In a stunning amicus brief before the US Supreme Court, South Carolina’s state attorney general has used the 14th and 10th Amendment of the Constitution to argue that while racial discrimination may be illegal across the land, discrimination against women and gays is not. (Click) This position should wake up a few complacent females who believe an Equal Rights Amendment is unnecessary.
Slate writer, Mark Joseph Stern explains the argument boils down to states’ rights under the 10th Amendment. That Amendment says powers not delegated to the central government are delegated to the states. While the 14th Amendment forbids racial discrimination, it is silent on women and gays and that, according to South Carolina, means states can discriminate against them if they choose. What’s more, where discrimination against women is concerned, the South Carolina Attorney General cites the sentiment of John Bingham, original framer of the 14th Amendment, who assured one of his Congressional colleagues that under the equal protection clause, states could continue to deprive women of their property rights. His colleague, Samuel Shellabarger went further, adding that states could deprive women of the right to engage in contracts or to testify. Certainly conservative interpreters of the Constitution, like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas will have a field day with South Carolina’s argument.
As Stern points out, if that state’s position prevails, “almost every landmark equality case, including Brown vs. Board of Education is almost certainly wrong.”
I’m no expert on the Constitutional but I know something about the danger of zealots. South Carolina’s desperate measure to block gay marriage is an example of the lengths extremists will go in their single mindedness. They would bring down the well- being of a society to preserve an idea — as if we didn’t already have Isis, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram to remind us of this form of idiocy, together with a history of uncompromising holy wars.
If South Carolina’s amicus brief seems absurd, remember, an idea, no matter how improbable, is possible. Did the Holocaust teach us nothing?