The Newnan Times-Herald


Brass withdraws support for ERA

  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Feb. 10, 2019 - 9:35 PM

Georgia’s attempt to become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is down one supporter, after State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, asked to have his name removed from the resolution ratifying the amendment.

Brass said after did his homework on the amendment, which was approved by Congress in 1972, before he was born, he no longer wanted to support the ratification push.

For the amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution, it must be ratified by 38 of the 50 states. Before the original ratification deadline of 1975, 35 states had ratified it.

In 2017, Nevada ratified the amendment, and in May 2018, Illinois followed. If Georgia votes to ratify the amendment, it would become the 38th state.

The deadline for ratification was 1982, but Congress could vote to extend that deadline. However, four states voted to revoke their ratification between 1973 and 1978.

Two weeks ago, female Georgia legislators introduced resolutions to ratify the ERA.

Brass said when he was approached about the resolution, “It seemed harmless."

When he’s asked to sign onto a bill, “I have to make pretty quick decisions,” he said. “It seemed harmless, and I signed it."

“Then the next thing I know I started getting calls and emails… and I started doing my homework. I didn’t know the history of it."

Brass said he started hearing from “people I know and people I trust."

When he started doing research, he said he saw the potential harm that could come from the ERA becoming part of the Constitution.

The amendment states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

“I signed this resolution because I do believe in equal protection under the law for everyone,” Brass said in his address to the Senate. “I want my daughter to have any and every opportunity afforded to her as fairly and as equally as her male counterparts. Every little girl, every woman, every individual should have those opportunities,” he said.

The amendment looks great on paper, Brass said, but after hearing from people who share his values, “I found that many of them who support equal rights just like all of us do don’t actually support the Equal Rights Amendment."

Some say it’s not needed because the Fourteenth Amendment already guarantees equality under the law, Brass said.

“Others say this amendment is a Trojan horse that could hurt someone with unintended consequences, whether it be a military draft or a child custody case,” Brass said.

But most importantly to him, he said, some believe that the amendment could be used to reduce current restrictions on abortion.

“I don’t know if any of that is true, but I’m not willing to risk any living, breathing human’s life to find out if any of that is true,” Brass said.

Every law that is passed is subject to interpretation. But whose interpretation, asked Brass. “Whose value system, whose moral compass will actually be translated what the legislature intended through passage?” Brass said in his address. “I don’t want to leave something like this up to the 9th Circuit (in California),” he said. “I don’t want to leave this up to some judge that I don’t know what their moral compass is, I don’t know anything about them, I don’t know about their belief system."

Brass said he looks forward with working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to make sure that Georgians receive equal protection.

“I feel in my heart that we can and will find a solution, but I don’t feel that this body should legislate based purely on good intentions,” he said.

Brass said he could have quietly removed his name from the Senate resolution, but he wanted to explain why he made the decision.

“I wanted everyone on both sides of that issue to understand exactly why I came off,” he said.

“It was a tough decision. Nobody wants to admit they were wrong, especially publicly, in front of what turned out to be millions of people,” he said. “I made the tough call and decided to walk away from it."