Opposing Views over the Equal Rights Amendment
When Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by huge margins in first the House and then the Senate (the Senate vote taking place on March 22, 1972), it seemed that 50 years of hard work by women’s rights advocates had finally come to fruition. The ERA simply stated: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Only one hurdle remained: 38 states had to ratify the ERA within seven years; the deadline was March 22, 1979.
When the deadline was reached, however, only 35 states had ratified the amendment—3 short of passage. In a controversial move, the deadline was extended to June 30, 1982—but no further states ratified it. In fact, during the time of the extension, five states that had previously passed the ERA rescinded their ratification: Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
What happened? How had a measure that received overwhelming support in Congress and approval by 35 states fail to become law? The answer is that the ERA, like other controversial issues such as capital punishment, gun control, and abortion, deeply divided Americans. Some of these divisions can be seen in the following three newspaper articles, all published the day after the Senate passed the ERA by the convincing vote of 84-8 on March 22. The first two articles express opposition to the ERA, the third supports it by undercutting Bible-based arguments used by some of the ERA opponents.
This copyrighted article was published by the Mobile Register (Mobile, Alabama) on March 23, 1972:
‘Women’s Rights’ Wrangle
By Russell Kirk
Of the 15 members of the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, only one had the courage to vote against the “Women’s Rights” amendment to the federal Constitution. That gentleman is Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina—an earnest believer in genuine rights at law.
Now the Senate at large is supposed to take up this “Women’s Rights” monster. The proposal masquerades as a declaration of equal rights for women. Actually it is a demagogic proposal to deprive women of their protections and privileges. In the Senate, its chief champion is Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana.
Were the “Women’s Rights” scheme made part of the federal Constitution, it would deprive women of exemption from military service, of safeguards (dearly won over the past two centuries) against bad conditions and hours of labor, and of benefits at law they now enjoy as mothers, wives, and widows. This is liberation?
Senator Ervin endeavored in committee to substitute a proposal that would have prevented this eroding of women’s real present rights, and would have recognized physiological and functional differences between the male and female. He was beaten down by his timid or demagogic colleagues, who feared retaliation by the Women’s Liberation zealots.
Other amendments to the proposal would have exempted women from conscription, or from combat duty, and would have permitted state universities and colleges to continue to matriculate only one sex or the other; these too were crushed at the insistence of the Women’s Lib lobby.
A legal right, in essence, is an immunity. Women already enjoy genuine rights—that is, immunities against treatment that would injure them. This fantastic Equal Rights Amendment would simply make women subject to all the burdens that men now bear. Some Women’s Lib freaks rejoice that the amendment actually might make it possible for women to enter men’s public washrooms.
The trouble with that “right” is this: It also operates vice versa. The amendment would confer upon American women such “rights” as have been given by the Communist regime to Soviet women—rights to equal misery, especially in the form of heavy manual labor.
Now not all American women associated with “Women’s Liberation” causes are freaks. When some of them talk of better opportunities for women in the professions, I say amen. When some of them protest against the degradation of womanhood by “skin flicks” and pornographic publications, I applaud.
But trying to abolish women’s legal immunities for the sake of an abstract declaration of “equality” with men (which seems to imply that men and women are precisely alike) is hopelessly freakish.
The House of Representatives already has been servile and irresponsible enough to approve such a constitutional amendment. But one trusts that Senator Ervin, with some able colleagues, will be able to dissuade the Senate from being equally foolish. If the vast majority of American women come to understand the terms of this “Equal Rights” illusion, they will thank their stars for a senatorial filibuster.
How about a Children’s Rights amendment to make little boys and girls subject, along with adults, to military combat, exhausting labor, and compulsory mingling on intimate terms with older people? Back to child labor on the harshest terms! What a glorious liberation!
When will the Judiciary Committee be liberated from such solons as Sen. Birch Bayh? I pledge my passionate support to any Indiana miniskirt or granny who aspires to unseat him.
This copyrighted article was published by the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) on March 23, 1972:
Women Voice Concern over Rights Passage
By Phil Cogswell
of The Oregonian staff
Washington—The Senate vote Wednesday on an equal rights amendment for women sparked a flurry of long distance telephone calls from the Portland area to Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore.
The calls came from women who voiced strong concern with the amendment’s effect on moral values.
Hatfield staff members said the approximately 30 calls they received was the greatest number on a single issue since the vote on the supersonic transport.
Aides to Oregon’s other senator, Bob Packwood, and to Rep. Edith Green, who represents much of the Portland area, said they did not receive any calls on the issue.
“They were mostly worried the amendment will destroy family life and would force women into a role they didn’t want,” said Lyn Jenks, who fielded the calls for Hatfield.
She said the callers seemed to have a common source of information since they voiced similar views on the effects of the amendment.
