The Equal Rights Amendment, considered by its opponents dead for 25 years, is alive in the Missouri Capitol. Sort of. Once it was an issue that jammed hundreds of people elbow-to-elbow in legislative lounges for hearings. Now it draws only a few, to renew the familiar arguments for or against it.
For 35 years, the Missouri legislature has refused to ratify the ERA. It’s being given another chance now—although opponents point to a court ruling saying it died in 19-82 because it had not gotten enough states to ratify it.
Familiar arguments remain before a Senate Committee. Opponent Ruth Carlson of University City, for example, worries that it will let women be drafted to fight on the front lines, if the draft is reinstated. Supporter Stacey Newman of St. Louis says Carlson should read Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution. She says Congress the power to raise an army without regard to gender or age–drafting women and having them fight on the front lines if it wishes to.
Right to Life lobbyist Sam Lee says the ERA could lead federal courts to require funding of abortion. Newman says the ERA does not guarantee any rights not already in the Constitution. She says legalized abortion is the result of a court ruling, not a specific right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Those and other arguments haven’t changed much in 35 years. We’ll learn in the next three months if the legislature’s mind has.