Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Speaking Legalese

Dick Maple thinks a woman can't be elected president--and not for the usual reasons (how could we have a president who might be bitchy at "that time of the month?" or "Without a penis how can she be taken seriously?"). Maple says it's illegal to do so!

Most people believe not only that the 19th Amendment permitted women the right to vote but that since women serve in Congress, the courts and other offices of government, the office of president of the United States has been de-genderized.

Not true. This important legal question exists now and has not been constitutionally addressed. The language and syntax of the 19th Amendment merely removed the barriers that prevented women from voting. It did not identify women to be qualified to become elected president.

The language is clear. The 19th Amendment says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

We cannot read into the amendment something that is not there. Now, had the amendment said, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote or hold public office shall not be denied," it would have accomplished what the feminists think took place.

The Susan B. Anthony Amendment (as it was then known, because the words were actually drafted by the suffragist in 1875) passed in the House by a vote of 304 to 89. The Senate then passed it, 56 to 25. The text of both the House and Senate deliberately avoided any language that would allow or permit women the right to seek the highest office in the land! It was the considered opinion of senators on both sides of the aisle that if language de-genderized the presidency, the amendment's ratification by the necessary 36 states would be in great doubt.

Today's feminists believe the election process is an evolutionary process, legalized by common practice and that someday a woman will be president. They are convinced that since women have run for the office, the male-gendered presidential office has been neutered.

Not so. They will be challenged, and a Supreme Court ruling on the language will be necessary. At the very least a constitutional amendment to change the language will be required.

Happily, readers of the Concord Monitor disagree with this. Alex Martin writes back:

Re "Legally, a woman can't be elected president" (Monitor Opinion page, Feb. 20):

Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 5 of the Constitution specifically deals with the qualifications for a presidential candidate. Nowhere does it say that the president must be a man or that the office cannot be held by a woman.

It says that the president must be a natural born citizen, have lived in the United States for a least 14 years and be at least 35 years of age.

It is true that the pronoun "he" is used a number of times. This could be attributed to the only recently declining practice of using male pronouns to refer to both sexes at the same time.

So if you feel that Hillary Clinton is the best among the candidates for president, feel free to root for her; it is perfectly legal for her to be president.

For the record, I do not back Clinton.
Phew! That was a close one!

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