THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
Alan J. Greiman
The following is the speech that Alan J. Greiman gave on the floor of the House of Representatives, June 2, 1977, urging his colleagues to vote yes on House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment #27, Equal Rights Amendment. It is read by his six daughters, December 29, 2020, on his 89th birthday.
Thank you ladies and Gentlemen of the House. I will try and make my remarks brief and try and bring the Equal Rights Amendment, the proposed 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, into some perspective.
Seventy legislative bodies, more than seventy, in this country have approved and ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Thirty-five states with almost 90 percent of the population have approved it. Presidents have gone out on the limb for it. The Democratic Party in its platform has enthusiastically approved. The Republican Party in its platform, likewise. Both of the candidates for Governor in Illinois supported in the last election the Equal Rights Amendment. Illinois remains the only northern industrial state that has not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
Our laws, our constitutional law has changed as the years have gone by. No longer does the law ask, “What is your race, what is your religion, what is your creed, where are your ethnic roots?” And after ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment the law will not ask, ”What is your gender?” This year in the House, Sponsorship of the Equal Rights Amendment was headed by four hyphenated Sponsors. All men. Our Sponsorship was a symbolic one in a sense.
A directional one in a sense, to show that the Equal Rights Amendment is not a woman’s issue. It is a human issue. Because as long as there are some Americans, as long as there are any Americans that are denied rights, then all Americans in a sense are deprived. You know sometimes when I read my newspaper I think to myself, ‘Well, we are on the right track.
You know, I read about a state Policewoman, a woman who is a welder on a Skyscraper, a woman is the best lineman. So maybe things are okay. Maybe discrimination is ending for women. And then that Judge in Madison brings it home to me. Brings home the residue of discrimination against women. The idea that women somehow are not equal. Women somehow have less rights than men.
There are those who will tell you…tell you on this floor today that the 5th and the 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution does it all, that we need not worry, that there is no more discrimination or that there are some kind of reasonable classifications of discrimination. That you can reasonably discriminate against people. To show you how unsettled the law is, in 1977 – not 1877, not 1900 – 1977, the Supreme Court of the United States came down with two decisions, each with five justices, each holding a different way. One that you couldn’t discriminate and one that you could discriminate.
That’s the Webster case and the Goldfarb case. The Gouldie case in ’74 indicated that the 14th Amendment does not end discrimination. And perhaps the most cogent expression was in a case called Verheimer versus Philadelphia that said, and I quote, ‘Race is a subject classification of the Constitution, but the Supreme Court has declined to so-characterize gender’. As the Supreme court has said, gender has never been rejected as an impermissible classification. I say to you that makes clear to me that discrimination against people by reason of their gender has not been put to rest.
Let me read to you the simple declarative sentence, that is, Section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment. “Equality of rights under law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” It has a legislative history. Its meaning was debated in the Congress.
It bids us end discrimination and any classifications by reason of gender. Although you will hear people to the contrary, Illinois has a similar prohibition against discrimination by reason of sex, and I will read that to you. Section 18 of the Illinois Bill of Rights of the constitution of 1970, “No discrimination on the basis of sex – the equal protection of the laws shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the state or its units of local government and school districts.”
I say that’s the same meaning, I say that’s the same intent. Twelve other states have adopted Equal Rights Amendments in their own Constitution. Over thirty decisions have been rendered by courts, including, by the way, decisions of the State of Washington, which indicate that this has nothing to do, absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. That if the court…if the drafters had wanted to talk about homosexuality they would have said, sexual preference, sexual orientation’.
The Equal Rights Amendments and the use of the words, ‘on account of sex’ speaks of gender. We know that, we all know that. Everybody in this room knows that, even though you will hear differently. And if it’s not true, if what I say isn’t true, then I suggest that the opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment look at Section 17 of the Illinois Constitution, which uses sex in a way that would make them a little nervous apparently. Not to dwell on this, but I suspect that those people who are fearful of homosexuality somehow are mixing up the sex that we do with the sex that we are.
There are those who say that perhaps we don’t need this, perhaps we can do this on a case by case basis, but I’m afraid that the case by case challenge, which has been pursued in the courts, in the Legislatures and by Congress has not succeeded in eliminating sex discrimination. Witness under our local E.R.A.’s in the various states, the more than thirty cases that have been filed in the last three years. My friends, there are those who say if Illinois women are protected why should we be concerned. What is there about it that should concern us? When we sit and listen and vote on a Constitutional Amendment to the Federal Constitution, we have a different constituency, we have a national constituency.
Our concern is not just for women in Illinois, not just for men in this state, our concern instead is for people in every state in the Union, in every territory of this land. As the Equal Rights Amendment has moved towards ratification and is moving and continues to move – Indiana having been the thirty-fifth state this year – opposition has become in a sense more hysterical, more irresponsible. Somehow abortion is brought in, and abortion has nothing to do with this.
Right to privacy will remain. No state has integrated their prison cells or public bathrooms. No change has taken place on freedom of religion. The Equal Rights Amendment will not affect Domestic Relations Law. It remains with the state under the Equal Rights Amendment.
Much has been said, my friends, about the second paragraph that somehow is a great, great grab for power…I will finish, I’m…a great, great grab for power. It says, “Congress shall have the power to enforce by appropriate legislation the provisions of this Article.” Those exact words appear in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th and 26th Amendments to the Constitution. We have given to the Federal Government the power to wage war, the power to coin money, the power to make roads, the power to govern interstate commerce, the power to regularize in a million different ways.
My friends in closing, many of you know that I have six daughters; and 1 am not interested in destroying the family, because I have tried to raise them with my wife with the same kind of tenderness and love that I’m sure all you have tried with your children. I think that equality among the sexes will exult… will lift up, rather than take down the family. In the gallery, above the Democratic Press Box are four of my daughters who asked me, as we enter this third century of nationhood, if they’re not to have equality now, then when? And I say to you as I say to them, this day, this day let us join together in the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Thank you.