You can’t find a more civic-minded, issue-oriented organization than the League of Women Voters. This nonpartisan group is dedicated to a mission of building an informed democracy “where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.”
The organization, both nationally and in Moore County, is also about empowering women “to create a more perfect democracy.” One of the issues the League has embraced to do that is ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and its inclusion in the U.S. Constitution.
The ERA, first proposed in 1923, has been out of the headlines for almost 40 years, but attempts at its ratification have been renewed in recent years. As a refresher, here’s what it says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
One more state is needed to put it over its mandated approval of 38 states, giving supporters hope that North Carolina could be that state. Toward that effort, the League of Women Voters has taken to trying to garner “grass roots” support that would sway the General Assembly to approve it.
And so local League members have recently approached a few of Moore County’s town boards seeking support resolutions they can show lawmakers.
Reception Without Resolution
So far, the League has presented resolutions to boards in Carthage, Pinehurst and Aberdeen. The results have been decidedly flat and, in the case of Carthage, downright bizarre. There, a presentation sparked one town commissioner, Marc Phillips, to declare the resolution didn’t protect the rights of the unborn.
“I can’t find three unequal rights of people in the United States (…), other than the unborn,” Phillips said. “I can’t think of a citizen that doesn’t have the same rights that I have or my wife has.”
That then drew a sharp exchange with fellow commissioner George Wilson about discrimination and unequal treatment in America today. The Carthage board ultimately tabled the resolution.
In Aberdeen and Pinehurst this past week, the League received a far calmer reception but no resolution.
““When local government starts getting into national politics, you don’t know where it is going,” said Aberdeen Mayor Robbie Farrell. “When you say yay or nay to national issues, it takes away from what we are here to do, which is look after community interests.”
And, said Pinehurst Council member Jack Farrell, “We are focused mostly on local issues and I think we should keep it that way.”
Granted, these are the opinions of two white men. Aberdeen Commissioner Wilma Laney and Pinehurst Council member Judy Davis were the lone resolution supporters on their boards.
“I have lived through” inequality, Davis said to applause from a large number of League members and ERA supporters in the audience. “I came through it stronger. I have the scars.”
An Errant Strategy
On the matter of strategy, the League of Women Voters has the wrong execution of the right idea. Equality for all must be the law of this land. That also means our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents as well. And if it is to be codified through the ERA, then so be it. But taking resolutions before local town boards is not the way to achieve the League’s goal.
The General Assembly could care less what town boards think. Lawmakers over the last several years have continued to strip taxing and legislative authority from these same entities over their howls of protest and not thought twice about doing it. Their simple statements “resolving” support hold no political value.
A more effective strategy would have the League lobby the General Assembly itself and, if need be, advocate for state candidates who favor passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Let local officials stick to local matters.