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AMEND THE CONSTITUTION RELATIVE TO EQUAL RIGHTS
FOR MEN AND WOMEN AND TO ESTABLISH A COMMISSION ON LEGAL STATUS FOR WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 1948
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 a. m., in the committee room of the House Committee on the Judiciary, Hon. Chauncey W. Reed, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.
Present: Hon. Chauncey W. Reed, chairman of the subcommittee, Hon. E. Wallace Chadwick, Hon. Frank L. Chelf, and Hon. Ed. Gossett.
Mr. REED (chairman of the subcommittee). The committee will please be in order.
Before we commence consideration of those bills that were scheduled for today, I am informed that Miss Butler, who was to have appeared before the committee day before yesterday, would like to make a short statement now in behalf of the bills then under consideration.
If Miss Butler is here, we will be glad to hear from her at this time. Miss Butler.
STATEMENT OF SALLY BUTLER, PRESIDENT, THE NATIONAL FED
ERATION OF BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL WOMEN'S CLUBS, INC.
Miss BUTLER. Mr. Reed and members of the subcommittee, I am Sally Butler, president of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc. My home is in Indianapolis, Ind., and my profession is that of a lawyer.
Our prepared statement in support of House Joint Resolution 62 and in opposition to H. R. 2003 is lengthy and contains some material which has already been presented to you. I therefore ask permission to have it inserted into the record, and confine myself to a very few remarks concerning these measures now before your committee.
Our organization has a membership of 125,000 employed women; doctors, lawyers, teachers, owners of businesses, executives, clerks, nurses, secretaries, and those engaged in many other occupations. After long and careful study our federation, in 1937, voted to support the equal rights amendment as the most effective and conclusive means
of adjusting the legal inequities based on sex which exist in the United States.
After H. R. 2003 was introduced, again, after considering it carefully, we voted to oppose it, because the commission, as proposed, would have no power except that of recommendation. We believe that it would be expensive, at a time when every effort is being made to reduce Government expense. Finally, in view of studies previously referred to, we felt that further study was unnecessary. What we seek is action.
Many of the groups which come before you today in support of the bill which we oppose and they are in opposition to the equal-rights amendment which we support, work with us hand in hand on other legislation which is aimed to secure equal rights in practice. They were beside us at the hearings on H. R. 5137, to equalize the status of American women citizens with that of men in relation to alien spouses. We submitted statements on S. 18, the Federal jury bill and have consistently worked with them on equal pay and other pieces of legislation which aim at remedying specific inequities.
Why, then, do they object to the amendment? We have no doubt as to the sincerity of their purpose. They want the legal and economic advantages of equality, but are fearful of giving up privileges which they seem to feel they have in protective legislation which we maintain is, in fact, restrictive. As practical, realistic women who earn our living day by day, we feel we know what is restrictive. We object to it, and to the energy consumed by this piecemeal approach. Not one of the above measures has been passed. We must go again and again and again to these committee hearings attempting to secure simple justice. We know we could be employing this effort much more constructively in other fields.
That is why we wish, in one piece of legislation, to insure correction of all existing legal restrictions based on sex, and prevent such discriminations in the future, and do urge that you favorably report House Joint Resolution 62.
And I wish to thank you for allowing me to come in because it was impossible to do so sooner.
Mr. REED. Thank you, Miss Butler. (Applause.)
Mr. REED. The material Miss Butler referred to may be included in the record at this point.
(The summary statement referred to is as follows:)
SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY ON HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 62 AND IN
OPPOSITION TO H. R. 2003
The National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc., favors the equal rights amendment because :
1. Legal restrictions based on sex would be corrected and prevented in future law making.
2. It would still permit legislation for classes of citizens—mothers, widows, children. Veterans' legislation is an already established example of this.
3. It gives the States an opportunity to accept or reject before it becomes law.
4. It gives a 3-year period after ratification to enable State laws to be brought into conformity without confusion or court congestion.
5. In signing the United Nations Charter, the United States agreed to accept and enforce the principles therein, by its own constitutional methods. Passage of the amendment would discharge the obligation on the matter of equal rights for men and women."
6. It is not expected nor desirable that any law can force a change in social custom. It can merely affect legal rights and privileges already a matter of law. These are the ones we seek to rectify.
7. A precedent exists for legal equality. Servicewomen were given the same status and benefits as servicemen. No calamitous result to health, welfare, or morals was evidenced, and the services are requesting the continuation of the women's units.
