Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Equal rights now! Equal rights tomorrow! Equal rights forever!" or We need an ERA

In the 50s and 60s, the Civil Rights movement galvanized around the Black community. In the late 60s and 70s, women got into the movement in a more serious way, and in the late 70s and 80s (especially after the AIDS epidemic began) gay people got into the movement in a more serious way. But ever since then, there's been a debate about whether gay rights is a civil rights issue.

It is. Period. I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but being gay isn't any more of a choice than being straight. I never chose to be heterosexual anymore than my sister chose to be homosexual. Ergo, this argument that "gay rights isn't civil rights, cause being gay is a choice" is bullshit. Gay rights is civil rights.

Homosexuals are a subset of our population, and hating someone for being gay is bigotry. I'm sorry to have to break that to you, but it is. Hating someone for being a woman is bigotry in the form of sexism. Hating someone for being Jewish (a choice, oddly enough) is bigotry in the form of antisemitism. Hating someone for being Hispanic is bigotry in the form of racism. Hating someone for being from Iran is bigotry in the form of xenophobia. Hating someone for being gay is bigotry in the form of homophobia and/or heterosexism. I think that, in the 21st century, we can all agree that bigotry is not a desirable characteristic in our society or government.

But bigotry isn't just hate. A lot of the time, bigotry is a lot more subtle. It's voting for measures that prevent gay people from having rights -- or in the case of Prop 8, voting to take away rights that a subset of the population had been granted by a court interpretation of the state Constitution. Gay people had the right to marry in California for about 3 months. Now they don't. Californians voted to take away rights that gay people already had.

What's next? Who's next? If this isn't a civil rights issue, I don't know what is. If you change the words from "same-sex marriage" to "miscegenation" (people of different races marrying-- like a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya), it's pretty easy to see that as a civil rights issue.

Loving v. Virginia,
in 1967 established that it was unconstitutional to make laws prohibiting two adults of different races from marrying, because those laws violate the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The majority decision states:
"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."
Emphasis mine. If we take out the language "of another race", we have, essential a supreme court decision that states that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to prohibit two consenting adults from marrying one another. Which is exactly what the California Supreme Court did in May, stating:
"that the California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying."
Prop 8, an "amendment" disguised as a revision disguised as an amendment -- except, revising the California State Constitution would require removal of the Equal Protection Clause from the the document and such a move would require a super-majority of the California State Legislature followed by a super-majority from California voters. An "amendment", ergo, not revising the California State Constitution and only requiring a simple majority to pass. As it stands now, the California State Constitution provides equal protection under the law to all citizens, except the ones we don't like -- which happen to be the gay ones at the moment. Opponents of Prop 8 in California are confident that on these grounds (and several others, I'm sure) the California Supreme Court will strike down Prop 8 and gay people in California will once again be full citizens.

However, that will not be the end of the battle for equal rights in California or anywhere. While Massachusetts and Connecticut have extended marriage rights to all pairs of consenting adults, there are too many places in the United States that have refused to extend the "basic civil rights of man" (humans, including gay ones, oddly enough), the right of a person whether or not to marry the person of their choosing, at a time of their choosing. What do we do?


We can push patch-legislation through congress, the Leadbetter Act, Equal Pay Act, VAWA, Affirmative Action. We can boycott companies that promote or practice discrimination based on gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, class, race, religion, disability, etc. We can call for the revokation of tax-exempt statuses of religious organizations that fund political campaigns like Yes on 8, but these are all only half-measures toward what we as Americans really, truly, want and need.


Our country tried to get the ERA passed in the 70s but too many people were caught up with "Me first!" and the misinformation peddled by such vermin as Phylis Schafley, and the ERA failed. They said, "we can't pass an ERA".

Yes we can.

