Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"The Meaning of Sex Discrimination Has Always Been a Moving Target"

"In its original form, the law addressed discrimination based on race, national origin, color, and religion. And then, just as the bill was about to be sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote, Rep. Howard Smith of Virginia—a virulent racist who was rabidly opposed to the bill—announced that he wanted to add a sex provision.
"It wasn't a total surprise; Smith had, for many weeks, said he was thinking about adding the amendment. Incongruously, he was a longtime supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and the National Women's Party. Women's groups started pressuring him, saying: Listen, if this bill passes, black women will enjoy more protection in the workplace—by virtue of their race—than white women. So Smith was worried that white women might have less coverage, but he also did have a real, genuine support for women's rights and believed that if this bill was going to pass, women should be a part of it."

Mark Joseph Stern interviews attorney and author Gillian Thomas in Slate about sex discrimination and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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