8. Both political parties in their 1944 platforms pledged this legislation. Enactment is long overdue.
The National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc., opposes H. R. 2003 because :
1. Establishing a commission to investigate the status of women is unnecessary because of existing compiled facts.
2. Declaring a national policy in regard to distinctions based on sex is, we feel, a dangerous and arbitrary proposal.
3. States should be permitted to decide whether or not they wish to establish the legal principle of equality.
4. Government expenditures are increased rather than decreased by investigatory commissions and such should not be established except in extreme necessity. Clearly, it is superfluous in this case.
5. The commission's report, as proposed, would have no effect except that of recommendation. It is an inconclusive procedure.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 62 AND IN OPPOSITION TO
H. R. 2003, BY MISS SALLY BUTLER, PRESIDENT The National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc., with a membership of 120,000 employed women-doctors, lawyers, teachers, owners of businesses, executives, clerks, nurses, secretaries, and those engaged in many other occupations-has since 1937 supported the equal-rights amendment as the most effective and conclusive means of adjusting the leg 1 inequities based on sex which exist in the United States. Our organization is convinced that women should be "full partners in the job ahead."
More than 50 percent of the American people are women. This means that over half of our citizens are prevented from making their maximum contribution to the stabilization and solution of the critical world problems which face us.
There still exist over 1,100 laws which limit the extent, in var 11 d grees, to which women are full citizens. Thirteen States do not permit women to serve on juries. In some States, married women must go into cout to obtain permission to engage in business independently. Other localit'es give the husband sole right to dispose of community property. Guardianship laws show preference to the husband in many cases.
After long and careful study, our federation in 1937 voted to suport the constitutional amendment which would rectify the limitations placed upon women's citizenship. Although much has been attempted on a State level toward correction of these injustices, it has frequently been demonstrated that what one legislature can do, another can quickly undo. English common 1:w, widely incorporated into our legal interpretations, plus variability in State constitutions, preclude the attainment of uniform status by any lesser means.
Further delay and research is patently unnecessary. For years, o 'ganizations and Government agencies have assembled compilations, State by Sati', of laws which differentiate on the basis of sex. Printed testimony of the hear.ngs before congressional judiciary committees fairly bulge with the documented acts.
No one denies that discriminations exist. Why, then, the reluctance to accept this simple solution?
The chief objection to the amendment seems to stem from a fear that it would nullify protective legislation. Working women have had the experience of being protected right out of their jobs.
We believe that there is a real need for a gradual supplanting of current protective legislation exclusively for women by new and broader laws, guaranteeing more humane, efficiency-promoting conditions for both men and women who must earn today and tomorrow; that old laws serve to dam the tide of progress which would bring opportunity and advancement for women workers and improved conditions for their husbands, fathers, and brothers.
Self-supporting women feel that all workers should be insured favorable conditions, regardless of sex. Differences in pay and hours have placed men and women doing the same type of work on an unfortunately competitive basis. Progress would be much more rapid if men and women joined their efforts to secure improvements.
Maternity laws and widows' pensions relate to a class of citizens. Veterans' legislation, widely accepted, is another example of classification. It is not based on sex, but on the circumstances of a group of citizens.
The United Nations Charter, to which the United States is signatory, states in its preamble, “to reaffirm faith in the equal rights of men and women By subscribing to the Charter, each nation has accepted the obligation through its own constitutional methods, to enforce its principles. Internationally, as far as the question of equal rights is concerned, the Charter provides, under the United Nations, for a commission on the status of women. This commission presented a resolution to the first assembly which was unanimously passed, bringing again to the attention of all member governments the principle subscribed to in the preamble.
The United States should speedily fulfill this obligation by passing the equalrights amendment. Women visitors from other countries are amazed and shocked to find in this country, which they have regarded as the stronghold of liberty, equality, and justice, the legal barriers by which they themselves are no longer encumbered.
Both the Republican and Democratic national conventions adopted a platform in 1944 pledged to the support of the equal-rights amendment. To become a law it will have to be ratified by 36 State legislatures.
Obviously, the intangibles of social inequalities can never be solved by legislation. What can be accomplished by law is the adjustment of legal differentials which may work unfairly to provide one group with an advantage over another.
A legal basis of equality has been proved practical, Federal law during wartime placed women in the service in the same category as men in relation to pay, status, and benefits. This gave impetus to earlier acceptance and utilization. Were it not sound the services today would scarcely be requesting that women be admitted permanently as an integral part.
