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Equal Rights Amendment Debate: Schlafly vs DeCrow

Karen DeCrow
Bill Ingraham
/
AP File
Karen DeCrow, president of the National Organization for Women, shouts to a crowd during a NOW parade held in Philadelphia, Oct. 25, 1975. The parade and ceremonies kicked off their national convention being held in Philadelphia.
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Transcript
About

In the 1970s, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment. For it to become part of the Constitution, at least 38 state legislatures also had to approve it. It seemed like a sure thing – until it didn’t.

Debates about the merits of the amendment raged across the country, including one in Iowa City in 1979. Phyllis Schlafly, the leader of the Stop ERA movement, debated the issue with Karen DeCrow, the former president of the National Organization for Women.

On the seventh episode of From the Archives, national figures hold a contentious debate on the Equal Rights Amendment at the University of Iowa. Karen Kedrowski, a political scientist and the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, joins the episode to offer historical context and explain ways these arguments can be still be heard today — for example, in the U.S. Supreme Court's recent reversal of Roe v. Wade.

From the Archives was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Transcript

The transcript was produced using AI transcription software and edited by an IPR producer, and it may contain errors. Please listen to the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Moderator

We're going to start off tonight with Phyllis Schlafly. Mrs. Schlafly is the National chairman of STOP ERA. She writes a monthly newsletter called The Phyllis Schlafly Report. She is the author of nine books. She has a bachelor's degree from Washington University at St. Louis, a Master's from Harvard. And she has, just last December, received her law degree from Washington University at St. Louis. After Ms. Schlafly speaks, our next speaker will be Karen DeCrow. Karen Decrow is a former president of the National Organization for Women. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern, a law degree from Syracuse she practices law in New York State. She is the author of two books, Sexist Justice, and The Young Woman's Guide to Liberation. And she is presently in the process of completing a third book. Ms. Schlafly:

Phyllis Schlafly

Thank you Madam Chair, and Good evening, fellow students. Just suppose you were watching your favorite football team, which was winning. And in the last quarter, the coach of the losing team demanded that a fifth quarter be played to give them time to catch up, and furthermore demanded that only the losing team be permitted to carry the ball? Well, I don't think the fans on either side would put up with that type of change of the rules. But that is approximately what the ERA proponents did last fall when they went down to Congress and asked Congress to change the time -- to change the rules, and to give them an additional three years and three months to ratify ERA, because they couldn't make it in seven years.

Phyllis Schlafly
CEK/AP
/
AP
Illinois Bar Association and nationally known pro-ERA activists, is engaged in a debate over the proposed Equal Rights Amendment with Phyllis Schlafly, right, chairman of the National Stop ERA Movement. The debate was hosted by the City Club of Chicago on Friday, June 17, 1978 at a Chicago Hotel. (AP Photo/CEK)

And they not only did that, but they deliberately say right out, that they are going to count certain states as voting in the yes column even though their legislatures have rescinded, and said they want to be counted as voting in the no column. There are now, as of this afternoon at 2 o'clock, five states which have switched from yes to no, rescinded and wanted -- want to be counted in the no column. In order to change the constitution of the United States, you have to have what is called a contemporaneous consensus, consisting of a two-thirds vote of both the Senate and the House and three-fourths of the states. There is absolutely no possible way that the Equal Rights Amendment can get this. They showed last fall that they no longer have two-thirds of either the Senate or the House in the Congress. And there's no way they can get three-fourths of the states if states are freely allowed to choose between yes and no. In the first 12 months after ERA came out of the Congress in 1972, they got 30 states. And in the succeeding six years, they got five states, and they lost five states. So they just stood still for six whole years. And the purpose of that extension that was voted last fall, which I do not believe can stand up in court, and which is contrary to all rules of fairness, is to allow them to steam up their boycott and to allow the expenditure of federal money in order to try to force states to vote yes when they would otherwise vote no.

The federal government has been spending an enormous amount of taxpayers' money to try to persuade legislators to vote yes. The President, a couple of weeks ago, invited the governor of Oklahoma to come down to Washington and have a nice lunch at the White House in order to discuss how to force Oklahoma to pass it. Fortunately, Oklahoma has now abandoned that plan because they don't have the votes. The President has been having employees of the White House calling up state legislators telling them to vote yes, although their constituents want them to vote no. They have their $5 million in international Women's year. And they, yeah, they tried as their top priority to ratify ERA. Now why is there this spending of federal money to try to force us to take a constitutional amendment? Well, it's clearly because of section two of the ERA, which says Congress will have the power to enforce it. That is the section which transfers from the states to the federal government, the total power of enforcement, a power of enforcement over all those areas of law, which have traditionally made any difference of treatment between men and women. And that is why the federal employees see the ERA as a big extension of power, a big increase in their staffs, and their bureaus and their personnel and their tax funds. And that's why they're spending our money. That's why they're getting desperate at the thought that of this new increase of power slipping through their fingers. And then of course, they want the extra time in order to steam up their boycott. The there are hundreds of organizations that have now agreed that they are not going to have conventions in any of the unratified states. Now, of course, this is a deliberate attempt to hurt innocent people.

It really is the measure of what kind of people are for the ERA because it's a deliberate attempt to hurt innocent people, innocent people like waiters and maids and clerks who work for hotels and restaurants, and retail stores and taxi cabs, people who don't have it within their power to pass the ERA, and who are innocent bystanders who don't have anything to do with the controversy. And yet people who are pushing this boycott are saying cheers, we're going to hurt all those innocent people, we're going to throw them out of work, because their state legislators won't pass the ERA. Now, of course, I think this shows that the ERA doesn't have any merits. If it had any merits, they would not have to resort to the spending of federal money, and this type of a secondary boycott in order to get their goal.

