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The Stealth Clause: Clause "C"

CCRI Stabs Women in the back

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

The California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) is becoming known as the "civil wrongs" initiative. It seeks to outlaw all state affirmative action, but does not mention affirmative action. It also contains a stealth clause - Clause "C" - that reopens legalized discrimination against women. The clause reads:

"Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex which are reasonably necessary in the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

It sounds like a vague, 'separate-but-equal' concept for women.

CCRI is smoothly crafted. It's sort of like David Duke in a tie and coat. He looks good, but he is still a Nazi.

CCRI's impact on the progress of women will be destructive and devastating. CCRI would change the California constitution to make discrimination against women legal. It does the very opposite of what the Equal Rights Amendment would achieve.

Professor Edwin Cheriminsky, from the USC School of Law, writes:

"Simply put, CCRI is the difference between the courts allowing gender discrimination only in rare and compelling circumstances, and the courts allowing gender discrimination in virtually any situation. Moreover, section "C" would expressly permit gender discrimination in areas where the law has never allowed it. ... No current law, state or federal, allows gender to be used as a qualification for public education or public contracting. Yet CCRI would do this and thus expressly permit discrimination against women and girls where it has never been legally permitted."

Will fire departments become (or stay) all male? Will the slippery doctrine of "reasonable necessity" be used - as it was used by white men in the past- to increase disparities in funding for athletic programs for men's and women's sports? When we remember that 97 percent of American school superintendents are white men, 80 percent of the Congress are white men, 90 percent of the Senate are men, clause "C" is a threat to all women. White men of power - bankers, realtors. Corporate executives - still run this country.

Twenty-five years ago there were no women pilots, no women cops or fire-fighters, hardly any women in the skilled trades. After years of courageous struggle, the first women entered the San Francisco Fire Department in 1987. Help wanted ads were divided into men's jobs and women's jobs. The concept of "reasonable necessity," "reasonable gender categories" justified male supremacy.

Today, two-thirds of all poor in America are women. Women are still more likely than men to live in poor housing, receive no health insurance. They are twice as likely to draw no pension. The average female college graduate today earns less than a man with no more than a high school diploma.

Eighty percent of working women in the U.S. -- as Susan Faludi Points out -- are stuck in traditional "reasonably necessary" female jobs - secretaries, sales clerks, support workers. And the U.S. government - in contrast to almost all industrialized nations - has no family leave or child care programs.

Clause "C" has yet to be discussed or even recognized in the media. But make no mistake, it will be a central issue, a wake-up call to California women and men of good will.

On April 14th, the National Organization of Women will sponsor a mass "march against the right' in San Francisco. The upcoming NOW rally could become an historic event. And you can be sure that, after Patricia Ireland and Reverend Jesse Jackson and others speak clause "C" will be infamous.

Paul Rockwell, formerly assistant professor of philosophy at Midwestern University, is a writer who lives in Oakland, California.

Published in In Motion Magazine October 20, 1996.