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[tone] An in-depth exploration of the world of women today with Sandra Elkin. Good evening and welcome to Woman. The topic for this evening is the Equal Rights Amendment and both of my guests this evening are opposed to the ERA, and we'll find out why in just a moment. My guests are Phyllis Schlafly, the national chairman of STOP Equal Rights Amendment. Phyllis is a wife and mother of six children. My other guest is Geline
Williams. Geline is a member of the Steering Committee of the Virginia Women Against the Equal Rights Amendment. Geline is also a wife and mother of five. Welcome to both of you, and thank you for coming. Thank you Sandy. Geline, to start us off on the right foot, would you read us the first section of the Equal Rights Amendment? Glad to. "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex." Now what is this going to do for us? Will we get equal pay for equal work? Well, that's just the trouble Sandy. It isn't going to do anything good for women at all. And above all, it's not going to do anything for women in the field of employment. I've been around to the state legislative hearings in 15 states and in not a single one of these hearings has a lawyer for the proponents claimed that the Equal Rights Amendment will do anything whatsoever for women in the field of employment. One of the reasons why this is so is the existence of
the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. This law is very specific in regard to hiring and pay and promotions. And if any woman thinks she's been discriminated against, she can file her claim with the government. And the latest word is that the women are winning 19 out of 20 of these cases. So the Equal Rights Amendment will not do anything for women in the field of employment. In fact, when I said that in a television debate with Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, who was the leading congressional sponsor of the ERA, she said I never claimed it would. So I think that blows their whole argument for the Equal Rights Amendment. I'm stunned because that's what you hear all the time, that this is what it will accomplish. Equal pay for equal work. Yes, and it won't. Geline, you were speaking earlier about women in service-related employment. Yes, Sandra. I think that sometimes in the discussion about what the Equal Rights Amendment may do or not do, we overlook the fact that
women in industry and the service industries may very well suffer under the Equal Rights Amendment. And I have a very worthwhile comment that was made by Jeanne Noble, the executive director of the National Council of Negro Women. And she said in regard to the Equal Rights Amendment, "I call it the 'lift and toting bill.'" More than half of the Black women who hold jobs work in the service industries, in service occupations. If the ERA becomes law, they will be the ones lifting and toting. So that it will wipe away you feel protective legislation for women in employment? Yes, it will have that result... How exactly would it do that? ...of wiping out all the remaining protective legislation because no longer can you have any legislation that makes a difference between women and men.
And while women can compete equally in the professional or academic or intellectual jobs, in the manual labor jobs women are just not as strong, and they don't want to compete equally with a man. So the states have had a lot of laws, which prevent a company from working a woman too many hours a day or too many days in the week, laws which give more generous workman's compensation to women than to men, or which mandates certain rest areas and rest periods, and these are all gone under the Equal Rights Amendment because you have to have absolute equality, but the women who work in the industry and in manual labor type jobs don't want to be treated like a man. They want to be treated like a woman. What about the effect on the family law? Child support in this country. Well, one of the areas where the Equal Rights Amendment would be very very hurtful, the Equal Rights Amendment will invalidate all the state laws that require the husband to support his wife. Now, these laws are basic to the marriage
contract and to the rights of the wife. Just to give you one example of what these state laws say, the Ohio law says "the husband must support himself, his wife and his minor children out of his property or by his labor. If he is unable to do so, the wife must assist him so far as she is able." Therefore you see the primary responsibility falls on the shoulders of the husband for the financial support of the family. And this is what gives the wife her legal right to be a full-time wife and mother in her home with her own babies. Now ERA wipes this all out because you can't have any legislation any longer under ERA that imposes an obligation on the husband that doesn't support, impose on the wife. And I, we might illustrate that point, some very valid backing for this point of the rigidity of the application of the
Equal Rights Amendment if it is ratified. The state of Pennsylvania enacted an Equal Rights Amendment to its own state constitution which is very similar in wording to what we just read as being the Equal Rights, the proposed the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania just passed two rulings on the application of this new Equal Rights Amendment to its own state constitution, and it, as a result, threw out or invalidated two laws that fit the description that Phyllis was just giving us about the fact that there can be no law, under the Equal Rights Amendment which treats women different, or men differently from the other. The laws must be let's say sexless and not refer to one sex or the other.
