On the Equal Rights Amendment

  • For the Equal Rights Amendment

  • Shirley Chisholm

    Mr. Speaker, House Joint Resolution 264, before us today, which provides for equality under the law for both men and women, represents one of the most clear-cut opportunities we are likely to have to declare our faith in the principles that shaped our Constitution.

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  • It provides a legal basis for attack on the most subtle, most pervasive, and most institutionalized form of prejudice that exists.

  • Discrimination against women, solely on the basis of their sex, is so widespread that is seems to many persons normal, natural and right.

  • Legal expression of prejudice on the grounds of religious or political belief has become a minor problem in our society.

  • Prejudice on the basis of race is, at least, under systematic attack.

  • There is reason for optimism that it will start to die with the present, older generation.

  • It is time we act to assure full equality of opportunity to those citizens who, although in a majority, suffer the restrictions that are commonly imposed on minorities, to women.

  • Shirley Chisholm

    The argument that this amendment will not solve the problem of sex discrimination is not relevant.

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  • If the argument were used against a civil rights bill -- as it has been used in the past -- the prejudice that lies behind it would be embarrassing.

  • Of course laws will not eliminate prejudice from the hearts of human beings.

  • But that is no reason to allow prejudice to continue to be enshrined in our laws -- to perpetuate injustice through inaction.

  • The amendment is necessary to clarify countless ambiguities and inconsistencies in our legal system.

  • For instance, the Constitution guarantees due process of law, in the 5th and 14th amendments.

  • Shirley Chisholm

    But the applicability of due process of sex distinctions is not clear:

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  • Women are excluded from some State colleges and universities.

  • In some States, restrictions are placed on a married woman who engages in an independent business.

  • Women may not be chosen for some juries.

  • Women even receive heavier criminal penalties than men who commit the same crime.

  • What would the legal effects of the equal rights amendment really be?