Document 1: Iowa ERA Coalition, "The Iowa Equal Rights Amendment: What It Is and What It Is Not," 1980. Folder: ERA -- Original Materials, Box 7, Iowa ERA Coalition Collection, Iowa Women's Archives, University of Iowa.
In this mass-mailed letter, the Coalition included selected quotations from prominent government officials in states that had already passed Equal Rights Amendments. The comments made by these officials undermined many of the arguments publicized by anti-ERA groups, including the fear that the ERA would lead to the abolition of sex-segregated public restrooms. The brochure emphasizes the legal and not the social implications of the proposed amendment. The coalition used state officials as neutral observers of the struggle for equal rights in order to assuage citizens that the ERA was not merely a feminist agenda, but a document to improve the legal status of women.
THE IOWA EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
What It Is and What It Is Not
The Iowa Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed amendment to Section I, Article I of the Iowa State Constitution which would guarantee equality of rights under the law for all the citizens of the state. It is a way for Iowa to provide this guarantee for its own people. It is not related to the Federal ERA which the Iowa Legislature ratified in 1972.
The state amendment was first introduced into the Iowa Legislature in 1977 and, having passed two successive General Assemblies, is on the ballot for all the people to vote on next November.
The amendment reads as follows: (New language italicized.)
All men and women are by nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights -- among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.
Neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall, on the basis of gender, deny or restrict the equality of rights under the law.
This is a statement of legal principle and has nothing to do with personal and social relationships. It does not make men and women the same. It does give them equal protection.
The Constitution serves as a framework for all the laws of the state and as a standard against which governmental action must be judged.
The Equal Rights Amendment provides a guarantee, not only for ourselves, but for our sons and daughters, against discriminatory legislation and governmental action.
It is because equality is as important a right of citizenship as freedom of religion and freedom of the press that it should be incorporated, along with these other inalienable rights, into the Constitution.
315 E. Fifth Street / Des Moines, Iowa 50309 / 515 244-0012
Much of the opposition to an Equal Rights Amendment arises from misinformation about what the effects of an Equal Rights Amendment would be.
We are fortunate in this case that we can look to some states that have already had experience with a state equal rights amendment. Following are statements from four states that have amended their constitutions in the same way that is being proposed for Iowa.
Daniel J. Evans, Governor, State of Washington
"I am aware of no classification of 'privileges' which a woman has lost because of adoption of the ERA . . . The accusations concerning integration of facilities are so ridiculous, we in Washington have ceased to reply to them. Rights and privacy remain fully protected in this state . . . The passage of the Equal Rights Amendment has brought Washington State a new commitment to the right of equal treatment for all our citizens."
Milton J. Shapp, Governor, State of Pennsylvania
"One particularly significant accomplishment under the ERA has been the recognition in economic terms of the contribution of homemakers... I am happy to report that none of the disastrous consequences feared by some ERA opponents has occurred in this state."
Jerry Apodaca, Governor, State of New Mexico
"I cannot see that any provision which insures equality under the law can adversely affect any legitimate legal rights or privileges; sexual integration of public facilities has not been mandated; and implementation has not been unwieldly or excessively costly. The ERA, which is actually a human rights amendment, is a very necessary instrument through which we can guarantee that equality under the law exists."
Ellen Luff, Counsel, State of Maryland
1) "Maryland women have not lost rights and privileges because of the Equal Rights Amendment; 2) the Legislature has not mandated sexual integration of public restrooms, prison cells or sleeping quarters of public institutions and 3) implementation has been neither costly nor unwieldly . . . it is unfortunate that the ERA opponents in various places have been able to make such an effective stand based on such obviously false statements."
It is in keeping with Iowa's proud tradition of concern for fairness and justice in its laws that this important human rights amendment to the state constitution was proposed. It is in this same spirit that we believe that the people of Iowa will vote YES on the Equal Rights Amendment at the polls on November 4th.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Iowa ERA Coalition 315 E. Fifth Street / Des Moines, Iowa 50309 / 515 244-0012