Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The 27th Amendment and Women's Rights - A Connection

The Constitution of the United States of America is a wonderful document. The principles upon which it is founded are the cornerstone of our very souls. The document is emblematic of that uniqueness of the American Spirit which gave it birth. It has but one flaw. Almost immediately after the opening phrase “We the People”, we the people get left behind. The document is so hard for the average American to understand that it sometimes appears to be saying the opposite of what it means.

We all know that it is not without flaw; no document ever is; even my own. But you have to marvel at some of the stuff the founding fathers; and their successors; have come up with over the centuries. My favorite is, of course, the 27th Amendment. This Amendment was passed within our lifetimes. I’m assuming that you were born before 1992. I was born in 1954. And, as with all previous Amendments passed since I was born, I paid close attention to it.

The 23rd Amendment was the first in my lifetime. It dealt with giving the citizens in the District of Columbia the right to vote. This was a big deal. Imagine, before this law was passed, white folks were actually equal with African-Americans south of the Mason-Dixon Line. They couldn't vote either. I was 7 years old and I understood this Amendment.

The 24th Amendment was passed in 1964 and abolished the poll tax, ensuring that all citizens had a right to vote. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Voting Rights Act. I was 10 years old and understood it.

The 25th Amendment was less interesting, as it dealt with succession of the office of the Presidency. But since we had lost a President when Kennedy was assassinated only 4 years earlier, I did pay attention. I was 13 and I understood it.

The 26th Amendment was an easy one. It was passed in 1971 when I was almost 17 years old. With a Presidential Election coming in November of 1972, it meant that I could vote, along with anyone else who was 18 years old. I was 17 years old at the time, so I really understood this one.

Now, here’s my favorite; the 27th Amendment. Before I even take umbrage with it, I will print it here for you. You can go and check it elsewhere if you wish. I assure you it is to the letter.

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

Now, the Amendment was added as an addition to Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which states;

“The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

The original intent of the article was that the elected members of Congress not decide for themselves how much they were worth. The Amendment to it not only muddles this point but ends up in calling for an election of the representatives; which was never an issue in the first place. After all, Congress does make the laws.

But; moreover; in practice this was tied to a Court Case in 1989 which gave the Congressmen and Congresswomen a Cost of Living increase annually. The rest of the country has never had a cost of living increase. The court declared that a cost of living increase for the Senate and Congress was not a raise. This of course also applies to Federal Employees.

So, basically the Congress waited until the cost of living was already in place before ratifying the amendment giving themselves the power to grant themselves a raise. And they get a cost of living increase along with it. And every other year they get to vote against accepting this cost of living increase, giving themselves a great opportunity to pretend to be turning down a raise. At about $180,000 per year plus perks and expenses I guess they can afford to wait a year or so.

And let’s not forget that if they vote against it for 3 years in a row; or any number of years for that matter; they later on get the cumulative increase for the years in which they voted to not get a cost of living increase. It’s a shell game. It took them 202 years to ratify this 24 word amendment. Ask someone what it means. I’m 59 and still don’t understand it.

Now you have to ask yourself why this was allowed to stand after so long a time had passed. After all, the passage of time is exactly what they say keeps the Equal Rights Amendment for Women from being ratified. And that's only 41 years old. It only lacks 3 states. By contrast the 27th Amendment was only ratified after Michigan certified it on May 7, 1992. This made 38 states, enough for the Amendment to be certified by the Chief Archivist of the United States Don W. Wilson. On May 19, 1992, he had it printed in the Federal Register, together with the certificate of ratification.

The only 2 legislators to speak out against the unusual length of time for ratification were Tom Foley and Robert Byrd. They called for a challenge to the Ratification. But,technically speaking, certifying an amendment falls under Title 1, section 106 b of the United States Code, which states:

“Whenever official notice is received at the National Archives and Records Administration that any amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States has been adopted, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the Archivist of the United States shall forthwith cause the amendment to be published, with his certificate, specifying the States by which the same may have been adopted, and that the same has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.”

Notice the statute does not contain a time clause. Now you have to ask yourself why the Equal Rights Amendment for Women was not afforded the same privilege. The reason often given is that too long a time period has passed. That flies in the face of the 27th Amendment and how it had no trouble being ratified.

Basically this is about duplicity concerning the Ratification of the ERA. The real reason for the law has been lying dormant is in the wording.  It is written to grant Equal Rights to all genders. That would now include the LGBT community and Same Sex Marriage, which are both Civil Rights Issues to begin with. That legislation reads as follows;

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Our Constitution is a wonderful piece of legislation. It is; as I said earlier; the backbone of our society, and I wouldn't change it for the world. But there are parts of it that need to be made clearer for the average citizen. 

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