Monday, March 16, 2015

Women's Equal Rights

Of late, there has been much talk stemming from Congress, as well as our State Legislature, concerning women’s rights.  It is inconceivable to me that anyone could make a rational argument against paying females a lesser rate of pay for doing the same work that males are doing.  The arguments offered by politicians, mostly by so-called conservatives, really hold no water.  The argument against equal pay for equal work generally centers around a fear that such a law interferes with business decisions, dictates to business owners, and would bring about numerous lawsuits.

It seems some things remain pretty much the same no matter how long they are at the forefront of hot, political issues.

I recall in the early 1960's when I was a young member of the Texas Legislature, I was one of the prime sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment known as the Equal Rights Amendment.  At that time, Texas was still in the dark ages with regard to married women.  Married women, according to our constitution, were classified in the same category as minors and mental incompetents.  A married women could not even sell her own property without the consent of her husband.  A married woman in the early 1960's in Texas could not sign a binding contract--even a contract having to do with her home.  The proposed constitutional amendment was supported by numerous women’s groups but was vigorously opposed by the conservatives in the Legislature.

Back then, during the fight over equal legal rights, arguments which were completely silly were offered in defense of maintaining the archaic provisions of our Texas constitution.  One I particularly recall was the argument that if we had equal legal rights, we could no longer have restrooms labeled men and women.  All of them would suddenly have to be labeled unisex.

After a long battle which lasted for two sessions of the Legislature, the amendment was finally submitted to the public and overwhelmingly passed.  Since that time, none of the terrible results predicted by the opponents have come to pass, and restrooms are still properly labeled.  I strongly suspect that should the Congress of the United States, or even Texas, pass a provision requiring equal pay for equal work that within six months few people, if anyone, would suffer any detrimental consequences--with the possible exception of some tightfisted business owners who have enjoyed a few pennies’ profit at the expense of our women citizens.

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