Now why is it that the ERA has been losing for seven years? It's been losing because in addition to the transfer of power that the people of this country don't want, our people don't want what section one will do either. Section one would forbid us to make any reasonable differences of treatment or separation between the sexes that reasonable people want. For example, we've got a minority of people in this country who like to attend single-sex schools or colleges, or to participate in single-sex fraternities, sororities, girls’ state, boys’ state, mother/daughter, father/son, school events, who like to sleep in single-sex dormitories. All of these activities are in single sex sports. These are all parts of the educational system, where a certain minority of our people like to discriminate based on sex. Now, it isn't immoral, or illegal to go to an all-girls or an all-boys school. And there's no reason why it should be unconstitutional. But that's one of the effects of ERA. It would make it unconstitutional to have any all-girls or all-boys schools because they, by definition, discriminate on account of sex. That is one example of the really, the totalitarian mind of the proponents who want to force us into the gender-free mold, regardless of what people want. Now for a good many years, we've been talking about the effect of the ERA on the draft and military combat. And people have been saying, oh, Phil, this is just raising an emotional issue. Well, now it's very clear, since Harold Brown has come right out and called for the drafting of women, the registering of women...Ah, I wonder how many of those clapping have already volunteered, you know, they're looking for volunteers. All you need to do is to run, not walk, to your nearest recruiting office. They're looking forward, they're ready for you to sign up. Of course, under the ERA, this becomes mandatory. And it really just boggles the mind to see how anybody could call it an advance for women, an improvement in women's rights to say, Oh, great, the next war, women are going to be drafted and put in combat, just like man. But that, of course, is one of the effects of the Equal Rights Amendment, ERA, would forbid us to make any reasonable differences of treatment between men and women that reasonable people want.

There's no reason why it should be unconstitutional to participate in perfectly legal single-sex activities. But that would be the effect of the ERA because if it went into the Constitution, it would be part of the supreme law of the land. Now, of course, when you put this up to the voters, they don't want it. Last November the ERA was on the ballot in the state of Florida and in the state of Nevada. And the proponents spent millions of dollars to try to get the voters to accept it in those states, it was overwhelmingly defeated in both those states. It was about 66% no in Nevada and about 60% no in Florida, that people don't want it, they don't see any gain in it, it doesn't do anything for women. All it does is to force us into the gender-free mold, and to give more power to the federal government. And anytime that the offer is made, that we put this up to the voters, the proponents always run away from that. For example, in the state of Virginia, a resolution was just proposed a few weeks ago to put on a referendum, and all the ERAers unanimously voted to kill that bill. They don't want to let the people decide, because they know if the people get a chance, they will vote no on ERA.

Karen DeCrow

Human rights issues are not debatable. And the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution should not be debatable, but unfortunately, it still is debatable in the United States of America. And we have to keep talking about it until we get it.

I, personally, as an attorney, am embarrassed and humiliated that I am not included in the Constitution to the United States. And I feel that one of my major jobs as an attorney, is to travel around the country, convincing people in this country that there is no guarantee legally equality for women in any state, until three more states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

We have until June 30, 1982, to ratify this essential amendment to the Constitution. And there is no better place in this country than universities where the free flow of ideas must be exchanged to discuss this issue. It is the youth of this country who must demand from their state legislators that women are not second class citizens in the United States. It is the universities which much set up to hue and cry and say this is a live issue. This is an issue which we are debating and we are saying yes, yes, yes. That is the message that we must tell the country, that the students at universities are demanding equal rights for women, that the students at universities are demanding an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, that the students in universities in this country are embarrassed to graduate and come out and become adults in a country where over half the population is second class citizens. That is the message that you should be telling the world, that is the message that you should be telling the media, and that is the message I hope you will be telling.

Karen DeCrow
AP
/
AP File
Karen DeCrow, housewife turned crusader for women's equality, in Syracuse, N.Y., April 18, 1977.

There are hundreds of laws in each state. There are hundreds of federal laws, there are total of thousands of laws, which discriminate mostly against women. I am pleased to say as I came in, I was told that your state legislature a couple of weeks ago has just passed a state Equal Rights Amendment. It should be congratulations to the legislature, and hopefully states will not have to be passing states equal rights amendments, because soon we will have a federal Equal Rights Amendment. Let me read you from an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, Just so that the message does not get out that it is only the students in this country who are demanding equal rights for women. The Chicago Tribune, as you know, is not known as a radical sheet. "A new study from Duke University Center for the Study of the family and the state suggests that court decisions based on equal rights statutes have actually had a positive and strengthening effect on family life and on marriage. What is clear is that removing legal discrimination against women hasn't produced the data Consequences feared by ERA opponents."

We need the Equal Rights Amendment in this country to protect the rights of the homemaker. The ERA is the pro-family amendment. Opponents of the amendment will tell you the housewife is now supported in grand style. And that when the Equal Rights Amendment is passed, 40 million American husbands will walk out the door. That is not true. 40 million American men are not supporting their families because women do not have constitutional equality. There must be another reason they're doing it.

Divorced women and children live on an average of $218 a month, the men who are "supporting them." We all know that now women are entitled to support for men because we don't have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equality to women are living on an average of $800 a month. Three out of five one-parent households practically all headed by a woman are on welfare. Within three years after divorce, only 19% of fathers are paying child support.

Opponents of the ERA say that the Equal Rights Amendment will impose a 50% obligation on a woman to support her family. You have to pay half the rent and he has to pay half the rent. That is absolutely not true. And states which have state equal rights amendments show that to be a false scare tactic not based in any way on legal reality. Opponents of the ERA will tell you that it will take away rights of women who work in factories, will take away employment rights that we now have. We see how easy it is.

