Phineas looked up from his paper, “I’m embarrassed to be a citizen of the Commonwealth.”
“What are you talking about,” I asked.
“Our illustrious legislative body in Richmond failed to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made Virginia the 38th state to approve the measure and allow it to move to the U.S. Senate for ratification.”
“It is appalling that Republican women voted against it,” I agreed. “Phineas, how would you like to be a woman without access to the rights that you, as a man, now enjoy?”
“I wouldn’t put up with it. Why women don’t, in this day and age, have equal rights and experience equal treatment is way beyond my feeble brain.”
“Politics, and economics, my man, power and money,” I answered. “Companies are not paying women equally for work that men and women each perform among other things.”
“So, as I understand it the ERA would guarantee equal rights under U.S. law regardless of gender.”
“Seems innocuous enough,” I replied, “Equality under the law, fairness in the workplace and in matters civil and criminal. Equality according to law, yes, but women may still need to fight, even litigate for equal TREATMENT in day-to-day situations.”
“Why do we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to guarantee equal rights for women anyway? Why can’t we agree to do it without a Constitutional measure?” Phineas asked. “Although I am happy someone chose to promote the ERA with an ice cream van.”
“Why did we need the 19th Amendment to guarantee WOMEN the right to vote?” I countered. “Political parties enjoyed their status quo. Addition of women to the ranks of voters would not only potentially dilute the electorate they controlled, women could have thrown a monkey wrench of their own ideas into the plans of the male-dominated power structures. The word MEN was used in the Constitution instead of the word CITIZENS, but the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed MALE CITIZENS equal rights under law and prevents states from abridging such privileges or immunities.”
“Why did we need an amendment to clarify that states could not abridge federal law? Fairness should be fairness, whether in state or federal contexts.”
“Power struggles between states and the federal government continue even today,” I replied.
“That’s the truth,” said Phineas, “Look at the dustup in California over emissions.”
“The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. It did not state that all MEN or WOMEN, black or white, are to be treated equally. Words do matter, but at some point, the adults in the room need to speak up for what was the reasonable intent of these laws,” I said.
Phineas thought for a moment then asked, “Will we need another constitutional amendment to specify all children, both female and male ... ”
“And combinations of the two, whether by birth, behavior, or surgery ...” I interjected.
“Are created equally and deserve equal rights and treatment under the Constitution?”
“It may someday come to that.”