Womens Rights Not Granted

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:54 PM GMT

Question

Can you settle an argument? A feminist friend claims that the only right women have in the United States is the right to vote, given that it is expressly stated by the 20th Amendment.

Her reasoning follows: The 15th Amendment gives equal rights regardless of race. Previous to this amendment woman, as well and blacks, were both denied certain rights given to white men. Therefore the word "People", as used in the U.S. Constitution must, by inference, only refer to men.

Her argument, and it is intense, is that any rights currently enjoyed by woman are only there by legislative deed and at any time could be rescinded. Therefore to secure all rights to women, the Equal Rights Amendment is needed.

My argument is: 1. It's not a good idea to unnecessarily mess with the Constitution. If it works don't fix it. 2. Somewhere there must be a case, reviewed by the Supreme Court, where a woman was denied her free speech and the Court found in her favor. This would either imply or expressly interpret the meaning of the word ¡°People¡± to include women. Thus her premise would be false. 3. Given the current state of women¡¯s rights in the United States, the possibility that women might in the future be denied equal 1st Amendment rights based on their sex is an argument akin to monks in the middle ages debating how many angels can be placed on the head of a pin. Intellectually interesting but ultimately a waste of energy.

Answer

Well, firstly, you and your friend are both incorrect in one respect. Women's right to vote is not granted by legislative deed but by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. A const. amendment is much more than a mere legislative deed. Further, given her logic that it could be repealed at any time, the same may be said for all of the rights enumerated in our constitution. the 20th amendment is just as much part of our constitution as is the first amendment or any of the others.

Secondly, I don't agree with your friends' simple assertions that all of women's rights may be brushed away with one stroke of the legislative pen. In order for government to enact or repeal any laws that single out women as a class, they must prove to the judiciary body that their action serves an important governmental interest and the means they chose is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. These are not just hollow words, nor is this a low standard of proof...In practice, it has proven nearly impossible for govt to enact any laws that single out women that survives this level of scrutiny by the courts. One bad example is the recently killed Violence Against Women's act, which was declared unconstitutional by the court because it didnt satisfy this standard. This is an example of where the standard was used to prevent a law granting women greater protections, but the principle is the same.

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