We've already rallied around one cause and succeeded. We MUST, as minorities of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender-identity, class, disability, religion, etc rally together and take on those who posses white, straight, male, middle/upper class privilege and tell them: YOU had a chance to marry, to go to school, to work, to live the way you wanted to and WE ALL deserve those same rights. This isn't about marginalizing those with privilege, or even eliminating privilege. As Americans we are all equally privileged, but as was so in Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than others.

Gay people, Trans people, women, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, pantheists, atheists, liberals, conservatives -- we are all Americans. All Americans deserve all the rights and opportunities that are granted by law and civil society. That includes the right to marry, work, live, be healthy, and happy but with an ability to change your own circumstances if you so choose.

To do this, we don't have to take all the money from the rich, old, white guys and give it to the poor, young, black guys -- to do this, we need to pass an Equal Rights Amendment that truly, truly, provides "equal protection under the law" to all citizens regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual-identity, religion, class, disability (physical or mental), or any of the other things that keeps us "separate but equal".

Separate but equal doesn't work. It's not enough because separate is NOT equal and it never has been. These Americans aren't "those people" they are AMERICAN CITIZENS and they deserve to be treated as such. And at the very least, the VERY LEAST we need to have equality for all be true on paper. Because right now, it's not. And that's disgraceful, disgusting, and un-American.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to enlighten you but the Equal Rights Amendment of the 1970s and of today regards discrimination based on gender. It guarantees no rights to gays. (see Myths and Facts at It was and is designed to address sex discrimination because of gender, not sexual orientation discrimination. Nevertheless, it is a first step towards equal rights for all, since if the majority of Americans (ie women) can't gain equal rights, what chance to other smaller groups of Americans.

Rachel said...

Well obviously there would be changes made to the ERA from the 70s, so that "equal" actually means equal.

And by the way, "sorry to enlighten you" is seriously condescending. Well done, "anonymous".

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be condescending again, but the ERA of the 70s failed largely because opponents convinced people that the ERA would guarantee same sex marriage. Changing the ERA to specify that will ensure its instant death.
And by the way, "well obviously" is seriously condescending. :-)

Rachel said...

As the Queen would say, we are not amused.

Daktari said...

"the ERA of the 70s failed largely because opponents convinced people that the ERA would guarantee same sex marriage"

Total crap. Sources please.

AB 5127 said...

Could it happen soon?

Is there enough organisation for an act like this to get proposed, publicised, supported and passed in the near future, in your opinion?

AshleyCrimaldi said...

Rachel, I think the passing of a new ERA would be an amazing milestone for our generation. I wish we could get this movement going again. Do you have any advice on how to create change in order to do something like this?
I know there are a lot of people out there who care, but we can't just talk about it we have to do something.
How can I help?

willis said...

ERA = is cool
NRA = we could probably do without.

Rachel said...

AB 5127: I have no idea. I'm sure that, with the internet, it wouldn't be all that difficult to form the organization around the movement, but we shall see.

Rachel said...

Ashley: I've never been very good at forming movements myself, but I think that if enough people are talking about it, then a movement will form naturally. So, I would suggest talking to friends and family and anyone else you can think of about an ERA.

Anonymous said...

Forbidding people of the same sex to marry is absolutely discrimination based on sex/gender. If John is allowed to do something Jane is prohibited from doing, solely because he is a man and she is a woman, how is that not sexual discrimination? "Marrying the woman you love" is currently an action legally restricted to men, as "marrying the man you love" is legally restricted to women.

-- a different anonymous than the previous one

Justine Marie said...

Hi! I am actually doing a lot of work right now on the Equal Rights Amendment along with a member of the Equal Rights Amendment Task Force Co-Chair Bobbie Francis. This is a clip from the which is the main website for their efforts that does prove the fact about some opposition being because of the idea of same sex marriages. In the future I plan to go to Washington when it is reintroduced to congress this year. Keep in mind the ERA was ratified in 35 of the necessary 38 states, therefore its reality of passing in the future is very real especially after this election. If any of you would like to speak with me or any of the people I know to find ways to get involved in this movement, which is very much alive, feel free to email me.