The court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled, "the equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual. Since Chapter, Section 11 and 46 afford rights exclusively to females, the rights of males in Pennsylvania abridged by these sections solely because of their sex. The sections therefore fall in light of the amendment." The court goes on to say, "where in the Constitution the words are plain, they must be given their common or popular meaning, for in that sense the voters are assumed to have understood them when they adopted the Constitution." In the instant case the amendment specifically states that quote, "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied because of sex," end quote. No exception is made for rights in the area of domestic
relations. And Sandra, there's no indication that any exception may be made to the hard and rigid application of the Equal Rights Amendment if it is ratified. Is this the only case? I think you mentioned... Yes, there is a Colorado case, too, where the husband was tried for nonsupport of his wife, and the Colorado court under their state Equal Rights Amendment threw out the law, and said this is discrimination because no longer can you have a law that requires the husband to support his wife. And this certainly is not what many women understood by ERA who naively supported the amendment. I believe these cases illustrate that the Equal Rights Amendment is a big take away of the rights that women now have, their legal right to be supported by their husband. All of the legal property rights that wives have which are superior to men and which they would lose under the Equal Rights Amendment. Another aspect is that most state laws
require the husband to provide his wife with a home. Now, the home is very important to women, and but under the Equal Rights Amendment the women will lose this right. So it's a big take away of the rights that women have. Give us some explanation of how women will lose the right of home. Well, you see, the Equal Rights Amendment will require the state legislature to go through its state laws and make them all sex-neutral by eliminating the words husband, wife, male, female, man, woman and replacing them with a sex-neutral word like person or spouse. Now, you see it isn't the same thing at all to say spouse must support spouse as it is to say husband must support wife. And I would like to make a comment on that point, how wives might lose this right of home and support. And that is, remember the Equal Rights Amendment means equal rights for both men and women.
So once it's ratified men can say, well I want my equal rights, and I require that my wife support me on an equal basis or support our home and children and family on an equal basis with me. So, in this way, in the claiming of equal rights by men, you see, many wives will be put in a very difficult economic position and to although certainly many, many men would not do this, there are many who would. And all we have to do is to examine the cases on record of men who have tried not to support their wives and children anyway. And all it would take would be for one man to go into court to try to get out of his obligations, and then the court would hand down the ruling which applies to everybody. There is a very important article in the latest issue of the Drake Law School journal which involved quite a study of the effect of the
Equal Rights Amendment on the wife's property rights. And they've spell them out in state after state because in most of the states, women have superior property rights to men. And this article concludes that if the Equal Rights Amendment is passed, it would minimize or eliminate these legal rights that women now possess and the result would be degradation of the homemaker role and the demand on the wife to go out of the home and seek some career outside of the home. Then you really see this as being very damaging to the family structure. Yes, primarily because it damages this whole fabric of laws which give legal rights to the wives. Now, what about children? What about child custody of children and child support and that kind of thing? Especially custody. Well most of the laws apply to ongoing marriages, and so we're talking about, I've been talking about the right of the wife to be supported by her husband in an ongoing marriage. The, in case of
divorce, you know, the wife usually has the presumption of custody of her children. This is another thing that would be washed out by the Equal Rights Amendment. The courts would be compelled to award custody on some basis of equality. They might decide one child to one spouse and one to the other or they might, in their own discretion, award them to the husband or whatever, but it would eliminate the presumption of custody that the wife now has. So this is, these are some of the reasons why we say any way you slice it or any way the courts rule, it's going to be a lessening of the rights that women have today. This is why our Professor Philip Kurland of the Chicago University Law School told our legislature that the whole thing is misrepresented as a women's rights amendment, in fact the principal beneficiaries will not be women at all. I wonder. Well, we also every now and then hear of it being referred to as the equal
responsibilities... I've heard that. ...amendment. And I think that additional responsibilities additional to the very fine responsibilities that women already carry that it looks as though this may not only give them the home but also they must establish somehow equal economic equality in order to survive, and their families survive, too, that their husband can require this of them. Now, they can choose to work. We can choose to work, be at home, or have a combination of this, but it certainly appears that the Equal Rights Amendment would increase the influence and the need for women to work and be able and ready to support themselves if they have to. Well, a woman today really has freedom of choice. She has the legal right to be a full-time wife and mother, or she has the legal right to go into the workforce on the basis of equal pay for equal work under the legislation on the books.
