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The Maria Teresa Macias Case

Fourteenth Amendement, For Women?

The Fourtheenth Amendment to the US Constitution
(Has Not Been For Women)

"...Nor Shall Any State...Deny Any Person Within It's Jurisdiction The Equal Protection of the Laws."

Maria Teresa MaciasNo 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.

Still 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 constitutional right.

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Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,

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