Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Costs of equality

The other thing the LA Times brought to my door last Sunday (April 8th Current, The ERA: still a bad idea) was an old but often repeated argument against the Equal Rights Amendment that I have been vaguely aware of but never actually sat down and read. Apparently one of the problems with the ERA is that in giving greater rights it also gives greater responsibility. Certain unequal protections given to women would be lost in gaining equal opportunity.

Specific examples of these protections were given:

The amendment would require women to be drafted into military combat any time men were conscripted, abolish the presumption that the husband should support his wife and take away Social Security benefits for wives and widows. It would also give federal courts and the federal government enormous new powers to reinterpret every law that makes a distinction based on gender, such as those related to marriage, divorce and alimony.
Oddly this doesn't bother me in the way it is intended to.

Take the draft. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't actually want to be drafted, but neither would my hypothetical brother. The thing is, I am unclear on why I should be protected from it while this brother is not. Either it is okay to draft both or neither. This drafting men only is just sitting on the fence trying not to decide.

I'm not sure where the presumption that a husband should support his wife gets women. Does this hold in a court of law? Can a woman married to a layabout sue him for not supporting the family? If she did, what would that get her in a land of communal property?

On to Social Security benefits for wives and widows. This is where I get bothered. A number of men out there are choosing to forgo career for family by being the ones to stay at home and keep house and kids tidy. Should the breadwinner in these families die, will the same benefits be available to the homemaker left to continue caring for the kids that would be available had that homemaker been female? If not, this seems like a rather drastic fault in the law. Sexual equality shouldn't always mean women getting what the men have. Sometimes the men should get what the women have.

Oh well, maybe the last bit will convince me. It does need some explaining. I can't help with the divorce and alimony part because as far as I know it's been a long time since alimony was automatically paid by the man to the woman. But the marriage part might just throw open the floodgates to gay marriage. Well, wider, anyway. I never figured out why that was worrying.

Of course, the new ERA with the same text and a new name should not be passed on the expired state votes of the old one, especially not on the rescinded votes. Amending the Constitution is a process that must not even have the appearance of impropriety.

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