For example, in the case of a certain female firefighter, we see how easy it is for women to get equal rights on the job market right now with all the laws we have protecting women. Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment will tell you that women have all the protection we need and that there is economic inequality to women because we do different kinds of jobs and are in the job market for a different length of time. That is absolutely not true. The median income for women in this country is about $6,000. For men. It is about $12,000. And I just got statistics issued in February for the state group of states that Iowa is included in: men have a median income of $13,496 in this state, and women have a median income of $7,805.

We do not have all the equality we need in the employment world. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the city of Philadelphia can maintain two separate school systems, one for boys and one for girls. There is a public high school in Philadelphia for boys only. There is a public high school in Philadelphia for girls only. Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment say that should be allowed. Proponents of the Equal Rights amendments say in the United States of America, we cannot have a separate and unequal school system publicly supported by the City of Philadelphia. The boys’ school has a much more advanced curriculum in science and mathematics, and we say this is unAmerican. If the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified, the Supreme Court could not have made that decision. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled recently on the Bakke case and in that case, there is language which states gender-based discrimination is not inherently odious, as is race-discrimination. We say that it is. We say that gender-based discrimination has no place in the courts, in somebody's private life. They want to be a sexist pig -- that's their private business. Judges should not have that privilege.

There must be a reason why the Democratic National Committee refuses to hold conventions in unratified states, there must be a reason why the Republican National Committee refuses to hold conventions in unratified states. There must be a reason why the AFL CIO, not known for its long support of equal rights for women in unions, refuses to hold its conferences in unratified states. And there must be a reason why most churches in this country support the Equal Rights Amendment. I would like to read you a partial list of the churches in this country which support the Equal Rights Amendment: The American Association of pastoral counselors the American Jewish Committee, the task force on the status of women in the Catholic Church, Campus Ministry women the Catholic women's seminary fun church, women united, the Episcopal Church, the friends committee on national legislation, the National Assembly of women religious, the National Association of College and University chaplains, the National Coalition of American nuns, the National Council of Churches in Christ, the National Council of Jewish women priests for a quality the Unitarian Universalist Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the world student, Christian Federation. There must be a reason why the Girl Scouts of the United States support the Equal Rights Amendment.

This is what the Chicago Tribune, Chicago, the largest city in America that's going to have a woman mayor. This is what the Chicago Tribune said about the era in an editorial on February 4: "Illinois remains the only northern state which has not yet ratified ERA, even though its own state constitution contains a virtually similar provision. Surely by now, legislators have played enough political games with the issue. Surely they have run out of contrived excuses and simulated fears about its effect. Let's pass the ERA and move on. Let's pass the ERA and move on." Thank you.

Moderator

Miss Schlafly?

Phyllis Schlafly
A
/
AP FILE
FILE - In this Aug. 10, 1976, file photo, women opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment sit with Phyllis Schlafly, left, national chairman of Stop ERA, at hearing of Republican platform subcommittee on human rights and responsibilities in a free society in Kansas City, Mo.

Phyllis Schlafly

The Chicago Tribune has been a leading proponent of the ERA for seven years, and they tried very hard to defeat Jane Byrne, they were wrong both times and they have not been able to convince the people of Illinois on either account. Now on the matter of that school in Philadelphia, you know, Philadelphia has hundreds of schools, you don't have to go to the one all-girls school or the one all-boys school. But yes, one of the effects of the ERA would be to wipe out the rights of those few, that minority who want to attend those schools, if that is their choice. And that is an example of what the ERA will do. It wipes out your freedom of choice and the right of the minority to do something which has been perfectly legal and moral and acceptable in a diverse system of education.

Now, I don't tell you that we have no problems in the world as was implied by my proponent, but I will tell you flatly that the ERA is not going to solve any of your problems, whatever they are. ERA will not raise the pay of women. If your pay is $800 a month, it is not going to raise it to $1,000. The ERA is not going to give you a promotion. The ERA will do absolutely nothing for women in the field of employment. There's no way it can extend the effect of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. The ERA will not make ex-husbands make their support payments or their alimony payments, the ERA will not force your husband to do the diapers and the dishes. The ERA does not do any of these things. All the ERA does is to make our laws sex-neutral, regardless of whether people want them or not and regardless of what effect it would have. And I would suggest that every time it does that, it takes away a right from women. It does not give any rights to women at all.

Now in the matter of that boycott the AFL I nominate George Meany for one of the big hypocrites of our time because he took his big convention for the workers out of out of Miami and said they had to go of Washington. But when he met with the leaders last week, he sure didn't go to cold, snowy Washington. He took them right down there to Florida, where they could enjoy a sunny state. That's the double standard between the leaders and the workers in his organization. Now, we were given a big long list of organizations, religious organizations for ERA. There were, I counted, five Catholic organizations in that list. I would be very surprised if there were a total of 500 people in all those five organizations, but you balance that. And they are principally the nuns, the nuns who want to be ordained. But you balance that on the other side with the fact that the 11 million members of the National Council of Catholic women, and the millions of members of the Catholic Daughters of America are against era. And you get some idea of the relative numbers of people who are for and against era.

Now, one of the major defects of the Equal Rights Amendment is that it doesn't have any exceptions. When ERA was going through the Congress, some of the congressmen and senators tried to put exceptions in it, which would have allowed for reasonable treatment. Senator Urban's proposed nine different amendments, one would have said, except that it doesn't apply to the draft, except that it doesn't apply to military combat, or except it won't take away the rights of wives, mothers and widows, or except it won't take away the laws about privacy. And every one of those was overwhelmingly defeated, because the proponents did not want any reasonable differences of treatment, no matter what the American people want, no matter how unreasonable it would be to treat them exactly the same. The ERA, when it impacts on the family laws, will do nothing but hurt wives. Take, for example, Pennsylvania, an ERA state. In such cases, as the Einstein Medical Center versus Nathan's wives have even lost the right to have their husbands pay for their medical bills. I don't know what could be more necessary than that. But when that was challenged under the state ERA, the court said 'too bad lady, this is the age of equality, pay for your own medical bills.' And that's just an example of how wives lose under the Equal Rights Amendment.

