger, then Professor of Law at Duke University writing in 1983 “is seriously flawed.”
Attempts to establish equality of the sexes by judicial review using the “equal protection” clause in the 14th Amendment have failed. Today, three standards apply to judgments of discrimination cases and sex discrimination falls, at best, in the middle.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated the situation in an interview with a U.S. California Lawyer in January, 2011. Referring to the 14th Amendment, he said, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that.”
Laws and judicial review are often touted as the way to deal with continuing women’s legal inequalities in the U.S., but they involve serious shortcomings.
In 2007, Lilly Ledbetter’s failure to win her equal pay case against the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in the Supreme Court demonstrated the fragility of statutory equal rights for women without an ERA.
But another problem is that if sexual equality depends only on statute law, these laws can always be repealed.
ERA More Necessary Than Ever
The 14th amendment, ratified in 1868, provided equal protection on account of race. This raises the question – as it did then: “Why not sex?”
Sarah George, a 24-year-old marketing coordinator of Kettering, Ohio, pointed out, “Women’s rights are always relevant. There are always debates about racism. Race is still a topic today. If you can have racism, then sexism is still an issue.”
The ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
When the ERA was first introduced in 1923 and passed in 1972, multiple laws and practices discriminated against women – in divorce, employment, educational and sport opportunities and so on. Times have since changed: some of the young women interviewed for this article said that they had not experienced sex discrimination.
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