Rebuttal to State Senator Pam Althoff’s ERA Views

Elise Bouc, a Republican precinct committeeman from Lake County, read McHenry County State Senator Pam Althoff’s reply to an Equal Rights Amendment opponent and offers these rebuttals to the McHenry legislator’s views.

If you have not read Senator Althoff’s reply to an ERA opponent, it probably would be well to do so before reading this refutation, so you can more fully understand the two positions.

The ERA Rebuttal

First, in regards to the legalization of same-sex marriages, several court decisions clearly verify that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) mandates recognition of same-sex marriages.

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is sex discrimination and unconstitutional under Hawaii’s state ERA (Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44, 1993). The people of Hawaii had to pass a state constitutional amendment to overturn this decision. Recently Maryland’s marriage law was overturned due to their state ERA. The case is currently under appeal. Furthermore, at least one of the Massachusetts Supreme Court Justices used the ERA in the Massachusetts Constitution as the basis of the decision to overturn the Massachusetts marriage law.

Second, in regards to the military, current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg states in her book, Sex Bias and the U.S. Code, that the ERA would require women to be drafted equally with men (p. 202, 218), and women could not be exempted from combat (p. 26 and p. 218).

Third, in regards to the Social Security benefit for wives, Justice Ginsburg wrote that the wife’s social security benefit is a form of “sex stereotyping” that must be eliminated under an ERA (p. 211-212). These claims are independent of the current gender neutral language used in the social security code.

According to Justice Ginsburg, the social security benefit encourages a wife’s dependency on her husband. Such encouragement, in her legal analysis, would violate the equality principle of an ERA.

She recently reiterated these views (and specifically pointed to the social security system) in the dissenting opinion she wrote for the partial birth abortion ban. In the opinion she voiced her disdain for what she calls “ancient notions about women’s place in the family,” which she says “have long since been discredited” because they impede “women’s progress toward full citizenship.” In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg specifically criticized the “Social Security classification” which rests on “archaic” notions “such as assumptions as to [women’s] dependency.”

Coincidentally, in her analysis of the impact of the ERA, Justice Ginsburg was unable to find any changes required in employment laws.

In the 18 states that have passed state Equal Rights Amendments, we have seen further evidence that women are harmed by the ERA.

In Pennsylvania, sex-based automobile insurance rates were disapproved by the state insurance commissioner due to a claim of sex discrimination. The state legislature attempted to remedy the situation by passing a law to allow for sex-based insurance rates, but the law was overturned by the state supreme court due to the state’s ERA. Now women will have to pay the same rates as men even if they statistically have better driving records (Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Insurance Commissioner, 482 A.2d 542 [Pa. 1984] and 543-44).

In Massachusetts, the state ERA was used to overturn the practice of using stricter penal discipline with male inmates who are much more violent in jail than female inmates. As a result, female inmates will have to be subjected to equally harsh discipline (DuPont v. Wyzanski, 2004 Mass. Super. Ct. 2004). These examples show that even when it logically makes sense to allow for a gender distinction, an ERA will not allow for that distinction.

Furthermore, state ERAs have been used in legal cases to (1) avoid alimony payments ((Coleman v. Maryland, 37 Md. App. 322, 377 A.2d [1977]), reduce child support (Conway v. Dana, 456 Pa. 536, 318 A.2d 324 [1974]), and nullify a husband’s legal responsibility to pay his wife’s medical bills (Albert Einstein Medical Center v. Nathans, 5 D&C 3d 619 [1978]).

Clearly, the ERA is not a simple good will gesture for women. If passed, the ERA will not help women; instead it will harm women, their families, and our society. The facts speak for themselves.

One more point of clarification: The ERA, which is a constitutional amendment would supersede all federal laws in court. Current federal laws could not protect social security benefits for wives/spouses under the currently proposed federal ERA.

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The picture is of State Senator Pam Althoff explaining a point at a Crystal Lake Kiwanis meeting.


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