The Equal Rights Amendment passed Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification. The amendment simply says:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification
Simple. To the point. Women have the same rights as men and Congress can pass laws to guarantee they do. Seems pretty basic. Hard to believe anyone could be against it?
While Ohio did ratify the amendment, there was a great deal of opposition, some of it very nasty and very sexist. Some of it was just plain weird. Ultimately, the ERA fell three state’s short of ratification. Many states have since followed up with similar legislation of their own, protecting equal rights for woman. Ohio has not adopted thorough language like the ERA, however lawmakers have outlawed employment and housing discrimination based on sex.
We recently discovered a speech given on the Ohio House floor in 1973 by a young state rep named Bill Batchelder. In it, Batchelder rails against the ERA, calling it “the most gross erosion of the Doctrine of States Rights since the Civil War” and saying it’s passage would cause the U.S. to “commit suicide as a republic.”
Batchelder warns us that the granting equal rights to woman in the constitution would have the same damaging effects as the 14th amendment, which, you might remember, allowed blacks to be citizens of the U.S. under the Citizenship Clause and eliminated racial segregation under the Equal Protection Clause. He even goes so far as to claim “we now find ourselves the victims” of the 14th amendment.
I think maybe Mr. Batchelder misunderstands the word “victim”.
If the members of Ohio’s legislature approve this amendment, Batchelder warns, guaranteeing women equal rights under the law, they will be “the authors and finishers of our disaster” aka the destruction of the U.S. as we know it.
Jump ahead to 2012.
Under the leadership of now House Speaker Batchelder we’ve seen bill after bill attacking the rights of Ohio’s women. prochoiceohio.org has a list of the most recent legislation introduced in the General Assembly and it includes everything from the unconstitutional “heartbeat bill” to a bill forcing women to get a “permission slip” from the man who got her pregnant before getting an abortion, or risk serving 6-12 months in jail!
A lot has changed since 1973. Unfortunately the view of women possessed by Batchelder, and the rest of Ohio’s Republicans, doesn’t seem to have budged. They still seem to think they are living in 1973 – or maybe 1873 – despite the fact that some of them weren’t even born when Batchelder gave this speech! I’m not saying Batchelder’s age excuses his distrust of, and archaic behavior toward women, but it does somewhat explain it. I you have to wonder: What’s Kris Jordan’s (born 1977) excuse?
You can listen to the audio of Batchelder’s speech here:
The full debate can be seen at OhioLadiesGallery.org. We’ve included the full text of his speech below.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker and Ladies and Gentlemen of the House. As Benjamin Franklin on the last day of the Constitutional Convention left the hall where that Constitution had been drafted, he was asked by a lady what form of government indeed that Constitutional Convention had given the 13 states or colonies. Remember that at that time debates had raised long and hard from the extremes of monarchy on the one hand to the separation of the individual states on the other. Dr. Franklin responded very quickly, “A republic…” and then more slowly, “if you can keep it.” “A republic if you can keep it.” What did Franklin mean by that?
Well, no outsiders were present at that convention. As a matter of fact, the first official act of the Constitutional Convention was to remove the members of the press from the hall. They had excluded all non-members, as a matter of fact. But fortunately James Madison kept copious notes on what had taken place in those proceedings and from those notes and from the diaries of the members, we know clearly what Franklin meant by that statement, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The first thing that was meant and the essential thing that was meant and what permeated the entire meeting of that Constitutional Convention was the notion of limiting the power of the central government and today, before us, we have an issue of limitation of the power of the central government; the federal government. Remember that these men had suffered much at the hands of the British crown, which is sought to centralize government in London. The government of the colonies. Remember that these men represented sovereign states who had fought independently to free themselves from that centralized government.
Their goal and the goal of that entire Constitutional Convention was to preserve individual freedom by limiting the power of the central government. The Doctrine of States Rights then is the cornerstone of our constitutional republic, and Thomas Jefferson put it best when he said, “Put your trust not in men but bind up the government in the change of the constitution.” This amendment before us today is the most gross erosion of the Doctrine of States Rights since the Civil War. It is a threat of unprecedented proportion, therefore, to our individual liberty and freedom.
Now let us look briefly at what the federal government has done already without this amendment in the area of the destruction of states rights. Congress has eroded this doctrine, one of the three branches of the federal government, and today I think it could be referred to as a lesser branch. When that branch of government can’t even compel executive testimony. When that branch of government can’t even control the federal courts and yet that branch of government now wants the power to make laws in this area. Congress has eroded the doctrine principally by its abuse of the Commerce Clause. I don’t think anyone ever conceded or conceived in the Constitutional Convention, and as you read the Minutes of that convention you will agree that the fact that Ollie’s Barbeque in the state of Arkansas bought condiments and interstate commerce meant that they were involved in interstate commerce and, therefore, subject to governance by the federal government.
