“Relief Society General President Opposes ERA,” Ensign, Feb. 1975, 84
“The Equal Rights Amendment is so broad that it is inadequate, inflexible, and vague,” said Relief Society General President Barbara B. Smith in an address delivered to institute students at the University of Utah shortly before Christmas.
The ERA is a unratified Constitutional amendment that claims to bar discrimination on the basis of sex. “It is my opinion that the amendment would work to the disadvantage of both women and men,” she continued. “Its passage could portend a weakening of moral and social values which have produced strong people, strong homes, and a strong nation. By reason of the nature of the act itself, it seems unlikely that it can accommodate for the fundamental differences and appropriate roles of men and women. Once it is passed, the enforcement will demand an undeviating approach which will create endless problems for an already troubled society.”
Terming the amendment “not only imperfect but even dangerous,” she queried, “is there a law which is unfair to men? If so, change it through the legislative process. Is there a law which is unfair to women? If so, change it. Seek redress in the legislatures, in the courts, through presidential decree, or by group action. Make sure that each law is carefully considered individually. Insist on the enforcement of laws in an orderly process as exemplified by the greatest suffragette leaders of the past. As you do, make sure the uniqueness of the individual is protected and the family strengthened.”
She praised efforts of Utah’s women in the women’s suffrage movement, then stated, “But from my study of history, I do not believe that the Equal Rights Amendment is a continuation of the women’s suffrage movement that gave women the right to vote. Equal rights are not necessarily women’s rights and, indeed, indiscriminately applied equality may abolish women’s rights.”
Sister Smith’s grandmother was a physician and her mother was a teacher. “I want women to have social, financial, and legal rights. I want each woman to be a valued individual. I want to see a woman learn much. I want her to become the best woman, the best citizen, responsible and participating, in both her own country and in the kingdom of God; the best homemaker, the greatest individual she is capable of becoming. I want her to be self-confident, trained, a great participator and partner in life; but, I want to be sure that the laws enacted will provide for these things to happen. The Equal Rights Amendment is not the way.”