There aren't any laws that discriminate against women. There are only laws that benefit women. I would be very surprised if you have any in Iowa but in our state of Illinois, I serve on the Commission on the Status of Women with the proponents and the ERAers simply disbanded the legislative action committee, because they said our state doesn't have any laws that discriminate against women. So there is nothing more for us to do. The best way to do it is to handle any problems that you may have by specific legislation and deal with that problem directly. Don't try to handle the matter by shipping all the authority and the power down to Washington so that a bunch of politicians and unelected bureaucrats can make all the decisions for us up and down the line.

Supreme Court Abortion Womens Rights
Anonymous/AP
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AP File
Marchers descend on the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., to demonstrate for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, May 16, 1976.

Moderator

Miss DeCrow?

Karen DeCrow

In case everyone hasn't heard the news, the state of Missouri sued the National Organization for Women, claiming that the boycott of unratified states was a violation of the antitrust laws of the United States. And last week, they lost.

And indeed, if they hadn't lost the Carter anti-inflation program would have had to be thrown out because a boycott has been suggested of businesses, which go beyond 7% inflation guidelines. So it really, the boycott is one of the oldest, legal, respectable, responsible tactics in the United States to put your money where your ideas are. And I think you in Iowa should be busy trying to convince people not to go to unratify Illinois and unratify Missouri, but rather to come here. With regard to the extension to the Equal Rights Amendment, which it was suggested was improper, it was like putting an additional quarter on a football game. Most of us believe that equal rights for women is not a game. And that the proper length of time to debate and discuss equal rights for women is until we have equal rights for women.

With regard to everything being done on a case-by-case basis, we will not live long enough to take every sex discrimination case on a case-by-case basis. There are not enough courtrooms, there are not enough attorneys. Our lives aren't long enough. 200 years into the American system is long enough. We do not need equality for women on a case by case basis, we need it included in the Constitution of the United States. With regard to the IRA will not have men changing diapers, that is correct. The era will not have men changing diapers.

However, and the state of Pennsylvania was mentioned the ERA is of great benefit to women who do not have jobs outside the home. In the state of Pennsylvania, for example, for the first time, unpaid work, unpaid labor of housewives is taken into consideration at the time of divorce. This never happened before they had a state ERA. And I submit to you that when opponents of Equal Rights Amendment stated on national television that the Pennsylvania State ERA had taken rights away from housewives, the Assistant Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania got equal time on a show -- that apparently has never given equal time before, it was such an outrage -- and stated that that is completely false in the state of Pennsylvania. Housewives did not lose rights because of the state ERA, they gained rights because of the state ERA.

In the few seconds remaining for my rebuttal time, I think it is time to talk about the draft. For years, proponents of the ERA have been saying the ERA and the draft are two separate issues. Congress has always had the right to draft women, we could always have a draft. And indeed a few weeks ago, Secretary of Defense Brown said we may just have to register everybody and we may just have to have a draft. And that shows that we have been correct for 10 years, we could very well in this country have a draft with no ERA. The major impact of the draft, of the ERA on the military life of women would be it would guarantee equality for women in the military, it would not have a relationship to drafting women. And I say to you because you're the people that are going to have to register, that there is absolutely no reason why because somebody is born male, he should have to be drafted. It is nonsense. It is nonsense to say the women between 18 and 23 in this country want to be drafted, it is equally nonsense to say the men between 18 and 23 in this country want to be drafted.

Moderator

We will have persons who will have microphones so that we can be sure to hear the questions. And are they there? Yeah. It would be helpful I think, to us if you could sort of approach one of the microphones in order to ask your question. And is there anyone who has a question? Yes. To whom is your question addressed? And would you tell us your name, please?

Unknown Speaker

...It seemed that well, maybe one of the issues was an ERA with increasing federal bureaucracy....So my question to you is how will ERA change mechanisms for enforcing the laws? I have one more thing before... I want to remind you, there's an article floating around the audience here that says like, they're like 30,000 odd cases of women violent protests against discrimination now. I will see how era constitutional change, change....

Moderator

Miss DeCrow?

Karen DeCrow

Well, you asked several questions. I don't believe I said that ERA will change mechanisms. What I said the Equal Rights Amendment will do is make it unconstitutional for any state or for the federal government to pass a law which discriminates on the basis of sex; that there are tens of thousands of complaints currently being filed is the tip of the iceberg on the number of women who are in situations where discrimination exists. If it were unconstitutional to have laws which discriminate on the basis of sex, it seems to me this would eliminate the necessity for a case by case examination of each discriminatory law, it would mean that the judge would not have to decide 'is this right? Is this wrong? Can the city of Philadelphia have two high schools can the state of Oklahoma for example has a law it's called the tender years doctrine -- at the time of divorce, all children of a young age are given to the mother for custody, all children above a certain age are given to the father.' This was challenged this fall the U.S. Supreme Court, which said it was constitutional. Now that is a clearly arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory law. There is great argument as to how custody should be arranged. But that really is a foolish way to do it. If there was an equal rights amendment, that law could not stand.

What is your ...we don't have it now...You're saying you don't believe we should have an ERA because it'll be difficult to enforce?...

It means no judge would have arbitrary discretion to decide whether something is at this particular time in place reasonable that men and women should be treated differently in the court.

Moderator

Would you like to respond to that?

