State Rep. Joyce Peppin needs historical prepping and a proverbial push to stop blocking a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She is the self-appointed gatekeeper of the renewed effort to secure constitutional equality for women at the Legislature.
On the first day of the 2015 session, after two House GOP legislators, Reps. Bob Dettmer of Forest Lake and Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen, signed on as authors of H.F. 212, a resolution memorializing Congress to remove the artificial deadline on the ERA, House Majority Leader Peppin, R-Rogers, apparently intervened using an old familiar scare tactic, abortion, as the bugaboo. Within 24 hours, Dettmer and Pugh were told to remove their names from the bill and it was rerouted to Peppin’s committee to languish.
What Peppin seems to have forgotten is that abortion was decided back in 1973 on a privacy basis, not a civil rights basis: old news/wrong clause of the Constitution. Ratification of the ERA will have no effect on the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which was based on the constitutional right to privacy and not equality.
Like marriage equality, women in combat, unisex bathrooms and widows’ benefits, rampant abortion has been feared by the right as a byproduct of an ERA. However, all of the above have been addressed without an ERA.
The proposed resolution to remove the sunset for ratification of the ERA, if acted upon in Congress, would reactivate 35 states that previously ratified the ERA, thereby requiring only three more states to ratify it into the U.S. Constitution. At the end of this month, such legislation will be reintroduced at the federal level. A Minnesota resolution to Congress would help buttress that effort.
Which brings us back to historical prepping for Peppin: The ERA is a nonpartisan issue. Alice Paul, a Republican, wrote the ERA in 1923. It was supported by every subsequent Republican president up until Ronald Reagan and was actively promoted by two former GOP first ladies: Pat Nixon and Betty Ford. For decades it was part of the GOP platform.
So what’s Peppin’s beef? She told a fellow committee member that she doesn’t like resolutions. So as chair of the rules committee, she has not held a hearing on it. The bill needs to be heard before this Friday to remain alive this session.
But wait. Peppin has supported multiple past resolutions over multiple years. What part about advancing women’s equality in America doesn’t she like? It’s hard to fathom that she might have drunk the Kool-Aid about women being a “lesser cut of meat.”
Where’s Speaker Kurt Daudt on all of this? Doubtful. When asked what he thought about the ERA bill and removing two GOP authors from it, he replied, “What’s ERA?” Folks were repeatedly told he would not have time to discuss an issue that affects over half of his constituents.
ERA advocates seek the highest level of legal protection against discrimination on the basis of sex. An ERA in our Constitution would give consistent legal recourse pertaining to pay inequity, violence against women, pregnancy discrimination, and discriminatory laws that adversely affect both women and men.
Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant was spot-on earlier this month when she declared: “It may take a push from House Republicans’ constituents to show them that Minnesotans consider gender equality under the law important enough to be guaranteed in the state and national foundational charters.”
GOP constituents who support equality should call Peppin and Daudt this week and push away!
Betty Folliard, a former state representative, is a consultant and founder of ERA Minnesota (www.eramn.org)