I received this email from my uncle regarding "The Mormons" documentary on PBS. My uncle was an Attorney for Senate Republicans untill a couple of years ago, his career included assistance in drafting legislation like the Defense of Marrages Act and other key pieces of conservative legislation. He is currently working with a conservative group that is working to maintain traditional marriage.
I thought this email provided some insightful reasoning into the Mormon Church's opposition to ERA, and is useful to the dialouge produced by the recent PBS documentary.
"I did not see the first night's episode, but I did see all of the second. I thought it was excellent.
I write, though, to say something about a subject I know something about, namely the Equal Rights Amendment. Persons interested in the Church's position can find it in an extensive booklet that the Church published, and, if I recall correctly, included as an insert in the "The Ensign". Rex Lee's book, "A Lawyer Looks at the ERA" also acquired a sort of authoritative status, although not official.
The Church did not oppose the amendment for reasons given in "The Mormons" by a professor of political science, which more or less boiled down to what he saw as the Church's interest in keeping women barefoot and pregnant. He gave sort of a standard p.c. blurb.
Just for a little background, ERA applies only to "state action" and most employment is in the private sector; additionally, the civil rights statutes (particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) forbids sex discrimination in employment in the private sector, and latter was amended to include state governments. During the ERA debate the Supreme Court had already brought sex discrimination within the scope of the 14th Amendment. The professor's claims about employment and opportunity are simply mistaken in my judgment.
If you want to know why the Church opposed ERA (I am giving my opinion) take a look at a recent decision by a Maryland trial court in which that State's marriage law was held unconstitutional under the State's ERA. (The case is now pending at the State's highest court, awaiting a decision.) Maryland has an express statute saying that marriage requires a man and a woman. The judge said this was sex discrimination because, for example, a man could marry a woman but not a man and this distinction is simply based on the sex of the partner. In many other cases now being litigated, marriage is challenged as being a form of sex discrimination.
Marriage is not the only problematic area; abortion is another (and there are others, sports teams and the military draft, to name just two). Years ago, "Dialogue" (isn't it the "Journal of Mormon Thought"?) published an article of mine on this subject. At the time, the editor of "Dialogue" was a member of this Ward, a supporter of ERA, and possibly the wife of the Bishop (if not, it happened later when he was ordained). Perhaps she still supports ERA; you can ask her. Arlington Ward was a hot bed of liberated women. Still is. At that time, though, some feelings ran hot.
(You want to be a radical woman? Try being a stay-at-home mom and see if society doesn't think you are either (a) weird, (b) ignorant and uneducated, or (c) under the thumb of some benighted patriarch.)
I do not believe the claim (or implication) in "The Mormons" that Sonia Johnson was excommunicated for "supporting" the ERA. Sonia Johnson was a member of this Stake (at the time, it was Oakton Stake) when she was excommunicated, and although we never get to hear the Church's side of these disputes, we do know that Sonia Johnson had advocated that persons not welcome "Mormon" missionaries until the Church changed its position on ERA. Now, if you tell the world not to hear the message of our missionaries for any reason whatsoever, you are, in my judgment, putting your membership at risk.
Sonia Johnson has gone on to become a leading Wiccan (unless I am confusing my pagan sects), and her recent books give evidence of where her heart and mind have gone. Her soul has followed -- or perhaps vice versa.
I would like to know more about the professor of classics on "The Mormons" who says she was excommunicated for her feminist writings. I, for one, was impressed by her. The thing is, we'll never know why the Church acted (through her stake president).
Here's my summing-up: I regard the Church's stand on ERA as one of the more powerful recent evidences of divine inspiration within the hierarchy. That stand was, in my judgment, the work of prophets and seers. Law consists in large part in forecasting (or guessing) what courts will do in the future. I count the Church's position as a brilliant job of constitutional lawyering.
We are in the midst of a world-wide revolution on sex/gender (if you think there are just two sexes/genders you haven't been keeping up). This comes on the heels of the largely successful revolution on sex/the act. ERA was ("is" -- it's still around and being urged in the states), in my judgment, a weapon in these revolutions. A religious organization that can issue the "Proclamation on the Family" would have a problem with the Equal Rights Amendment, and with some (not all) of the hopes and goals of some (not all) of the advocates of that amendment."