Phyllis Schlafly

Yes, I really understood the question more in terms of the federal power. In in mentioning a lot of cases where you, for example, talking about the employment cases. Now, if you're talking about a backlog of employment cases, they are already being handled under the proper procedures under existing law, which is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, under the education-- under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. Now, ERA doesn't do anything about a backlog of cases, you still have to go through the same procedure. There's no way that ERA vaporizes backlogs of cases. What ERA will do is to transfer power from the states to the federal government over other areas, which have made a difference traditionally between men and women. Now, a very clear example of that is the divorce law. Divorce Law is something which is handled exclusively at the state level at the present time. But there are laws that have traditionally made differences of treatment between men and women. Under Section II of ERA, you're moving the enforcement power, the preemption power from the states to the federal government, and however much you may not like the present divorce law, I could almost guarantee you're going to like it less when it's a national federal divorce law. So that's where I see the effect of ERA.

Unknown Speaker

Abortion Child Rape Arrest
AJ Mast
/
AP File
FILE - Abortion-rights activists rally at the Indiana Statehouse following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, on June 25, 2022 in Indianapolis.

Miss Schlafly, this question's for you. You seem to be, your argument tonight on the difference between state powers and federal powers. And it seems fairly clear to me that you're more in favor of state control than any kind of federal restrictions. I agree with you that there needs to be some sense of autonomy that emanates from the state, I guess I'd like to bring a series of cases to your attention. You may remember in the lone dissent of Chief Justice Marshall in 1883, when he's talking about the civil rights cases, and arguing for Blacks in this country, and you may remember that under the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment, Blacks were protected on a federal level. However, Marshall noted that there was no recourse to make any kind of prohibitions against state laws under those amendments, and that was a grave concern of his. And you may remember in the decision of Plessy vs Ferguson, the outcome was that there would be separate but equal laws, which meant that the states could in fact discriminate against Blacks on the basis of race, right, because the states were allowed to make any kind of laws that they wanted to. And it wasn't until the decision of Brown versus Board of Ed, when that was changed. And when the federal government said that on any grounds, you cannot discriminate on the basis of race. Now, my question to you is this: if it is unconstitutional in the United States to deny, right, any cut to deny rights on the basis of race, or national origin, or religion, why is it any different for those of us who are who are interested in in denial of rights on the basis of sex?

Phyllis Schlafly

Because there's more difference between a man and a woman than there is between a Black and white.

Moderator

All right. One... Are you finished?...I think that it would be fitting at a university setting to allow Mrs. Schlafly to finish her answer to the question that was asked.

Phyllis Schlafly

You know, I get the impression here that there's some of you who really aren't so much interested in ratifying ERA as you are in repealing the First Amendment. Now, I'm glad you brought up the question of race. However, I do remember all those things. And I think it makes a very good point, that the Blacks did not get the great gains that they have gotten in last few years under a constitutional amendment. They got it under federal legislation. And that is the better way to get it. That is the way women have gotten certain rights under -- in employment in the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, in education under the education Amendments of 1972. And then credit under the equal credit Opportunity Act of 1974. It is the better way to do it. Now under our system, we have some things handled at the federal level and some at the state level. And it's the wonderful balance in the federal system that is helped to give us the great country that we had. My argument about ERA is not that I don't want any federal power, but that I just don't see any justification for giving them a whole new bunch of power that they haven't already got. They're not doing such a great job with the problems they already have.

Moderator

Miss DeCrow?

Karen DeCrow

Well, it took a civil war to get the 13th 14th and 15th amendments, and hopefully we won't have to have one to get the ERA. The most recent statement by the Supreme Court on gender-based discrimination, and that is where the constitution stands, what the Supreme Court says is the constitutional interpretation is Justice Powell's statement that I told you one sentence of so let me read to you it's very brief this particular passage. It's contrasting race and gender: gender-based classifications are not subjected to this level of scrutiny." With respect to gender, there are only two possible classifications. More importantly, the perception of racial classifications as inherently odious stems from a lengthy and tragic history that gender-based classifications do not share. The Corps has never viewed such classifications as inherently suspect, or as comparable to racial or ethnic classifications. For the purposes of equal protection analysis, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, women were denied the right to vote. We had to get a constitutional amendment to put that into the Constitution. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, women were denied the right to sit on juries. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. Women indeed, were denied the right to practice law that is not enough, the 14th amendment to the Constitution. And lastly, with regard to the argument that we don't want the federal government into our lives: I don't think ERA proponents want the federal government in our lives. Unfortunately, the federal government is already in our lives. And it's a false argument to say, we don't want this we want states' rights. We want everybody in their own house to determine what can happen. The federal government is very much in our own lives and unfortunately, the federal government is presently are in our lives in the role as perpetuator of sex discrimination. And that has to stop.

Anderson

I'm Peg Anderson from Bettendorf. I would like to clarify a statement concerning the state Equal Rights Amendment in Iowa, although it has passed both houses of the General Assembly, which is required for a constitutional amendment in Iowa, it also must pass in the November 1980 general election, it is now a ballot issue and will be on the ballot. And I want to call your attention to the very grave importance of that issue and the importance of Iowa confirming its strong heritage and, and past record of equality for women. Now along the lines of a state Equal Rights Amendment, Mr. Schlafly, since most of your objection to the federal, to the federal ERA, which I've I want to make sure everybody knows I feel strongly we need, but since that is your primary concern is the federal encroachment. It's the extension rescission, federal monies being used to transfer power, the boycott, all of which really pertain to the federal Equal Rights Amendment. And since you live in a state, which has protected its women for several years with a state Equal Rights Amendment, I wonder if tonight you might endorse the Iowa State Equal Rights Amendment?

Phyllis Schlafly

I endorse the principle that the people of Iowa should have the constitution they want, and the people of Illinois should have the constitution that they want. But I will tell you that Illinois does not have an equal rights amendment. And if anybody has told you that they have misinformed you. The Illinois Constitution, which was adopted in 1970, has the language of the 14th Amendment, which is equal protection of the laws. And that is the good language, the language that eliminates irrational differences and discriminations, but allows rational differences of treatment. And it is the best vehicle for accomplishing the goals that we want, while not requiring us to do the nonsensical things. Now, we've heard several references here to the Bakke case. All justice Powell was saying in that was that women in this country have not been treated like Blacks. And I certainly support that anybody who thinks women have been treated the same way that Blacks have been treated really must be having quite flights of the imagination. It is not the same problem at all. We have heard a lot of references to past discriminations. Women can't be a lawyer in any state, women can serve on juries in any state, women can vote in any state. And really, if you wake up in the morning crying about problems that were taken care of 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago, you're never going to be able to move on to addressing the problems of today, Ms. DeCrow.

