The Equality Act
My column “The Equality Act” was recently published in the Huntington Beach News. Have a look:
The Equality Act
In 1964, a landmark piece of legislation passed Congress. It was called the Civil Right Act. It was bold and dramatic. It was sweeping in its scope. It sought to remedy 100 years of unequal and unfair treatment of African-Americans with a massive expansion of the role of the federal government in regulating private and public behavior. The Civil Rights Act banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Provisions of the Act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as, race in hiring, promoting, and firing. While the intentions of the framers of this legislation were certainly noble, some far-sighted individuals such as Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and Yale Law Professor and later Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork saw time bombs planted in the bosom of the law.
Goldwater chose to vote against the Act not because he was a racist or a segregationist ( in fact, he was a member of the NAACP ), but he saw that both Title II and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act were possibly unconstitutional. He predicted, for example, that Title VII would herald a massive new federal role in dictating employment in the private sector, eventually leading to preferential treatment and quotas that favored one race over another. He was correct. That’s what so-called “affirmative action” is all about. He was also concerned about the expansive language of Title II and its impact on private property rights. For if the central government can dictate whom you can hire or fire or whom you can serve, how long will it be before that same government dictates whom you can’t hire and whom you can’t serve?
It can be argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 birthed the entire “identity politics” movement that today tears at the very fabric of American society. For, if we can single out legislation to benefit ( primarily ) one demographic group ( in this case, African-Americans ) in our nation, what is to prevent a hundred more demographic groups coming forward to demand its special “carve out?”
This certainly resulted less than a decade later when the feminist movement declared itself unsatisfied with the Civil Rights Act as it applied to the rights of women and demanded an “Equal Rights Amendment.” The language of the ERA was so simple as to receive almost unanimous endorsement from both right and left when it was introduced in 1972. It said: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Now, who could argue with that?
Yet, did not the Civil Rights Act passed just eight years prior already ban discrimination based on sex? How could ERA improve on that clear-cut and definitive declaration? Why was the ERA even necessary?
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