Among concerns—some in very strong language—were that the amendment would:
• Make it legal for lesbians to marry and adopt children;
• Force women to live in army barracks with men;
• Abolish the Mann act and make it legal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes;
• Abolish separate restrooms for men and women; and
• Make it possible for an undefined “they” to take children out of the home.
The amendment would do none of these things, backers said.
“One woman said she didn’t want her role as a woman and as a mother jeopardized and didn’t want her child put in a day care center,” Miss Jenks said.
The callers also said they would work to defeat Hatfield because of his support of the proposal, with one woman saying, “I don’t want to sound threatening but we’ll see he never holds office again.”
There was no clue why the calls focused on Hatfield, who is, however, a co-sponsor of the amendment. Many of the callers indicated they had young children, Miss Jenks said.
The amendment provides that equality of rights under the law will not be abridged or denied on account of sex.
This copyrighted article was published by the Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington) on March 23, 1972:
Don’t Take Bible Too Literally, Speaker Says
By Marcia Schultz
Equal rights for women? But the Bible says…
Well, it says things like, “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection…suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man…
“Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing, if (she) continues in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” —I Timothy 1:11-15.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience…and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home…” —I Corinthians 14:34-35.
Hogwash, or words to that effect, Rachel Conrad Wahlberg of Austin, Tex., told an attentive gathering of about 100 well-dressed Mercer Island matrons Tuesday.
She spoke at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on the topic of “Women, Sex and St. Paul” (St. Paul being the supposed author of the above passages and, along with Sigmund Freud, one of the primary villains in women’s liberation circles).
A staunch defender of women’s lib, Mrs. Wahlberg has a certain degree of credibility since she’s the happily married mother of four (wife of the Texas-Louisiana Lutheran Synod president), as well as a successful author and lecturer.
Applauding the American Lutherans’ decision to ordain women as ministers about three years ago, she called on women to combat other vestiges of sex discrimination in the church and society.
As for biblical passages which indicate women should have an inferior status, she said, “No matter if it’s in the Bible, we won’t do it. We don’t believe in it, and we won’t buy it.”
She observed that many passages in the Bible reflect the prevailing customs and beliefs of the era in which it was written, many of which have since been discarded.
You can accept the validity of the Bible’s basic message, she insisted, without accepting every word as, uh, gospel truth.
To those who cling to literal translations of the Bible, she pointed out, “If you don’t still believe you’re ‘unclean’ when you’re having a (menstrual) period or that you have to wear a hat when you go to church, you’ve already broken away.”
Confirming that you can reinforce a variety of ideas with Biblical passages, she cited Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor master…male nor female: for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
The petite Mrs. Wahlberg delivered her message in a Texas drawl and with a breezy sense of humor. She’s the type who would go to a Catholic-Protestant conference, as she once did, wearing a big orange button that said, “Anyone for Celibacy?”
At another meeting she wore a button saying, “I’m a victim of original sin.” (To which one minister quipped, “What do you mean a victim? You’re the perpetrator!”)
Seriously, she doesn’t buy the Eve-tempting-Adam-with-the-apple bit: “Maybe she handed it to him, but he had to bite down on it, chew it and swallow it,” she noted, lamenting the Bible’s “double standard” and its penchant for blaming women for men’s downfall.
That’s because the gospel was written and interpreted by men, she said, and because the church has been too inclined to defend the status quo: “Men had to think it’s in women’s nature to be subservient and submissive, just like Southern plantation owners had to think that about their slaves.”
Comparing the women’s rights movement to the racial civil rights movement, she called for an end to stereotyping—“making a judgment about a person on the basis of race or sex.”
Mrs. Wahlberg urged her housewife audience to get involved in women’s rights, to “broaden your vision of yourself as a person and a Christian.”
“The liberation movement is showing us we have personality and character apart from our family, that we need not define ourselves only in relation to our men,” she declared.
“It’s so easy to say that ‘because of that radical fringe, I can’t identify with it’ (the women’s movement). But I think it’s a good thing—it makes us think, it challenges us to think things out, like what’s so good about marriage? What’s so good about having children?
“Why are we in the center feeling a little bit threatened by what the radical women are saying? In any revolution, there’s always a far-out element that threatens the center.”
Although there are now about 160 women in 16 Lutheran seminaries, she said the church is not generally considered “an employment source for the educated professional woman.”
She feels it personally because 25 years ago, when she felt a “real call” to be a minister like her father and brothers, “it seemed ridiculous.”
Besides equal-employment opportunity, she advocates liberalized abortion laws and an end to the double standard in prostitution laws (prosecution of the woman and not the man).
Holder of a master’s degree in English Literature, Mrs. Wahlberg has written two books: Leave a Little Dust (on “liberated management of the home”) and the soon-to-be-published Sexism in the Church. She has also written numerous magazine articles.
She will be speaking to students at Lutheran Bible Institute tomorrow morning and at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon.
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