Now, to pass the Equal Rights Amendment eliminates this one alternative that she has today, which is her legal right to be a full-time wife and mother. And I think you can't change the fact that women have the babies. There's no way to make that equal. And I believe it's only right and fair that the man should have the primary obligation of financial support. So we would lose our choice you feel. We would lose the freedom of choice, yes. There's another thing that the opponents say that, they say that the people who are against the Equal Rights Amendment are talking nonsense when they talk about the draft. Oh, well the draft is one of the direct and immediate results of the Equal Rights Amendment, and there's really no dispute about this fact. The Equal Rights Amendment would require women to be drafted on absolutely the same basis with man. That is if we have a national emergency, we are confronted with this
social upheaval of having to draft women for the first time in our history. And you couldn't say that women would have all the easy desk jobs and the men would have the fighting jobs. The proponents have made it very clear and all the scholarly articles have made it clear that women would have to be assigned indiscriminately in combat on warships carrying the same 40 to 50 pound packs and all the rest. I would like to, I remember in connection with what you just said, Phyllis, that I heard Admiral Zumwalt speak a few months back. He is Chief of Naval Operations, and he said that the Navy is laying plans now to put women on combatant ships as soon as the Equal Rights Amendment is ratified. That after the Equal Rights Amendment is ratified that this will throw out the law just like the Pennsylvania judges threw out those laws. This will throw out the law that prohibits the assignment of women to
combatant ships in the US Navy. But he said that as soon as the Equal Rights Amendment is ratified, that women will be put into combatant ships. I don't know if you've ever been in a submarine and or in an engine room of a nuclear power plant operating one of our big navy vessels. But it does give you an idea of what we're talking about. The possibilities for women and under the... The overwhelming majority of American men and women do not think women should be drafted. Is that true? Have you read a poll? The Elmo Roper poll and every other poll indicates that. There are a small minority of people who think they should be, but then to them I would say go do it in the above board way. Propose an amendment to the Selective Service Act and try to get it through Congress so that everybody would know what you're doing. Don't sneak it in sort of tissue sleeve through the back door when people don't really realize that this is the result of the Equal Rights Amendment.
I agree with Phyllis there. I think we must realize that any of these things that we're talking about that if there is an overwhelming desire to assign women to army or navy or armed forces duties, we can do this by law now through the enactment of law. But it so happens that the majority of the people do not wish this, so we have laws that do not draft women, do not assign them to combatant posts. That's by choice, but the Equal Rights Amendment apparently would negate and eliminate that choice. And if the National Emergency called for drafting fathers as it did during World War II when fathers were drafted up through age 35, then mothers would have to be drafted on the same basis. And this this is what the proponents say they want. At the Virginia hearing recently, one of the proponents was asked, well couldn't the women be given the easier jobs? And she said, oh no, that would deprive women of their opportunities and their equal rights to win a
congressional medal of honor. Well now most Congressional Medal of Honor winners are dead, and of course women don't have the right to be a prisoner of war or fight in jungle combat in Vietnam and all that sort of thing, but we don't think this is discriminating against us. This is the way we like it, and this is the way most men and women want it. And you think most people don't understand this. They don't understand that this is an immediate effect of the Equal Rights Amendment. Newsweek magazine said this week that people are saying around Washington that we will have a draft again after the next elections because the volunteer military is not working out. Now I don't want the draft any more than anybody else but I'd like to get rid of war. But history tells us we're going to have wars, but we can lift that burden from our young girls. There's another area that perhaps we should get into. How is the Equal Rights Amendment going to affect court rulings that affect women.
