A *REAL* Equal Rights Amendment (Part 2 of 2)
- An Amendment is needed to protect all known and unknown groupings of people from discrimination — whether official or understood — in any area both public and private.
- The majority should never be able to hold tyranny over the minority.
- Laws controlling the actions of people should only exist if those actions bring harm to others or their property.
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 1, Clause 2 shall be added:
No edict by any government nor rule — whether official or understood — by any private persons or businesses shall be created, maintained, or enforced that denies or abridges the equality in law and treatment of the many people of the United States and the people in care of the United States on the basis of age, ethnicity, race, color, physical attributes, religion or lack thereof, gender or gender identity, sexuality, language, origin, family origin, national origin, citizenship status, immigration status, political affiliation, group affiliation, personal affiliation, employment status, economic situation, or any other known or unknown way of categorizing people, except in cases where a person is unable to be treated equally due to physical or mental limitations, or where necessary knowledge and skills are required.
Once again, we have added a new Article to the Constitution in number 9. Article 8 was the new one we added to put in limitation on government, and this Article has a similar theme. However, it is closer to Article 4: State’s Relations. As such, Article 9 is “People Relations”, basically the contract the government would have to support and interact with people.
This specific Clause makes a broad setup of how people are to be treated and what that means. It is important to note that right from the beginning this Amendment is both for the laws any government may make and for any rule a business or person may make. Those rules do not have to be official or written down — even an unwritten rule that is enacted and can be proven as discrimination would be a violation. Think of this when someone is applying for a job and no one over 50 is hired into the position. While it is not official policy or written anywhere, age would appear to be a determining factor, and that would not be allowed.
Once more we delve into the fact that this would apply not just to citizens, but to all people, no matter where they are in society. The extension of this is again for those “in care of the United States”, which is an allusion to any person the United States is holding in custody regardless of legal status (i.e., expired/undocumented immigrants or enemy combatants). As noted, this entire Article is about the relationship of the Government to the People, and the People come in many forms that the no government nor business should be able to distinguish between.
And creating (or rather eliminating) distinction is what makes this a truly Equal Rights Amendment. It is not about gender, it is not about race, it is not about religion, it is not about nationality. The larger issue at play here is the idea that people are categorized and placed into buckets at all. As an unfortunate psychological condition, humans will not only place themselves into groups, they will place others into groups. Being an impossible genetic condition to overcome, the law must make clear that no matter what way we divide people into smaller and smaller slices, the slice still is irrelevant. Anything that makes living more difficult for a person because another person has put them in a certain bucket is a violation. That is why in particular the Amendment ends with “any other known or unknown way of categorizing people” — because it is important to note that we will continue to figure out ways to classify people in manners we may not even be aware.
Each group has had to fight the same battle for equal rights. Whether people of color, women, homosexuals, transgender people, or whomever comes next, those who fear “the other” will always try to put a line in the sand and determine who should be allowed and should not be. This could be anything! Ultra-liberal people may want to ban extreme-conservatives, the poor may want to limit the rich, the blue collar may want to rein in the white collar, Star Wars fans may want to silence Star Trek fans — and all vice versa. Any group with sufficient clout can diminish the other.
The only exceptions we need to make is for those with physical or mental limitations or not having the needed skills. Now, this can take many forms. On the one hand, a construction job that requires walking on high beams cannot be done by someone in a wheelchair and the exception for unequal treatment in employment must be allowed. Similarly, the job of a nuclear physicist cannot be attained by someone without the proper education. On the other end, it also allows us to create unequal protections. The American Disabilities Act grants special rights and requires by law the treatment of individuals in a different way, but this is necessary to give them equal access and opportunity. All these exceptions are about creating opportunity without undue burden and having to hear all potential situations; that is a matter of law to be imposed.
Altogether, the important take away is that neither the government nor any company can refuse to work with or limit access to any person for any reason and needs to make accommodations for those who would otherwise be refused. Each group would not have to go through the same fight for rights as the privileges would be enshrined in the Constitution. Should any group be refused, they can point right to this Amendment. After all, just because you may be in the majority today, it does not mean you always will be, and that whatever group you belong to should not have to fight to get back rights that should never have been taken away in the first place.
While reviewing this, a quote comes to mind:
When children learn to devalue others they can devalue anyone, including their parents.