I don’t think that anyone in adopting the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution thought that it would apply to the Philadelphia Shoe Shine Boys in the area of the minimum wage. A liberal fetishism which led a ruling of application of the minimum wage to the Philadelphia Shoe Shine Boys 800 in number who after the liberal fetishism was fulfilled, only numbered 150.
This abuse has only, of course, been possible with the connivance of the federal courts. The ultimate example of erosion of sovereignty occurred in the United States Supreme Court decision, which held that the State of Ohio could not raise more wheat than it had been allotted by the federal department of Agriculture on its own acreage, on its own state farms. Now for the information of the newer members, state farms were lands once owned by the State of Ohio.
They were used in the rehabilitation of the mentally ill and convicted criminals. Now this system, which was only in existence for a period in excess of 100 years , has recently apparently been abolished by executive class. But its congress has been a culprit in tearing down the powers of the state. The executive branch has been every bit as culpable. Just to site one example, the people of the United States under the blandishment of Woodrow Wilson and other benighted intellectuals as the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution calling for federal income tax. Thereafter, under this very day, the only thing in the world was consistently runs to a larger amount of money than the federal income tax is federal expenditures.
As a result of this ever-filling cornucopia of cash, the federal government has established programs like welfare. The states participate in funding these programs, we’re permitted that much participation, but not in the rules for implementation of them. At the healthy, wealthy and wise department in Washington, there is a big conference room in which pointy-headed federal bureaucrats think up weird and wonderful guidelines, which if not followed to the letter mean that the citizens of the states can’t have their own money back from the federal income tax.
But Ladies and Gentlemen of this House, the branch of the federal government which takes top honors for the destruction of states rights is the federal courts. The federal courts have trampled on the sacred concepts of the sovereignty of the states as if it were a doormat. I’m always amused when I read those words in the Federalist Papers of Alexander Hamilton where he referred to the federal courts as the least dangerous branch. Oh, I wish he were alive today.
We now have a super legislature of nine men who legislate in the area of criminal law and procedure, abortions, schools to be attended by children, who shall teach them, children’s rights while in the grade schools, capital punishment, residency requirements for voting, residency requirements for who can hold office, residency requirements for welfare recipients, and the list goes on and on. We only have 20 minutes and it would take hours to enumerate the various areas of usurpation of States Rights, which have been undertaken by the federal courts.
In short, there are few powers reserved to the states and people which the federal courts will not now take from them. And keep in mind that that is before the passage of the amendment which pend before us today. Perhaps as a grand finale of their desire to destroy state government are the apportionment decisions. Reynolds v. Simms and Lucas v. the 44th General Assembly, the Supreme Court said it has a power to determine for the states, the legislative seats of both houses, both houses must be apportioned on the basis of one man, one vote. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution gives each state two senators regardless of population. Eager Earl and the facil four even went so far in Lucas vs. the 44th General Assembly as to strike down Colorado’s Constitution as approved by over 70 percent of its voters in a very recent election which had established one house on the criteria of population and another on a basis of regionalism within the state. In short, a perfect copy of the federal model.
Think what obscene usurpation states rights will be possible if this amendment is ratified. What new destructions of our power as sovereign states could be affected? The mind reels. Domestic relations, probate law, adoptions, schools, public and private, labor laws, the law of financial institutions, custody, again, the list goes on and on.
There is no end to the areas of potential activity for the federal government in this proposal. Particularly a federal government, which has already demonstrated its constant proclivity to centralized power in Washington. Our founding fathers recognize the awful potential power of the federal government and they sought to bind it up in the chains of constitution — of the constitution. They well knew that the history of the republics in the history of mankind is a short one, that human freedom is a precious commodity, which once lost to a powerful central government has historically never been regained.
**** tells us that there have been 26 republics in the history of mankind. Of all those, ours, on the eve of this 200th anniversary is the oldest. It is ironic that those who come to us with in many instances, real grievances, seek to guarantee their freedom by destroying the system, which preserves freedom for all. These grievances can be remedied by the legislature now. Here in this hallow chamber where petitions for redress of grievances properly belong.