Well, in the opinion of many legal authorities, it is going to transform every issue to do with women into a constitutional issue ultimately to be resolved by the Supreme Court. And I think this would be the effect of section 2 of the Equal Rights Amendment. Section 2 is a grab for power at the federal level. Why don't we have Geline read Section 2? "The Congress shall have the power to enforce by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article." Well, what this will do, in the opinion of the legal experts who study this, is to take large areas of jurisdiction out of the hands of the state legislatures and put it into the hands of the federal government, the bureaucrats and, of course, the courts. And this means everything to do with domestic relations and marriage, divorce, child custody, and whatever
it has to do with women's rights. Now most of us are rather distressed with the great powers that have gone into the federal government, and how does this benefit us to move these areas into the federal government and take them out of the hands of the state legislatures, which is the body of our government closest to the people? Where if we don't like a piece of legislation, we can take it up with somebody we know from our own district. How? Do you have an answer? Well, no. The answer is it does not benefit women and Section 2 is a big grab for power at the federal level. I think this is the reason why we find so many payrollers working for the federal government and receiving federal government salaries who are lobbying in behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. They're doing this not only at the federal level but also at the state level. Some of these employees of the Status of Women Councils have their own
executives funded by federal money, and then they operate as a lobbyist in behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. So in other words the proponents are able to push this through at the taxpayers' expense. And that's what that's how they're being funded, you feel, primarily? Yeah, that's one of the principal ways that they have this, are able to fund their efforts because the services of a full-time lobbyist at the state legislative level whose salary is paid by the federal government and who has an office and stationery and telephone to work in this behalf is one of the reasons why the Equal Rights Amendment has passed as many states as it has. You mention another reason earlier, do you recall, on why it's passed so quickly so many states? Well, another reason is they haven't debated it. Well, I agree with that. I think the absence of debate is a principal reason that there has been such fast bandwagon
type action on the Equal Rights Amendment. For example, the Senate, I believe, the final action in Congress on the Equal Rights Amendment was in March of 1972. Before 24 hours were passed, I think the state of Hawaii had ratified the amendment. And certainly, it could not have debated it, could not have studied it at the state level at all or at the local level and from there on, 22 states just one after the other ratified the Equal Rights Amendment with very little attention to it at all. And then, and I so I think that the absence of a debate is a very big point there, but I also think that we ought to realize that some of the organizations that have been listed in support of the ERA have taken their action in some cases by executive action, that is a small group of people making the decision and then local affiliates
taking the same stand without really any, certainly no extensive debate of the subject. Then, in Virginia I noticed that when a list was published of their supporters, the organization supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, that there are a number of multiple listings of the same organization by listing local chapters and local affiliates, and then listing thing the state group also. And then too, in Virginia for example, that one of the organizations, one of the state organizations, that is opposed to the Equal Rights Amendment, has a membership much larger than the total membership of all of those listed in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. So I think that while recognizing the sincerity of those who support the amendment, we should should bring the support into proper focus and perspective.
What are some of the organizations that are against the Equal Rights Amendment? Well, the largest one is the National Council of Catholic Women, which has 11 million members. And again, as you said Geline, it has a membership larger than all the organizations, all those women's organizations supporting it put together. They just had a national convention of the National Council of Catholic Women a few weeks ago and they overwhelmingly reaffirmed their opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. Then, of course, in 1973 20 state legislatures rejected the Equal Rights Amendment. This is a great body of opinion of political office holders who are close to the wishes of the people and who did study the amendment and hold hearings and they rejected it one way or another, some on the floor of the House or Senate, some by committee. Nebraska, which was one of the early states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment,
in 1973 rescinded its previous action by an overwhelming vote, and so this is a great body of opinion that cuts across every other group. The opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment has nothing to do with your political party, your ideology, your age, your marital status, your color, your religion. It's a complete across the board body of opinion which thinks that this is the most ridiculous, unwanted, unnecessary, harmful piece of legislation that has come our way in a long time. And one final question in the one minute we have left. The people who are against the Equal Rights Amendment claim that there are many legitimate cases of discrimination against women, which are not very cleverly covered by our legal system. What about those?
Well, there's an easy answer to that. The best way to go is by state legislation. As congresswoman Leonor Sullivan, who's been in Congress for 20 years and who voted against the Equal Rights Amendment said, "What's the matter with the women in any state who allow discriminatory laws to remain on the books? The women of our state don't have any." And just this year, the women of Illinois passed 10 bills that removed small pieces of discrimination that they felt should be taken care of. These laws go into effect immediately but they don't hurt the rights that women already have. And specific legislation is the way to go, not this blunderbuss amendment which is going to deprive women of the rights we now enjoy. Phyllis and Geline, thank you very much for being here this evening. I'm sure we've all learned something. Goodnight and thank you for watching Woman. See you next week.
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Equal Rights Amendment, Part 2
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Phyllis Schlafly and Geline B. Williams. Schlafly is an attorney and a conservative activist known for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. She is the National Chairman of "Stop Equal Rights Amendment." She is a wife and the mother of six children. Williams is also a conservative activist and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Virginia Women Against the Equal Rights Amendment. She is a wife, mother of 5 children.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Schlafly, Phyllis
Guest: Williams, Geline B.
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04283 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Woman; 107; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 2,” 1973-12-06, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Woman; 107; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 2.” 1973-12-06. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Woman; 107; Equal Rights Amendment, Part 2. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from
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