Karen DeCrow

Since we don't want to spend time discussing the problems of women who weren't allowed to vote until 1920. I may take a few seconds. You'll have to bear with me because we're going to spend like two minutes talking about before women had the vote. I want to read you some of the arguments against women's suffrage. They might sound familiar. I'm reading you from a manual for speakers, debaters, writers, lecturers and anyone who wants the facts and figures on the case against women's suffrage. This is published by the man Suffrage Association in New York: A vote for the amendment means increased taxation because of increased election expense, forcing upon the woman population responsibility which the great majority are indifferent to or do not want, where political interest may be different in the home a resulting domestic controversy. An entering wedge for the feminist element which does not desire cooperation with man but has a deep seated desire to overthrow man and to cast him out or control him by Supreme dominance. You heard about people that want gender-free societies, giving a voting power to an element which does not serve on juries, does not do police duty. Fire duty is not subject to the call to arms. Burdening the motherhood of the state with responsibilities which during motherhood cannot be fulfilled without a resulting injury to both perspective child and mother... I don't know maybe voting was more difficult.

And in an admission of the incapacity of man to govern, It then goes on to explain how it's going to give more power to the government, take it away from the people. And the Women's Suffrage amendment should be defeated from a purely business standpoint, aside from the fact that the great majority of women do not want the vote. It may be that many women did not want the vote. Many women believed that getting the vote would break up the American family. That is what we were told. Many women today believe, genuinely, that giving equal constitutional rights to women will break up the American family. And what we must do by keeping this issue alive and talking about it and educating the public about it is showing that that is the exact opposite. There is no better lesson for a boy or girl growing up in the American family than that his mother and father are equal before the law.

Spees

My name is Barbara Spees. I'm strongly in favor of the ERA. I'd just like to briefly ask, studying with Karen, them to respond to the laws and the reality, — probably, especially the reality — as the ERA pertains to spouse abuse and rape.

Karen DeCrow

I don't understand your question. How the ERA pertains to spouse abuse and rape laws?

Spees

Pardon laws presently, in effect?

Karen DeCrow

Oh, well, many states with or without ERA, I know Florida is one, and they don't have an ERA -- have passed laws saying that forced sexual contact involving penetration is right, no matter which sex it's perpetrated on. So if there were to be a change in the rape laws that would simply say that men also would fall under these laws, that seems to me would not be objectionable to anyone. As far as spouse abuse, obviously it should be against the law for any spouse to abuse any spouse. So if the Equal Rights Amendment changed the language in any law that I can't imagine any law -- assault, you know, even without an ERA is supposed to be against the law. So the only effect I could see that it would have is that would reinforce the idea that in the happy home, you're not supposed to be beating people up no matter what gender they are.

Phyllis Schlafly

Yeah, I substantially agree with that. Assault battery against the law in every state, doesn't make any difference whether you're a man or a woman, what ERA does is to require the laws to be sex-neutral. And maybe you can draw a rape law to be sex-neutral. That's what ERA would require. Just one other comment. I'm glad Karen has convinced everybody to be in favor of the women's suffrage amendment that makes a good case for that. However, that doesn't argue for passing the ERA.

Unknown Speaker

Section I says we will have equality under the law... cannot be denied. If states have equal rights...What difference will it make if the government has the right to say you are equal? We cannot go against you by law?

Moderator

Can I rephrase your question? I believe your question was if a state has its own ERA law, does the passage of a federal ERA law have any impact upon those rights which the state has given to women under the state equal rights law?...Ms. DeCrow?

Karen DeCrow

Well, I think the answer is yes, I'm not 100% sure I understand the question, but when the U.S. Supreme Court is interpreting cases, interpreting the U.S. Constitution, to review cases which come before the U.S. Supreme Court, if there is no Equal Rights Amendment in the Federal Constitution, then they would not have that as their guide. And they could say, as they have been saying, that sex is not a suspect classification, and that gender-based discrimination is not inherently odious. The reason that many states are passing state ERAs is they simply feel that can't wait until the Federal Constitution is amended, but state ERAs, even if we had 50 would not take care of federal law.

Phyllis Schlafly

Well, here is the difference between section I and section II. Section I makes it mandatory that every federal and state law and regulation be sex-neutral, internally sells sex-neutral. If the law isn't sex-neutral, then when it's challenged in court, the court will strike the part that isn't sex-neutral. Now, a good example of that is the education amendments or Title IX. Title IX says you can't discriminate based on sex in schools and colleges that get federal money. There are exceptions in it for single-sex schools, for seminaries, for military academies, for dormitories, for fraternities, sororities, for football, boxing, and wrestling and so forth. Those are exceptions in the law. Section I of ERA wipes out all of those exceptions because they would be contrary to the Constitution if he if ERA were in it. So those exceptions immediately become null and void if ERA goes into the Constitution. Now, what does section II do? You can't have redundant language in the Constitution, every piece of language has to mean something. So section II means more than that. Section II is an additional grant of power to the federal government to interpret what Section I means to devise new imaginative types of enforcement to get into other areas, for example, good, still relating to the education field under Title IX, the education amendments that I just mentioned, they can only reach public schools and private schools that get public money. But under section II of era, they can get to private schools, whether or not they get public money.

Unknown Speaker

This question, this is directed to miss Schlafly, I would like to request that you comment on a case here in Iowa City that has gained a lot of national interest. And that is the case of Linda Eaton, the firefighter.