From time to time, other bills and substitute amendments have been introduced in Congress by those whose motivation seems to us to be that of confusing or delaying the issue, rather than a deep-rooted desire to contribute constructively to the advancement of women.
It now appears that H. R. 2003 is another of these measures. This bill seeks to establish a commission to investigate the status of women, and to declare a policy as to distinctions based on sex,
The commission, as proposed, would have no power except that of recommendation. This guarantees no conclusive remedial action. In addition to information compiled by our organization, there is a quantity of material available on the status of women-Senate Document 270, 207, Judiciary Committee hearings on the equal rights amendment, the Women's Bureau, United States Department of Labor Bulletin 157 and 157-A, to name a few.
A commission to reevaluate such material and make recommendations would be unnecessarily costly at a time when every effort is being made to reduce Government expense, and in the final analysis would, in itself, provide no solution. Legislation would still be required, and we believe that legislation would ultimately be the equal rights amendment.
We are deeply concerned that States' rights shall be sustained. We believe individual States perfectly capable of making the adjustment necessary to conform to the amendment, which they themselves must ratify before it becomes law.
Some States have indicated they are unsympathetic to further extension of Federal powers. What more antagonistic approach could be made to them than that of an investigating commission paid from tax funds supplied by all the citizens of all the States to report on individual State laws and practices.
The passage of an amendment is the traditional and democratic way to remedy a widespread ill. The procedures first give the State legislatures freedom to accept or reject it, and then, if, by majority decision, it is ratified, the amendment is specific in giving the States a 3-year period after ratification to evaluate their own statutes and bring them into conformity. Thus the procedure is assured of orderly accomplishment without confusion or congestion of the courts.
We wish to register our strong opposition to the establishment of any commission which would be so inconclusive, unnecessary, and expensive.
We do advocate the swift and favorable action of this committee on House Joint Resolution 62, the equal rights amendment.
Relieved of the necessity for constantly combating outworn legal restrictions, business and professional women visualize, confidently and eagerly, the fulfillment of responsibilities inherent in the granting of full citizenship under the equal rights amendment.
Mr. REED. The committee will now take under consideration the statements, oral and otherwise, of proponents of the measures which are known generally as those bills defining legal status of women. The bills are as follows: H. R. 1972, by Mrs. Douglas; H. R. 1996, by Mr. Kefauver; H. R. 2003, by Mrs. Rogers; H. R. 2007, by Mr. Wadsworth;
R. 2035, by Mrs. Norton; H. R. 2323, by Mr. Lewis; and H. R. 3028, by Mr. Celler. These apparently are identical and the provisions are as follows:
A BILL To establish a commission on the legal status of women in the United States, to
declare a policy as to distinctions based on sex, in law and administration, and for other purposes
Whereas the economic, civil, social, and political progress of women has been burdened and impended by discriminations arising in part from assumptions embedded in the common law; and
Whereas notwithstanding notable legislative achievements in modern times there remain in effect statutes, regulations, rules, and governmental practices which discriminate unfairly on the basis of sex; and
Whereas since the Charter of the United Nations, ratified by and for the United States on July 28, 1945, declares it to be among its purposes to "achieve international cooperation in
promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinctions as to * * * sex” (art. 1), it should be the purpose of the United States and several States and their political subdivisions, to bring their laws and the administration thereof into harmony with these principles; and
Whereas the authority and jurisdiction to remove existing burdens and implements upon the status of women resides, to a great extent, in the legislatures of the several States; and
Whereas the present is an appropriate occasion to review the political, civil, economic, and social status of women for the purpose of modernizing applicable legal codes and administrative practices : Now therefore
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it is the declared policy of the United States that in law and its administration no distinctions on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological, or social function.
SEC. 2. (a) There is hereby established a Commission on the Legal Status of Women (hereinafter referred to as the "Commission") to be composed of nine members appointed by the President, not more than three of whom shall be employees or officers of the executive branch of the Government. One of the members shall be designated by the President as Chairman. Vacancies in the membership of the Commission shall not impair its powers to exercise its functions and shall be filled in the same manner as in the case of original appointments. Members of the Commission shall receive their necessary travel expenses, and a per diem allowance of $10 in lieu of subsistence.
(b) The Commission shall make a full and complete study, investigation, and review of the economic, civil, social, and political status of women, and the nature and extent of discriminations based on sex throughout the United States, its Territories and possessions. In carrying out its study and investigation, the Commission is further authorized to make such investigations and studies of the