Most of the women who will be directly affected by the pending decision to put women in combat are too young to remember the ERA. Many of them may not know what ERA stands for.
It stands for Unfinished Business.
The Equal Rights Amendment, proposed EVERY YEAR for 50 years, was finally passed in Congress in 1972 and sent out to the states for ratification. It failed. Why? I will get to that in a moment. But first let's consider this amendment, originally written in 1923, in detail:
• Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.That's it. Hard to imagine something proposed 90 years ago would be too radical a departure for the hysterical voices from the Right. Actually, that isn't hard to imagine at all. Nevertheless, with this hanging fire for almost a century you may wonder why I bring this up now. After Secretary Clinton's performance yesterday, can anyone doubt that women have broken through the glass ceiling and enjoy equal opportunity to achieve the highest levels of success this country has to offer? In a word: Yes.
• Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
• Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Here's why: Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum (formerly "Stop ERA"). The forces aligned to prevent this nation from guaranteeing the same rights to women enjoyed by everyone else succeeded in blocking the passage of the ERA by arguing that "radical" amendment would lead to the following:
• Homosexual marriages
• Women in combat
• Taxpayer-funded abortions
• Unisex bathrooms
• Elimination of Social Security benefits for widows
I have put the first two in bold because they are very soon going to be a reality across this land. Single-sex marriage didn't wait for the ERA. That's great. But the second point cannot come without a cost. It seems to me that if, in fact, the major argument against allowing the ERA to pass was that it would open the door to placing women in harm's way, someone needs to tell these Neanderthals that ship sailed long ago.
If equal rights to citizenship are predicated on equal sacrifice, that debt has been paid in full -- several times over -- by women like Marine Corps Sgt. Camella M. Steedley. Her sacrifice, as great as it was, is not unique. I could have picked any of 150 other women who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. She isn't even unique among Marines. There are nine other female Marines who died serving their country. I'm not even going to try counting the number of wounded warriors who are women. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could fill a regiment with these women. If anyone needs to put a face on these women, let Tammy Duckworth stand in for them. As she said:
"I didn't lose my legs in a bar fight."(h/t to Silvia Nightshade for the quote.)
Until now, there has always been a fig leaf that these women were not deployed in combat. They were "in support of combat operations" but not deployed in "combat units," an important distinction that tends to lose its significance when you fight a war with no borders. But now, even that fig leaf is going to fall away soon. When that happens, all those arguing against passage of the Equal Rights Amendment need to stand down. Their most successful arguments, already flawed and outdated, will become moot.
The voting age in this country was lowered from 21 to 18 largely based on the strength of this simple argument:
If you are old enough to die for this country, then you should be old enough to vote for her leaders.I think the argument for passing the Equal Rights Amendment is just as simple and straightforward:
If you are willing to lay down your life for this nation, then this nation needs to stand behind you with equal commitment.
2:23 PM PT: You may be interested to know that there is a solid legal argument in support of the contention that the Equal Rights Amendment Remains Legally Viable and Properly Before the States (caution: PDF)
The ERA was first introduced nearly seventy-five years ago. Although some supporters have abandoned hope during the long struggle for ratification, many supporters have continued the fight for equality. The recent ratification of the 203-year-old Madison Amendment gives these supporters new reason to believe that the ERA is still alive. Originally proposed without a time limit in 1789, the requisite thirty-eight states did not ratify the Madison Amendment until 1992. This ratification suggests that amendments, such as the ERA, which do not contain a textual time limit, remain valid for state ratification indefinitely.[emphasis added]This is not just the pontification of legal scholars. The Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service analyzed this article and concluded that acceptance of the Madison Amendment does have implications for the three-state strategy, and that the issue is more of a political question than a constitutional one. This already has congressional sponsorship:
From 1994 to 2008, Representative Robert Andrews (D-NJ) was the lead sponsor of a resolution stating that when an additional three states ratify the ERA, the House of Representatives shall take any necessary action to verify that ratification has been achieved. In 2011, he joined lead sponsor Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in support of H.J.Res. 47, which would specifically remove the ERA's ratification deadline and make it part of the Constitution when three more states ratify. S.J. Res. 39, the Senate companion bill to that legislation, was introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).
The bottom line: This fight is not over, nor do we have to start back at square one.