Phyllis Schlafly

Well, I'm a great supporter of breastfeeding babies since I did nurse all my children at least six months, but I didn't do it in the firehouse and I don't think that's the place to do it.

Moderator

Mr. DeCrow, do you have a comment to make to that?

Karen DeCrow

...Yeah, well, I think it's a great step forward for the Iowa Human Rights Commission that they found probable cause. In Linda's case, there's interest in this case all over the country, I don't think I've been in any state where people have been talking about this case, I was really quite pleased to be driven by the firehouse. I think the case got a great deal of attention because it has a course of very sexy content. But I think when she was the second person to get on a firetruck, the first time the alarm rang, when she had her child with her and showed that, in fact, you could actually take the child and hand it to somebody near you, and get into your fire off that and go off on the truck, that was really a very great step forward for working women in America. And many of us spend our lives trying to prove that anatomy isn't destiny. And she's doing a very good job of it.

Unknown Speaker

...I would like both of you to comment on the proceedings that took place in Congress with the extension, particularly the action taken by Senator Byrd and two other congressmen?

Karen DeCrow

What action by Senator Byrd?

Moderator

The question was what action by Senator Byrd, sir. All right. I think that we have been asked a do have the two speakers comment on what was going on in Congress in regard to the extension of the time within which the ERA must be ratified. Ms. DeCrow, would you like to start with that?

Karen DeCrow

Well, as many of you know, the only constitutional provision on time limit for amendments is that they be passed within a reasonable time. 18 of the 26 amendments to the Constitution have had no time limit. Since women have had a different social and legal status for thousands and thousands of years, it is no particular surprise to people who understand the deep rooted nature of gender based discrimination, that the era has not been ratified. Immediately. We are embarrassed, we are disgraced. We are angry, but we're not surprised. With regard to the extension. I call to your attention that opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment for months said that the economic boycott was illegal. The court has just found that the economic boycott is indeed legal. Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment have been saying for months that the extension of the Equal Rights Amendment time period is illegal. That also I presume, will be tested in the courts. And it is my opinion and that of most constitutional experts that I've talked to or read statements from that the extension period to the Constitution will be found legal.

Phyllis Schlafly

Well, first of all, briefly on the boycott, just because a judge held that the boycott could not be stopped under the anti-trust law does not make the boycott morally right. I -- let me explain the difference between this boycott and other boycotts, which you may have heard about or participated in, such as the other one that was mentioned tonight on the wage or price guidelines. When you are boycotting or protesting somebody who has done you some harm or injury, that's one thing. If, for example, you're protesting a company that isn't paying proper wages, there is discriminators, so forth, you boycott or strike against the offending company. It's what's so morally wrong about this boycott is that it is designed deliberately to hurt innocent people. It's designed to hurt the employees of the Sheraton, the Hilton, the Marriott, the hotels the restaurants, and so forth. Now, they didn't do anything bad. They are not the ones who are passing, are refusing to pass ERA. And just because the judge held it cannot be stopped, does not mean it's morally right. We think it is morally wrong.

Now, on the extension itself, every amendment for the last three quarters of a century has had a time limit. But regardless of what other amendments time limits have been, this one did have a time limit. The original ERA resolution that came out of Congress on March 22, 1972, said, resolved that the following goes into the Constitution, if ratified by 3/4 of the states within seven years of date passing section one, Section II, Section III, it's all the same sentence. Now, there's no record in all history of anybody trying to change a clear commitment between the Congress and the states that originally did ratify it. There's no record in all history of coming along later, and trying to amend by a simple majority, a main motion that took a 2/3 vote to pass. Now we were asked about shenanigans in Washington, there were so many shenanigans in connection with that extension deal that we don't have time to go into. But the main one was the attempt of Senator Byrd to rule that he wouldn't even allow an amendment to permit states to rescind he -- he clearly said he was going to call that non-germane. And our side had to go to great lengths in order to even get that voted on because of the type of shenanigans that was going on behind the scenes. But they got it through by such devices as sending an Air Force plane for Senator Haskell in Colorado to bring him at the taxpayers’ expense to vote and that sort of thing. But that still doesn't make it right. A lot of things are league are legal, that are morally wrong.

Moderator

Do we have a question over here? Yeah.

Phyllis Schlafly

..No, because I don't admit the assumption in your sentence we have not found in this discussion tonight or anyplace else, and a tangible right or benefit or protection that ERA will give to women. What does it give you, your right to be drafted? You’re right to be put in military combat? Right, right. That's what it gives you. Cheers for the right to be drafted and the right to be put in combat.

Karen DeCrow

I don't know exactly what I'm responding to, but I'll give a good old college try. It gives you the right before the Supreme Court, the United States to say gender-based discrimination is suspect, is inherently odious. That is a very good right to have, if you are a woman.

The since we've been going back and forth on the boycott, there's some illogic thrown at us, because if it's supposed to be okay to boycott a company because they've done something you don't like, then also the people who work for the company would be hurt. Economic boycott is a very good way to have the business community tell the state legislators and there has been some scintilla of evidence that there is some connection between the business community in a given state and state legislatures. That a particular piece of legislation or its failure to be passed is hurting their pocketbooks. It is indeed the business community of this country, which forms the nucleus of anti-ERA support. The list of organizations and associations which support the Equal Rights Amendment -- there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of every kind of organization and association that one can think of. The glaring omission there's not one Chamber of Commerce, there is not one corporation on that list, and there must be a reason.

Phyllis Schlafly

They're not on our list either.

Silverman

...Hi, my name is Steve Silverman. And I find it interesting that this debate is going on because I'm a high school debater who's in town for the state debate tournament for of Iowa. And before I ask my question, I just like to point out that as a debater, a four year debaters senior, I think that I'm familiar with topics and what debate is all about, and I don't think even think that the ERA is something you can debate. To the extent that who debates the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, it's something that so democratically and judiciously called for that. It's ridiculous to debate, however.

