by Max Brantley
A contentious hearing is set in House state agencies committee tomorrow to consider a proposal that Arkansas ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. I'm expecting approval in the House committee, given broad House support for the measure, but you never know, so I"ve posted my column for the week here to nudge equality along. NOTED: Late word that some supporters may have gone wobbly in the face of dishonest and shrill pressure from the Religious Right. The soothing testimony of David Pryor might buck them up.
As you'll see, the real fight is expected in Senate committee where Randy Laverty and Bobby Glover, particularly Glover, hold the key to getting the measure to the Senate floor for a vote.
The screaming meemies of the Religious Right will toss up everything to defeat this -- gay marriage, abortion, unisex bathrooms, women in combat, probably that the ERA could force men to wear skirts and do the laundry. It's never been about any of that. It's simply to insure that equality of rights under the law may not be abridged on account of sex, meaning gender. Without constitutional protection, there are many, mostly Republicans, who'd love to take away family and medical leave; domestic violence protection; employment discrimination protections; Title IX for women athletes. They'll quote out of context long-ago utterances of individuals and mention a minor court ruling or two -- none at the precedent level, such as a state Supreme Court.
But what the opposition is all about is keeping women home, barefoot and preferably pregnant. The people who oppose the ERA like it that men make more than women, that they hold most of the supervisory jobs and that they control the board rooms of virtually every publicly held corporation in America. If they didn't, they'd support the ERA.
UPDATE: Certification of a sex discrimination class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart for jury consideration is another reason for constitutional protection. This kind of case will stir up all kinds of corporate efforts to make it harder to sue in any meaningful way.