Obama and Romney Differ on Equal Rights for Women

Women voters will decide the winner of the Nov. 6 presidential election, according to political pundits, but they have heard almost nothing from candidates Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney about the issue of their basic constitutional rights.

In late summer, the following question was sent to both presidential campaigns:

“Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination, but an April 2012 poll by Daily Kos/SEIU shows 91% support for constitutionally guaranteed equal rights. Do you believe the Constitution should specifically guarantee that women and men have equal legal rights?”

The reply from Pres. Obama’s campaign to the National Council of Women’s Organizations ERA Task Force:

 “President Obama has a proven track record of supporting the ERA. As an Illinois State Senator, he was a sponsor of a joint resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, and as a United States Senator he was a cosponsor of the Women’s Equality Amendment.”

The reply from Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign to Mormons for ERA President Chelsea Strayer: none.

The 2012 Democratic Party platform includes ERA ratification, while the Republican Party dropped its 40-year support of the ERA in 1980 and declared opposition to it in 1984.

Gov. Romney has faced virtually no questions about his relationship as a former Mormon bishop to the political actions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon Church), which since the 1970s has organized and supported anti-ERA activism nationally through its members.

Writer Jon Krakauer states, “Most political analysts believe that had theLDSChurchnot taken such an aggressive position against the ERA, it would have been easily ratified by the required thirty-eight states, and would now be part of the U.S. Constitution.”

Mormon opposition to the ERA continues to the present. A 2009Nevadalegislative hearing on a non-binding resolution supporting the ERA was packed with anti-ERA Mormons, primarily women.  The LDS church hierarchy is entirely male.

Judge Robert Bork, an unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee in 1987, was a mentor to Justice Scalia and similarly believes that the Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination. He is Gov. Romney’s chief legal advisor.

The Equal Rights Amendment – “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by theUnited Statesor by any state on account of sex” – was passed by Congress in 1972 but got only 35 of the needed 38 state ratifications by a 1982 deadline.

It is reintroduced in every session of Congress, and legal analysis proposes that the existing state ratifications may still be valid.

The ERA would protect and advance equitable treatment of women and men in employment, education, and many other areas of law.  (See www.equalrightsamendment.org/faq.htm.)

Roberta W. Francis, Co-Chair, National Council of Women’s Organizations’ ERA Task Force

Chelsea Strayer, President, Mormons for ERA

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