Equal Rights Amendment ratified … maybe

By being the thirty-eighth state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, the Virginia Legislature recently declared that it had made the amendment a part of the U. S, Constitution.

The Amendment was proposed by Congress to guarantee women equal rights and submitted it to the states for ratification in March of 1972 with a deadline for ratification set for 1979. When the amendment fell short of the required three-fourths, Congress extended the deadline to 1982.

The extension failed to attract the necessary thirty-eight ratifications. In meantime, politics changed in five states and the new legislatures in those states decided to back out of ratification. However, precedents have been established by the U. S. Supreme Court confirming that there was no provision in the Constitution to retract ratification.

Court Has Changed

Not only have state legislatures changed but the U.S. Supreme Court has changed and that may result in a reversal of the precedents if the Court gets another chance to review the issue.

The last session of the North Dakota Legislature went through the routine arguments for and against withdrawing the state’s approval of the amendment. The state legislature had ratified it in 1975.

Rep. Chuck Damschen and several other male legislators introduced the proposal to withdraw North Dakota’s ratification.

Legislators were presented with wild speculation about how the Equal Rights Amendment would certainly bring the end of civilization as we know it.

The proposal went to the Senate after a House vote of 67-to-21. But common sense is more common in the Senate so the proposal died in the upper chamber.

ND Proposal Anti-Woman

While supporters denied that the proposal was not anti-female there is little doubt that it was intended to maximize a male-dominated culture where women were allegedly told by the Apostle Paul that women should sit down and shut up. (A misinterpretation)

Treatment of women as inferior beings seems to have originated in the caves when the male relied not on reason but on “might is right.” And after a few centuries, many women started to believe and accept it as a forever truth.

Misinterpretation of Scripture has been used to keep women in the back seat. Slowly, some Christian denominations, with the obvious exception of the Catholic Church and many Baptists, have decided that the world has changed and if Paul were around today he would support women in leadership positions.

The Introduction to Discovering Biblical Equality, a collection of 25 essays on women leaders in the church, declares that “men and women are made equally in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:27) are equally fallen (Romans 3:23), equally redeemable (Jn.3:16), equally participants in the new-covenant community (Gal.3:2), equally heirs of God in Christ (1 Peter3:7), and equally able to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit for life and ministry (Acts 2:17)”.

No Concession To Equality

But even in the face of overwhelming facts and documentation, many will not concede equality to women in church or anywhere else. People believe what they want to believe and many do not want to believe that our treatment of women has been unChristian and immoral.

When the Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed in the ’70s, my column wondered if it was really needed, considering the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. This point was resurrected in the 2019 session to argue against the amendment.

Four months of reviewing the treatment of women in churches and the workplace has changed my viewpoint. Even if passage of the amendment adds no new benefits for women, it ought to be passed simply to affirm to women that they are equal in the new world and that the days of sitting in the back seat are coming to an end.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.


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