The question before us today is not shall women receive equal opportunity and treatment, but in what manner shall equal opportunity and treatment be best assured. It is unnecessary for us to commit suicide as a republic to solve these discriminations. Our ancestors fought wars and shed blood and put forth treasure for the ideal of limited government. Let us not exchange this blessed heritage for a mess as pottage as Esau did in the Old Testament.
A republic, if you can keep it. It is better Dr. Franklin. It is weakened, but we shall not, on this day, willingly destroy it further. What does this amendment exactly do? How far does it go? No same person would be so foolhardy as to project the outward parameters. When one starts writing constitutional opinions based on penumbra from the Latin meaning shadows, then how indeed can anyone say what the outer limits of this amendment will be.
I have read the debates of the 14th Amendment where the language is identical. And let me say to you that no one during the time of the date of the 14th Amendment mentioned reapportionment or school busing or school wagoning at that time, or any of the other myriad areas into which we now find ourselves the victims of massive federal intervention.
It is clear that this proposal will make applicable as between the sexes all decisions, which presently exist as between the races under the Equal Protection Clause. Schools for persons of one sex will be ineligible for tax exemption following the logic of the Infernal Revenue Department in the Bob Jones case.
Lee v. Washington, at 390 U.S. 333 in 1968. A statute requiring segregation of a jail on the basis of race is unconstitutional. So a statute requiring segregation of a jail on the basis of sex or a prison on the basis of sex will be unconstitutional. In a case ironically entitled Loving v. Virginia, the statute prohibiting marriage between first and solely on the base on race violates the Equal Protection Clause. A statute prohibiting marriage on the basis of sex equally then will violate the Equal Protection Clause. I’m surprised that the Gay Lib isn’t here today to rally for this particular cause.
These are a few examples of what will follow for the Equal Rights Amendment. Why can’t we solve a legitimate problems by legislation and not wade in to the fever swamps of the far left by taking on all the equal protection case law and all that may flow from that in the future which no man now can foresee.
Important questions involving a widow’s rights under Social Security will be decided by our ratification. Women will lose rights to favorable auto insurance rates. Women will be forced to engage in the combat service of the Armed Forces and let there be no doubt about that as one of the leaders of our party would have said.
Four examples can be developed but these suffice. This proposal as presently understood does enough damage but its full ramifications are only dimly perceived where a government which has so abused the constitution or the federal government has can go with this amendment no man knows.
In Ohio there is a doctrine in the law of torts known as the Step In the Dark Doctrine. Briefly, it holds where one steps in to the dark, where he cannot see. Another is not liable to him for damages that he suffers, thereby, because he’s assumed the risk when he steps in to the dark. Let us not step in to the dark today as a house, as a state, as a nation. Let us rather solve real problems here in this chamber and now in this session. Of course, you can take the view of a distinguished senator who once served here. I won’t tell you his name; I’ll only identify him by saying that he was the last member of this assembly to wear spats and some of you will know whom I’m speaking.
After a long dull day in the Senate, not unusual, a debate had gone on between the lawyers on the floor of the house at great lengths over what a bill meant, and some attorney sat on one side if this bill passes it will mean A. And other attorney’s said, no, it’ll mean B. And finally the distinguished senator had all he could take and he stood up and he said, “This distinguished senator and barrister says if we pass this bill it means A. This learned council says it doesn’t mean A, it means B. Let’s pass it and see what happens.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us not pass this resolution to see what will happen. We can perceive dimly what may happen and we can see clearly some of the things, which will definitely flow from it. This amendment deserves defeat on both grounds, but above all else and overpowering everything is the question of the vitality and future of our federal system. The rights of our state, which is the ultimate guarantor of our individual freedom.
I want to read very briefly to you from a statement by Larry Margolis, the Executive Director of the Citizens Conference on a State Legislatures. He has written look few decades ahead and considered the state capital domes and legislative halls as museums filled with the artifacts and documents of a quaint form of government that failed. In this musky chamber, state senators, its no different now; it’s still musky. In this musky chamber, state senators with the powers of legendary dukes once ****, in that office the Speaker of the House ruled with the authority of a a baron.
The guide dressed in the historic uniforms of a long gone State Highway Patrol perform a ritual changing of the guard like the beef eaters at the Tower of London. Over in the old mansion a descendent of the last governor conducts tours under the auspices of the National Park Service.
If this be our fate then we ourselves, if we adopt this amendment, shall be the authors and finishers of our disaster. The usurpation of the federal government are terrible. How much worse would be our surrender of our authority? A republic, if you can keep it.
Oh, mighty God grant us some day we may look in to the face of Benjamin Franklin and say, “The republic you gave us, we kept it.”