The Nevada Legislature has a rare and unique opportunity to exercise national leadership: It should adopt the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing to women equality with men in all respects.
Section 1 of the proposed amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” First put forth in 1923, it was approved by two-thirds majorities of the U. S. House and Senate in 1972. It has been ratified by the legislatures of 35 states, and only three more states must ratify the amendment for it to become part of the Constitution and the law of the land.
The Nevada Assembly passed a resolution in 1975 to ratify the ERA but the Senate did not. In 1977, a resolution was passed by the Senate but was defeated in the Assembly. Both bodies must approve the amendment in the same legislative session for it to be ratified by Nevada.
One argument against approval of the ERA is Congress provided it must be ratified by the required number of states no later than 1979. However, the Congress approved an amendment in 1789, yes 1789, and Michigan became the last state to ratify it, the 27th Amendment, in 1992. It was proclaimed as ratified by the national archivist and the Congress. Clearly, it’s not too late for ratification of the ERA.
No provision of the Constitution proclaims the equality of women and men. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, the notion women and men are persons of equal stature “is a basic principle of our society.” And yet, there can be little argument women continue to suffer unequal treatment in many aspects of life in this country.
Such outmoded arguments as the amendment would require women to serve in combat or to use the same toilet facilities with men simply are no longer credible. Women are serving in combat on land, at sea and in the air; upon ratification of the ERA, that right couldn’t be denied as long as they meet all requirements of performing any particular job or function. As to the provoking, even prurient, argument about toilet use, the law has long held reasonable classifications permit different application of laws to women and men, and many other classes.
Numerous constitutional provisions, many the result of various amendments as our society has become more sensitive of individual rights, guarantee freedoms may not be denied on the basis of race, color, age, and yes, sex. But there’s no protection of women’s rights simply because they’re women. Why?
Our distinguished legislature should vote without delay to ratify the ERA. Ratification by Nevada just might give two other states a nudge and thus, at long last, provide constitutional protection of women’s rights.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aid and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at email@example.com.