From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Equal Rights Amendment quashed again.

In Dinosaurs on 3 March 2009 at 2:03 pm

There was no shortage of fearmongering, fudging and dubious logic in the Senate State Agencies Committee this morning as Sen. Sue Madison tried to pass a bill ratifying the federal Equal Rights Amendment. Though the bill had 18 Senate cosponsors — including Senate President Pro Tem Bob Johnson, who has previously expressed opposition to the ERA — it failed passage by a 4-4 vote. This was not an unexpected outcome, as the State Agencies Committee is composed of some of the Senate’s most conservative members. Yet the antiquity and dishonesty of some of the views expressed was a thing to behold.

The oldtime paternalistic camp found its voice in Sen. Bill Pritchard, who said women in his family urged him to vote against the bill. “I respect women,” he said. “But for me to be treating women equal to men, I wouldn’t be treating them as well as I do now.” His smile positively glowed as a later speaker opined about the importance of chivalry.

More malignant were a series of speakers who made legal claims that the ERA would cause women to be drafted into the army, force states to pay for abortions, and legalize gay marriage.

The claim about the army was easily shot down when someone pointed out that the United States no longer uses conscription. (Though some doubted that the country won’t bring it back. “Napoleon couldn’t predict Waterloo,” said Sen. Randy Laverty.)

ERA opponents vigorously pursued the arguments about abortion and gay marriage, however. Betsy Hagan, leader of the Arkansas Eagle Forum, called the ERA ‘a fraud’ and said it would put federal restrictions on all our laws. (Of course, reaction to the federal government is a wingnut cause that remains as strong as ever in Arkansas.)  She invoked the horror story of Title IX, which she said caused the elimination of 171 college wrestling programs. (This evoked a hearty laugh from Sen. Steve Bryles.)

But the most deranged performance belonged to Marianne Linane of the Diocese of Little Rock. She cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Sex Bias in the U.S. Code as proof that the ERA would lower the age of sexual consent to 12.* (The claim that Ginsburg supports pederasty has been carted out and refuted before, but Linane didn’t make the connection to the ERA clear. Apparently we were to conclude that since Ginsburg wrote Sex Bias and is also a noted ERA supporter, then the ERA will legalize a lower threshold for statutory rape.)

After the hearing, Bowen Law School Dean John DiPippa called Linane’s argument “intellectually dishonest.” He also said that fears about abortion and gay marriage were vastly overblown. One opponent testified that a Maryland court justified gay marriage using the ERA. Yet she neglected to mention, DiPippa pointed out after the hearing, that the ruling was later overturned by the state Supreme Court and that the law in question was a state version of the ERA stricter than the federal amendment.

(Read after the jump for more on the final vote.)

Indeed, there seemed to be a great amount of confusion about the provision under discussion. As DiPippa testified to the committee, two state versions of the ERA have been used to successfully argue that state government should pay for abortion procedures. (Similar arguments failed in three other states.) Yet opponents seemed to (willfully) misunderstand that the bill in front of today’s committee would do nothing whatever to change Arkansas law.

Much like the national popular vote bill that the same committee will take up later in the session, the federal ERA amendment would have no practical effect without the action of other states. It would also require action from Congress, since the original ERA deadline passed in 1982.

That point was mostly lost in the heat of blinkered argument. Even religion had its moment today. Sen. Kim Hendren said he was less concerned about inequality at home than discrimination in countries where women can’t drive cars or go to school. DiPippa countered that the ERA would strengthen the hand of the United States to argue to other nations for equality of the sexes. Sen. Hendren replied that the U.S. needs no such law to bolster us: “I believe it went back to a person named Jesus Christ.”

What appeared to do the measure in as much as much as anything was some senators’ belief that there is not any actual discrimination against women in Arkansas. “What problem are we trying to solve?” asked Sen. Pritchard.

Sen. Bobby Glover was also unconvinced. “They couldn’t show any proof that they’re being discriminated against,” he said. “Plus I got bombarded with calls over the weekend by my constituents against it. I usually do what my constituents tell me to do.”

The final vote saw Sens. Faris, Laverty, Wilkinson and Bryles in favor; Sens. Baker, Hendren, Glover and Pritchard were against. Sen Glover was the swing vote. Though Berta Seitz, who leads the ERA Arkansas Coalition, said Sen. Glover had agreed to vote for the bill last week, Sen. Glover denied that he had made any promises and said he was waiting to hear today’s testimony before deciding.

A House version of the ERA bill is now likely to remain on indefinite hold. Rep. Lindsley Smith, who is the House bill’s sponsor, said she lacks two votes in committee.

EVENING UPDATE: Blake Rutherford has linked a West Wing clip that contains, in just one painless minute, an argument against the ERA more convincing than anything remarked during this morning’s hour and a half of bloviating.

*CORRECTION: Originally this article said Linane accused Ginsburg of wanting to lower the age of marital consent. Rich as that would be considering last session’s fumble of marital-consent law, the argument against Ginsburg actually claims she wants to lower the age below which statutory rape applies. Here’s more on that, by the way, if you can’t get enough.

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  1. The world looks on and laughs at the Hillbillies in Arkansas. I’m sorry but it’s the truth. How primitive can you get?

    Equality for men and women. Is it so difficult to grasp, so threatening to embrace?

    Laugh on world. Arkansas’ fools will hold American women back centuries.

  2. […] II: John Williams‘ Legislative Beat blog dives into lots of detail about the matter. It’s worth a […]

  3. […] Concealed weapons! A snarky blog post leads to possible legislation that will limit public access to information on who’s packin’. Also wasting legislators’ time: Another fruitless go-round with the Equal Rights Amendment. […]

  4. Citizens’ comments say it all. If legislators are concerned as they say they are about their constituents’ views, then they need to read this blog calling the legislators “hillbillies” for turning down the ERA. Just wait until divorcing dads looking for fair child custody find out they’ve been snarked!

    SHAME ON ARKANSAS! Good for Berta Seitz. It’s hard work pushing the good ol boys up the hill, and she’s done a good job of it. When will Arkansas wake up and see how antique it looks?

  5. […] DiscoverTexarkana.com  |  MyTexarkana  |  Profile  |  Register  |  Forgot Password? /* Live Date Script- © Dynamic Drive (www.dynamicdrive.com) For full source code, installation instructions, 100’s more DHTML scripts, and Terms Of Use, visit http://www.dynamicdrive.com */ var dayarray=new Array(“Sunday”,”Monday”,”Tuesday”,”Wednesday”,”Thursday”,”Friday”,”Saturday”) var montharray=new Array(“January”,”February”,”March”,”April”,”May”,”June”,”July”,”August”,”September”,”October”,”November”,”December”) function getthedate(){ var mydate=new Date() var year=mydate.getYear() if (year < 1000) year+=1900 var day=mydate.getDay() var month=mydate.getMonth() var daym=mydate.getDate() if (daym=12) dn=”PM” if (hours>12){ hours=hours-12 } if (hours==0) hours=12 if (minutes Concealed weapons! A snarky blog post leads to possible legislation that will limit public access to information on who’s packin’. Also wasting legislators’ time: Another fruitless go-round with the Equal Rights Amendment. […]

  6. We’re having the same fight in Kansas, except we’re trying to get the ERA into the state constitution. Same ridiculous arguments, even one that said that the ERA would remove all rape laws against women! It was really a sight to behold the rationales of the antis.

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