by Dianne Post
When I entered the gallery to the House of Representatives at 1 p.m. April 10, the floor was still largely empty and I noticed six purple and white ERA sashes hanging on the backs of chairs. The House started about 1:15 as usual with many points of personal privilege introducing visitors in the gallery and reading resolutions. About 10 minutes was spent discussing high school sports and introducing retired coaches. During the entire time, Representative Pamela Powers Hannley stood quietly. She stood in order to be recognized by the speaker pro tem. She wasn’t.
The minute the last friendly representative was finished, the speaker flew to a different topic and started reading rapidly and loudly into the mic. Rep. Powers Hannley was furiously banging on her button, waving her arms and shouting “speaker, speaker.” Not until a man’s voice shouted “point of order” did the speaker respond.
Rep. Ken Clark had called point of order and reminded the speaker that he had forgotten Powers Hannley who had been standing for all this time. The speaker said he was not obligated to recognize any one! But he did then call on her.
She asked for a suspension of the rules to hear HCR 2011 the Resolution in favor of the ERA. A Republican representative immediately called for a motion to adjourn. As a motion for adjournment takes precedence over any other motion, that must be voted on first. Powers Hannley then called for a roll call vote which must be done when asked.
The roll call vote gives any Representative who wishes the opportunity to speak to explain their vote. Thus while sports triumphed over the ERA, the Democrats were at least able to educate those who would listen. Powers Hannley started out with the ERA being introduced in 1923 and explained its heritage. Rep. Epstein spoke about this day also being Equal Pay Day and gave statistics on the impact of unequal pay on women. Rep. Peten lauded the accomplishments of two African American women who worked on equal rights for women. During her presentation the floor had gotten so noisy Rep. Cardenas had to call a point of order to explain that the floor was given to Peten not for everyone else to speak. Rep. Fernandez then pointed out that 76% of teachers are women and unequal pay heavily impacts them.
Republican Kelly Townsend, with Cathy Herod of Center from Arizona Policy sitting in the gallery pulling the strings, then read something from the National Right to Life group against the ERA claiming it will impact abortions. Sorry to remind you but abortion is already a constitutional right in the U.S. At least for now.
Kelly Butler then talked about Equal Pay Day and its impact on women and the refusal of the Republican majority to allow a proper debate on the ERA. Benally pointed out that for Native American women, it was not Equal Pay Day until September 7! Not until then did Native women earn what men had earned the previous year. Rep. Blanc explained that many Republicans had said that women already had equality. Well, if you believe that, then what’s the harm in voting for the ERA? By refusing to pass the ERA, women are betraying their daughters and granddaughters.
Rep. Engel pointed out that Republican Sandra Day O’Connor was the first person to bring the ERA to the state legislature where it passed the Senate in 1972 but failed in the House. Rep. Salman talked about the Equal Pay Day press conference she had participated in that morning with Mayor Greg Stanton and City Council member Kate Gallegos at City Hall organized by Central Phoenix Inez Casiano NOW. Sally Gonzales pointed out that she had five daughters and eleven granddaughters and was flabbergasted at the refusal of the Republicans to support the ERA. Rep. Alston said it was way past time and she didn’t want her great grandchildren to be here without the ERA. Rep. Gabaldon referenced a Nation magazine article talking about the 169 year heritage of the ERA and the astonishment that it has not yet been ratified.
The only man who spoke was Rep. Descheenie who referenced the discussion held in January regarding inappropriate behavior and then ouster of Rep. Shooter. The point then was that the legislature had allowed a culture to develop that enabled this type of behavior. Likewise the continued refusal to pass the ERA creates a culture where women can and are devalued. It’s how we treat people that matters and we create culture not with our words but our actions.
Republican Farnsworth then stood up and declared that he would say his four reasons why he opposed the ERA – every one a demonstrable lie. He claimed the 14th amendment protects women, the ERA would harm states rights, there was sufficient legislation for the wage gap issue, and that courts in CT and NM had used state ERAs to remove restrictions on abortion. There was a laugh in the House when he referred to the ERA as the NRA. He claimed discrimination on gender is now illegal and that the wage gap figures do not take into account education, experience, unionization and region – all false.
The motion to adjourn was passed 32 Republicans to 25 Democrats. It was notable who was missing – Republicans Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Heather Carter (the two who sponsored HCR2012 to ratify the ERA) and Rep. Weninger. They received a tip off just before session started and skedaddled out of harms way. I suggest the Democrats bring this motion up every single day, thus causing the Republicans to adjourn the House every single day bringing work to a halt. If you are going to use the rules to keep the people’s house from doing the people’s business (91% of all Americans SUPPORT the ERA), then let’s use the prejudice against women to bring the people’s house down. Remember in November.