Ducey in no hurry to push ERA

Many don’t see move­ment as nec­es­sary for Ariz.


PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey is not in fa­vor of Ari­zona be­com­ing the state that finally puts the Equal Rights Amend­ment into the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ducey said Mon­day that as far as he’s con­cerned Ari­zona al­ready is “a land of op­por­tu­nity’’ for all. And that, he said, in­cludes women.

“I don’t know that that’s some­thing that’s nec­es­sary for our state to be in­volved in at this time,’’ the gover­nor said.

And Ducey brushed aside the fact that if Ari­zona were to be­come the 38th state to rat­ify the ERA and it be­came the law of the land, it could make a dif­fer­ence, not just here but in other states where the op­por­tu­ni­ties for women might not be the same as he says ex­ists here.

“I’m go­ing to stay fo­cused on the state of Ari­zona and mov­ing Ari­zona for­ward and mak­ing sure it stays the place of op­por­tu­nity that it is to­day,’’ Ducey said in dis­miss­ing the is­sue. “Next ques­tion.’’

Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, Ducey has no say: Rat­i­fi­ca­tion is sub­ject only to state House and Se­nate ap­proval.

The gover­nor, how­ever, has the con­sti­tu­tional abil­ity to call law­mak­ers into spe­cial ses­sion and get them to laser focus on an is­sue of his choos­ing. Ducey, how­ever, has no such plans.

But it’s not like Ducey is alone in his op­po­si­tion. GOP lead­ers have used pro­ce­dural ma­neu­vers in each of the last two years to block the is­sue from ever get­ting to the House floor.

What has made the is­sue im­me­di­ately rel­e­vant is that Illi­nois law­mak­ers voted late last month to rat­ify the amend­ment. That means ac­tion by just one more state is needed to put it into the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

The text of the amend­ment is sim­ple: Equal­ity of rights un­der the law shall not be de­nied or abridged by the United States or any state on ac­count of sex. It also would em­power Congress to en­act laws to en­force the pro­vi­sion.

At the time Congress gave its ap­proval in 1972, there were mul­ti­ple ques­tions about whether women were legally en­ti­tled to things like equal pay.

But a change in the Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires rat­i­fi­ca­tion by three-fourths of the states. And that process stalled af­ter sev­eral years amid stiff op­po­si­tion by con­ser­va­tive groups and par­tic­u­larly Phyl­lis Sch­lafly, founder of the Eagle Fo­rum, who ar­gued that such a pro­vi­sion would lead to things like draft­ing of women.

Ducey ques­tioned whether the ERA is needed.

“I think if you look at the em­ploy­ment num­bers, if you look at the num­ber of leg­is­la­tors we have by per­cent­age, the num­ber of gover­nors that we’ve had across the coun­try, the suc­cess in in­come growth across all spec­trums in­side the econ­omy and our pop­u­la­tion, you’d see pos­i­tive trends,’’ the gover­nor said. “And that’s some­thing I’m go­ing to con­tinue to focus on.’’

Part of what has re­newed in­ter­est is the #Metoo move­ment. But the push in Ari­zona for rat­i­fi­ca­tion ac­tu­ally be­gan last year.

Dur­ing floor de­bate last year, Rep. Pamela Pow­ers Hann­ley, D-Tuc­son, com­plained that her leg­is­la­tion to put Ari­zona on record in fa­vor of the amend­ment never even got a hear­ing. So she made a mo­tion that the mea­sure be brought to the full House for an im­me­di­ate vote.

The ma­neu­ver caught GOP lead­ers by sur­prise.

But rather than sim­ply al­low­ing a vote, Speaker J.D. Mes­nard made a pro­ce­dural mo­tion to in­stead have the House re­cess. That was ap­proved along party lines, deny­ing Democrats the vote they sought — and ef­fec­tively keep­ing Repub­li­cans from hav­ing to go on the record on whether they sup­port or op­pose the amend­ment.

“Do you want to go home and tell your daugh­ters and grand­daugh­ters that you preferred to take a re­cess than ac­tu­ally have the op­por­tu­nity to be lead­ing and con­tin­u­ing to lead the state of Ari­zona?’’ com­plained Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe.

But Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she would not be pushed into hav­ing to make a de­ci­sion.

“This is an is­sue I need to study more on,’’ said Townsend, who was 4 years old when the amend­ment was in­tro­duced.

On one hand, Townsend said she no more sup­ports pay­ing some­one less be­cause of gen­der than she would to dis­crim­i­nate based on re­li­gion.

“I do have a prob­lem with gov­ern­ment telling busi­nesses how to op­er­ate,’’ she added.

Mes­nard ar­gued that a vote to re­cess — es­sen­tially a vote to ta­ble the is­sue — was not a vote against the Equal Rights Amend­ment. In­stead, he ar­gued, it should be seen as a vote to block Pow­ers Hann­ley from by­pass­ing the nor­mal process.

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