Shall Any State...Deny Any Person Within It's Jurisdiction The
Equal Protection of the Laws."
other words in the constitution so clearly embody the American
promise of equality. And no other words seem better fashioned
to remedy law enforcement's systematic denial of justice to women
victims of rape and domestic violence. In fact, the very conditions
that stimulated the framing of the fourteenth amendment are so
hauntingly analogous to women's situation today it seems impossible
that women's legal appeals to this amendment have been rejected
for so long.
The fourteenth amendment
was ratified in 1868 soon after the emancipation of the slaves.
With the dissolution of the legal bonds of slavery, southern whites
resorted to widespread racist violence against blacks as a means
of regaining control over the freed slaves. Southern law enforcement
responded to this epidemic violence at best by folding their arms
and looking the other way. It was this deliberate and systematic
refusal by law enforcement to intervene in the racist violence
that the 14th amendment was designed to remedy. And when the amendment
was written, it was done so with the lofty, expanded ideal of
guaranteeing all persons equal protection of the laws.
But there was a terrible
deal cut by the northern politicians in hopes of appeasing southern
politicians for whom the thought of black male equality was pill
enough. Set into the 2nd article of the 14th amendment, penalties
were laid out to any state that denied these protections to their
"MALE" citizens. Women fought fiercely to defeat this devious
trick, and lost. It was the first time a distinction on the basis
of sex appeared in the constitution, and women today are not out
from under it yet.
women could not resist the promising words of equal protection.
They began right away making legal appeal to the 14th amendment
for voting rights, labor rights, education rights, all their rights,
and above all, equal rights. And the Supreme Court began just
as quickly devising their medieval, `separate sphere ideology'
for women. "By divine ordination", as the Supreme Court first
stated this damning doctrine of women as other than person, women
are "properly placed in a class by herself". And so for over a
century, the more women have appealed to the 14th amendment for
her rights, the more the Supreme Court has said, `No, you're different',
and the deeper the high court has driven the wedge of women's
inequality into the heart of American law.
This is why women have
tried so hard for the last century to pass an equal rights amendment;
out of sheer desperation to somehow make an end run around the
bitter chain of betrayals cast of 14th amendment decisions against
her. In these attempts to gain passage of an equal rights amendment,
women were defeated again.
It's only in the last
couple decades that women have begun to undo some of the 14th
amendment damages, and this mostly in the areas of labor and education.
But in regard to rape and domestic violence victims' right to
equal protection from law enforcement, the Supreme Court, as recently
as 1989 has delivered women it's own brand of devastating blows,
twice, affirming, and in fact strengthening, law enforcement's
right to do nothing at all. Leaving women until now with no way
at all to hold law enforcement accountable.
That is why, following
the July 20th, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Maria
Teresa Macias had a 14th amendment right to non-discriminatory
police services, we are astonished. We are ecstatic. And we even
dare to hope that when a women calls police for help, she will
get the protection and justice that is her long, long, long overdue