ENDA and the ERA

I’m reading Sherry Wolf’s Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation. I came across an interesting piece of information.

In 1974 Bella Abzug introduced the original version of ENDA called “The Equality Act of 1974”

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bella_Abzug

Abzug served the state of New York in the United States House of Representatives, representing her district in Manhattan, from 1971 to 1977. For part of her term, she also represented part of The Bronx as well. She was one of the first members of Congress to support gay rights, introducing the first federal gay rights bill, known as the Equality Act of 1974, with fellow Democratic New York City Representative, Ed Koch, a future mayor of New York City.

In 1974 transgender did not exist as either an identity or social construct.  One was a heterosexual CD, a queen or transsexual and while we might have been friends there wasn’t that much of a sense of collective identity. Indeed while bisexuality was a lived reality it was a vastly under-appreciated identity by lesbians, gays and straights alike.

This makes ENDA in its various iterations some 34 years old.

We were on a roll in 1974…

In 1972 we finally got the Equal Rights amendment introduced.  Remember that one?


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.

That one…   Alice Paul first proposed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 on the 75th anniversary of the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.

We got that amendment though the house and senate.  All it needed was ratification.

The Equal Rights Amendment passed the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives, and on March 22, 1972, the proposed 27Amendment to the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification. But as it had done for every amendment since the 18th (Prohibition), with the exception of the 19 Amendment, Congress placed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process. This time limit was placed not in the words of the ERA itself, but in the proposing clause.
Like the 19th Amendment before it, the ERA barreled out of Congress, getting 22 of the necessary 38 state ratifications in the first year. But the pace slowed as opposition began to organize – only eight ratifications in 1973, three in 1974, one in 1975, and none in 1976.

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.

Pro-ERA advocacy was led by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and ERAmerica, a coalition of nearly 80 other mainstream organizations. However, in 1977, Indiana became the 35th and so far the last state to ratify the ERA. That year also marked the death of Alice Paul, who, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony before her, never saw the Constitution amended to include the equality of rights she had worked for all her life.

Hopes for victory continued to dim as other states postponed consideration or defeated ratification bills. Illinois changed its rules to require a three-fifths majority to ratify an amendment, thereby ensuring that their repeated simple majority votes in favor of the ERA did not count. Other states proposed or passed rescission bills, despite legal precedent that states do not have the power to retract a ratification.

As the 1979 deadline approached, some pro-ERA groups, like the League of Women Voters, wanted to retain the eleventh-hour pressure as a political strategy. But many ERA advocates appealed to Congress for an indefinite extension of the time limit, and in July 1978, NOW coordinated a successful march of 100,000 supporters in Washington, DC. Bowing to public pressure, Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982.
The political tide continued to turn more conservative. In 1980 the Republican Party removed ERA support from its platform, and Ronald Reagan was elected president. Although pro-ERA activities increased with massive lobbying, petitioning, countdown rallies, walkathons, fundraisers, and even the radical suffragist tactics of hunger strikes, White House picketing, and civil disobedience, ERA did not succeed in getting three more state ratifications before the deadline. The country was still unwilling to guarantee women constitutional rights equal to those of men.

The Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in Congress on July 14, 1982 and has been before every session of Congress since that time. In the 110th Congress (2007-2008), it has been introduced as S.J.Res. 10 (lead sponsor: Sen. Edward Kennedy, MA) and H.J.Res. 40 (lead sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, NY). These bills impose no deadline on the ERA ratification process.  Success in putting the ERA into the Constitution via this process would require passage by a two-thirds in each house of Congress and ratification by 38 states.
The struggles for equality are generally long and difficult.  They are battles not just for hearts and minds nor are they won simply by appealing to people’s sense of social justice.

The people we are fighting hate equality and consider the very idea of Social Justice to be communistic and repugnant.

One thing both ERA and ENDA share in common is that the right wing uses the bath room issue as a club to argue against both.

It is telling that not only the same arguments are used but the same wealthy ultra right wing extremists are leading the campaigns against both ENDA and ERA. They are the same Ayn rand worshiping Neos who are attacking public education, Social Security and any use of the government to better the lives of any one outside that 20% that owns 85% of the wealth in this nation.

Rather than focusing on one particular issue as a minority based on identity politics perhaps instead we need to examine the potential for systematic change. It would seem that as a class the 80% of people who have seen their wealth devoured by that top 20% would have numbers on their side.

The rich right wing elite loves identity politics.  They have created this huge mess and if the working poor unite around our class interests instead of being divided by our single issues well then it sort of turns into pitch forks and torches time.

Because of this they use these cultural issues to divide and conquer.

ENDA and ERA are about the same thing.  Equality.

Particularly for transsexual and transgender people.”Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

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