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 last week 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 suggestion 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.
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 but Ducey.
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.
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.
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 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, whose district includes part of Gilbert, made a procedural motion to instead have the House recess. That was approved along party lines, denying Democrats the vote they sought – and keeping Republicans from having to go on the record on whether they support or oppose the amendment.
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.
Townsend added, “I do have a problem with government telling businesses how to operate.”