Phyllis Schlafly

Well, as I understand that, if you would take away our constitutional right to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, and that is a constitutional right

Silverman

You'll have a chance to respond.

Moderator

However, did you have a question?

Silverman

There are some people who are so reactionary and traditional, so afraid of change, and has to be confined to the to the tradition of the past, that we have to find tangible reasons to discuss pros and cons to discuss something that is so obviously called for. And one of those reasons that was touched upon in both constructive and rebuttal speeches was the issue of employment and wages. I would like to address this question mainly to Ms. Schlafly, who thought that, that a woman was earning $800 versus a man say $1,000, on the basis of perhaps well, whatever, that it was not going to change regardless, regardless of the ERA. What I would like to ask you is why? Why are women being paid less money than men, even when studies have found that it is for the same job? Answer that.

Phyllis Schlafly

That isn't the topic tonight, the topic tonight is the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Equal Rights Amendment will not do one single thing to help that if indeed, it may be true, it will do nothing. You don't seem to know what ERA says. ERA says equality of rights will not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state. It doesn't say by General Motors or local industry or whatever. ERA was not designed to help women in private employment. They forgot to put that in. They didn't put women in, didn't put in women, they didn't put in jobs are all kinds of things. They didn't put in ERA All era does is to make the laws sex-equal. And the employment laws are already sex-equal. ERA cannot create jobs. ERA does not, will not pay secretaries the same as the boss or nurses the same as the doctors. ERA will not pay part-time workers the same as full-time workers. Our workers who've been in the -- I'm answering the question -- ERA will not tend to handle the problem that he raised. It is irrelevant to the topic of the evening.

Moderator

Ms. DeCrow?

Karen DeCrow

He asked about, I know why everyone's yelling and screaming just... calm. As far as issues being debatable. 15 states in this country are debating the Equal Rights Amendment to them on your back door. Illinois, Missouri and the state era I guess it was passed twice by the legislature now has to go the people so that means everybody in the state of Iowa is debating the era. So even though those of us who are for it know that eventually it will pay us because it is the wave of the future. I think debate on it certainly is the American way. I don't really know what everyone's upset around.

The main implications of the Equal Rights Amendment the main effect, although the word jobs and salaries are not in the amendment, like if you carry it to its logical conclusion, if no state can have laws which discriminate on the basis of sex if the federal government cannot have laws which discriminate on the basis of sex. If before every judge in the country sits a document which says gender Discrimination is odious. The main implication of that will be economic, it will be more money, a more equal distribution of money between men and women, no one is saying that part time work will be paid the same as full time work. It is incorrect to say women are not working in the same kinds of jobs getting less money than men. Last week, the facts of the case were presented to me that I don't know and only vaguely, there's a bank in Minnesota where the women have been on strike for 13 months. And in that bank, women who make $400 a month are training men who are making $750 a month so that they can learn their jobs. That is the kind of thing that's going on in the banking industry. All over the United States, the main impact of equal rights provisions for women will indeed be economic.

Ruth

My name is Becky Ruth, and I'm also a debater. I'd like to ask Mrs. Schlafly, to please define the word 'reasonable' as used to describe differences and people in both constructive and rebuttal speeches.

Phyllis Schlafly

Sure, I think it is reasonable to treat people differently when there are factual differences. Thus, for example, in the in the army, the Surgeon General has discovered that women on the average have 60% of the physical strength of men. Now, I think it is unreasonable, unfair and wrong to treat women as though they have the same 100% strength of the man when they don't, by assigning them to the same type of jobs. I think that is would be unreasonable. I think it is reasonable to allow for the factual differences. I think it is reasonable to allow for the factual difference that women have babies and men don't have babies. And I think I think what ERA does is to forbid us to make such reasonable differences which are based on factual differences.

Karen DeCrow

First, I'd like to give you two examples of the interpretation of ERA and reasonable differences. And then I'd like to give my I guess my opinion on what reasonable difference should mean, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 19, Texas has a state era ruled in 1976 that the state ERA does not prohibit school districts from setting different hair length standards for boys and girls in school, that was considered under era a reasonable difference. I personally consider it a totally unreasonable difference. But Texas Supreme Court, the Maryland Attorney General in 1979, that means January, I guess, issued an opinion, saying that the state Equal Rights Amendment. Maryland has a state era does not bar separate toilet facilities for men and women.

The state's constitution, a prohibition against sex discrimination does not eliminate individual's right for privacy. And then he broke It is our hope this opinion will flush away what has often been a scare argument against the ERA. I believe what reasonable should mean in the courts, we're talking about legal action, we're not talking about what people choose to do in their homes or in their private lives. What reasonable should mean is a worker should have reasonable qualifications to do a job if a worker cannot lift a certain amount of weight that worker should and that is required by the job. That worker is not qualified, or men can't lift a certain amount of weight, or women cannot lift a certain amount of weight.

You're talking about students schools are for students. They're not for girls’ brains that learn chemistry or boys brains that learn chemistry, chemistry, students should be students who have aptitude for chemistry, gender is irrelevant. In learning. Gender is irrelevant in working. People who can fight fires should be hired as firefighters, there are many objective physical qualifications that a firefighter must have gender is irrelevant to that. There is practically no area that I can think of, if you're talking about something that would come before a court, where you cannot draw very reasonable standards. If you you’re talking about NFL football. If you got to be seven foot tall and weigh 280 pounds, then that's the qualification. It obviously one would say there will be more males and females that will fit that most men will not fit that qualification either. You simply cannot run into a problem if you force an employer or a coach, or a leader or ahead of anything to establish reasonable qualifications for what has to be done. Gender just simply isn't one of them.

John Pemble is a reporter for IPR
Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio