by Max Brantley
Sen. Joyce Elliott will try again today.
A resolution for Arkansas to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment is on the Senate State Agencies Committee agenda at 10 a.m. this morning.
The only point of interest is what fanciful argument will be mounted by Republicans to defeat the concept of equal rights yet again. Same-sex bathrooms? Gay marriage? Uppity wives?
UPDATE: The old Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol was SRO for the hearing. A big crowd of women, 150 by one estimate, turned out in support of the measure.
Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, predictably, asked why the ERA is necessary. Elliott provided good instruction on the lack of gender reference in the Constitution and the fact that legislation has been required to give women equal rights in some areas. Sen. Bobby Pierce worried about the military. Elliott responded that, of course, equal rights doesn't mean requiring giving the same assignment to people unable to carry out an assignment — such as physical demands for serving in combat. Elliott said job assignments should ask the same of Joe and Josephine. No one has a right to do something they cannot do. Or to be prevented from doing something they CAN do on the basis of gender.
And YES!!!!! There's the Family Council's Jerry Cox trotting out the forced mixing warhorse, along with other "unintended consequences." He fears women would be forced to share college dorm rooms with men. He also suggests ERA could be used to force public funding of abortion. (Are men getting abortions now? No, but a New Mexico ruling based on a state amendment supports this argument.) Sen. David Johnson said he saw nothing in the amendment that could allow the scenarios Cox depicted. As if that matters.
Former Republican legislator Dan Greenberg joined the mixed-bathroom, mixed-dorm, diminished-military, forced-abortion-payment chorus. He said affirmative action could be eliminated by the ERA. (Who knew? A conservative who claims to be in support of affirmative action.) Senator Johnson again argued that the ERA would only further support existing laws, not knock down equity laws. Senator Pierce jammed Greenberg pretty good for all the hypothetical problems he envisioned. Greenberg had pooh-poohed hypotheticals offered by opponents of the Voter ID bill he supported.
Greenberg was quoted by my in-room observer as closing by saying "equality in all circumstances is not always the best policy."
Really? Inequality is good?
Former legislator Lindsley Smith spoke in support and was widely lauded on Twitter accounts I've seen for her call for strict scrutiny on gender discrimination that an amendment would provide. Here's her remarks.
IN CONCLUSION: Senator Elliott closed by saying the ERA would give consistency that laws do not provide.
A motion for a do-pass failed 3-5. Robert Thompson, Johnson and Pierce voted for it. (CORRECTION: I recorded vote incorrectly originally as including Elliott, but she's not a member of the committee and doesn't vote. She just presented the measure.) The other members of the committee are Eddie Joe Williams, Jane English, Bryan King, Gary Stubblefield and Jimmy Hickey, all Republicans.