Here is that clip of information about the ERA opposition. You may recognize the monster Phyllis Schlafly.

Arguments by ERA opponents such as Phyllis Schlafly, right-wing leader of the Eagle Forum/STOP ERA, played on the same fears that had generated female opposition to woman suffrage. Anti-ERA organizers claimed that the ERA would deny woman’s right to be supported by her husband, privacy rights would be overturned, women would be sent into combat, and abortion rights and homosexual marriages would be upheld. Opponents surfaced from other traditional sectors as well. States’-rights advocates said the ERA was a federal power grab, and business interests such as the insurance industry opposed a measure they believed would cost them money. Opposition to the ERA was also organized by fundamentalist religious groups.

Rachel said...

Thank you Justine.

Zoe said...

Tell President Elect Obama that you want the ERA.
Entering your recommendation at or tell him your vision for the future at

What could be better for the passage of the ERA than the exciting news that we have an Illinois Democrat in the White House, more Democrats in the House and the Senate? The BEST news is that some of the non-ratified states have made very significant inroads in electing pro-ERA legislators! Along with so many organizations and tireless individuals, the ERA is very much alive.

Your veteran feminist champions are hard at work in Missouri and Florida with increased support in both state legislatures. Louisiana House and Senate will introduce the ERA in the Spring with support by Senator Yvonne Dorsey, Rep. Rosalind Jones and Rep. Pat Smith. And the really big news is a whole new group in Virginia founded by Freeda Cathcart, who lives in Roanoke and has rolled up her sleeves to get the ERA passed.

With Barack and Michelle Obama moving into the White House, there is both renewed hope and continued determination by so many of our us. Hard at work are Jennifer Macleod, President of the ERA Roundtable, Emily Batin of Illinois, Sandy Oestreich of Florida, and Berta Seitz of Arkansas.

We only need three more states to pass the ERA and you can be sure that when one state ratifies, the momentum will be unstoppable! Lets all get to work in support this life long dream ~ Energize ERA activism in the remaining not-yet ratified states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Anonymous said...

from anonymous no. 3:
Another excellent and very active organization is It has an online petition you can sign to show your support for ratification of the ERA. Go there--SIGN UP! Please.

sandy o said...

No need to start up a new ERA organization. There are several unrat states struggling 12/ 7 to get their states ratified for the Equal Rights Amendment!

You are warmly welcomed at for full information. ERA is not a simple idea; full of lots of complexities and legalities. Go there and see Phyllis Schlafly at 84, still fighting against us and killing ERA in some states recently. See her standing to receive her hon. doctorate WITH THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE AT GEORGE WASHINGTON U OF ST LOUiS STANDING WITH THEIR BACKS TO HER. It will do your heart gooood. See our videos, see ERA is for MEN, for the Economy, en Espanol, etc.

Just go to ours, to see how we are DOING IT. Just got it passed out of FL Senate committee in April after 7 years of swallowing hard as redneck male legislators told us, Why would we clutter up the Constitution with something like THAT? or, Honey, you don't need this (ERA), we will take care of you. or, when asked whether the legislator himself would be "against equality for all", said, "I'd have to think about that." And didn't even blush.

WE have worked excrutiatingly hard for 7 years and now have 49 bill cosponsors. It will pass if we can only get the FL Speaker to HEAR THE ERA BILL IN 2009!!! We HAVE the votes, just need HEARING!! HELP! please.
Yes, there IS something you can do to get ERA passed: Send us $10 to match funds for a pledged contribution toward Florida's ERA for gasp! gasp! $50, 000 toward billboards, TV and media. Before mid February send us $10 more or less to: ERA, P.O. Box 59023, N. Redington Bch, FL 33708. PLEASE! We are broke otherwise. As usual.


Sandy Oestreich, Chief Agitator and spearhead of the FL bills