This line was given by Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard in Season 6, Episode 11 of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled “Chain of Command, Part II” and first aired on December 21, 1992. Thinking we should not take advice from fictional characters and want to hear from the Founding Fathers? Thomas Jefferson said in his inaugural address on March 4, 1801:
All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
It is a nice sentiment and all, but it is just that: a sentiment. In order to establish this as a principal, let us make it law:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 1, Clause 3 shall be added:
No law of any government, nor any Amendment to this Constitution, shall allow the will of the majority to hold tyranny over the minority.
To paraphrase John Adams, we do not want the majority to hold tyranny over the minority and that the minority — whatever it may be — must still have equal rights. There is a very particular limit to this that we must attend to, but there is first another issue to address. You most likely noticed that with the Equal Rights Amendment we added that it was Clause 2. So, what is Clause 1? Well, we return to our original Amendments and look through the ones we have not placed to date and see where they belong in the scheme of this Article:
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 1 shall be added and consist of:
• Clause 1: Amendment 9
• Clause 4: Amendment 1
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 2 shall be added and consist of:
• Clause 1: Amendment 26
• Clause 2: Amendment 15
• Clause 3: Amendment 19
• Clause 4: Amendment 24
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 3 shall be added and consist of:
• Clause 1: Amendment 2
• Clause 2: Amendment 3
The 9th Amendment specifically states that:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Thus if this Article is about aligning the rights of the people and their relationship with the Federal Government, the 9th Amendment actually is the most logical first one to set the tone, followed by the Equal Rights Amendment, the tyranny of the majority, and then the 1st Amendment granting a number of specific privileges like expression, religion, assembly, and petition.
The second section consists of voting rights: 26th for age, 15th for race, 19th for gender, and 24th for poll tax. Next, the third section is on other relations such as the 2nd Amendment for bearing arms (do not worry, we will discuss this later) and the 3rd Amendment preventing the forced quartering of soldiers under most situations (there are loopholes, of course).
And that is all the Constitution has to say on the rights of people. Yet, there is one other right of the people that should be put just as high as the first Amendment in protecting people from the overreach of government, and that is the right to self. This is the limit on equal protections that would give the government the right to make the laws that governs people’s lives.
By Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, Article 9, Section 1, Clause 5 shall be added:
The rights of the people shall not be abridged or denied until the actions of the person brings harm to another. Each person has the inalienable rights to take any action with himself and his property, so long as that will does not violate the rights of another. No law shall be created, maintained, or enforced by any government that may abridge or deny the rights of a person unless this principal is taken into consideration.
Earlier, we said that the will of the majority cannot hold tyranny over the minority, but there are times when we want that to be so. For instance, a majority of people are not murderers and having murder be allowed because it is the will of some minority group is not conducive to a functioning society. The way we address this is through “harm”. As laid out in this Amendment, a person has the right to do anything to their own body and their own property up until the point they do harm to another.
As an example of a benign way this could be interpreted, a town may have a law of how long you can keep your grass or how much scrap you can keep on your property. The reason for this is a public health concern where long grass and large piles of scrap attract rodents that in turn spread to neighbors and bring with them disease and destruction. In this case, your actions on your property are bringing harm to others and therefore can be regulated.
Similarly, a noise ordinance could be enforced because if you are playing loud music or having parties at 2:13am on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, your disturbance of your neighbors is bringing harm. Harm can be minor; it does not always have to involve robbery, rape, or murder.
Moving up the chain, if you choose to imbibe alcohol or any other mind/body altering substance, you are only doing harm to your own mind/body and not anyone else. Anything you put in your body could not be stopped. However, a law can be made that if you get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated you are putting others in potential harm and can be held accountable. Similarly, the government can regulate the quality (though not the existence, more on this later) of these substances to make sure they are not bringing harm to those who consume them.
At the end of the day, the idea is that the people have rights and those rights are not enumerated as stated by the 9th Amendment. We should not have to add rights to the Constitution or create laws whenever an exact circumstance comes up. Whatever you do to yourself and your property is your business and not the government’s. The government should only be concerned when what you do impacts others, and there the government acts as the intermediary to make sure there is an appropriate response.
When something new comes along, the assumption should be you are free to do it until told otherwise. Laws are the balance to your freedom, not the definition of it.
TO BE CONTINUED…