I witnessed the assassination of equal rights in Nevada.
That 1977 night, the legislative hallway was empty, the senate chamber was packed. Only juice lobbyists Jim Joyce and Charlie Bell stood outside, peeking through senate doorway windows, giggling to each other like teenage boys viewing the girl’s locker room. With no one else around, they turned toward me to boastfully predict the Equal Rights Amendment would fail 10-8.
They didn’t count on Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, the master of parliamentary procedure. Neal rose to address the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Bob Rose (pun intended). Neal moved to invoke Senate Rule 30, an arcane provision from 1864. Las Vegas Democrats Wilbur Faiss and Bill Hernstadt immediately seconded Neal’s motion, putting the rule into effect.
Former Democratic Washoe DA Rose had publicly stated he would break a 10-10 tie and pass the ERA.
The final tally showed 10 aye, 8 nay, 2 not voting. Rose then shocked the world. Rule 30 commanded recording any non-vote as opposition.
“He announced that the two abstentions would be placed in the ‘no’ column, declared the house evenly divided, and boom! he pushed that button, and the eleventh vote came up onscreen,” Neal remembered in his 2008 UNR oral history.
“I’ll never forget it.”
The good ole boys club had let equal rights for women escape. We couldn’t allow that in our whorehouse state. Something had to be done, but what?
The late Mr. Joyce, who brought corruption of government to levels we still suffer, saw a business opportunity. He offered a deal to ultraconservative Mormon Senate Majority Leader Jim Gibson, D-Henderson. If Joyce could get the Nevada Assembly to kill the ERA, would Gibson reverse his position on pet legislation for Joyce’s gamblers and other clients? Gibson had a reputation for honesty and hard work but sold out.
Joyce and Bell immediately turned the Assembly Democratic leadership against the ERA. This included Joe Dini (D-Yerington), then in his first term as speaker; Democratic Majority Leader Dan DeMers and Speaker Pro-Tem Harley Harmon, Jr., both D-Gomorrah South. Eight lawmakers long committed to women’s rights reversed themselves after Joyce and Bell cashed in their campaign contributions.
“Remember the eight who lied” became a rallying cry for women statewide.
The state senate will try again March 1. Let March roar in like a lion.
Nevadans must remember.
HAIL CESAR. ERA supporter Janette Dean addressed last year’s César Chávez Celebration. Equal justice for all will again be on the menu at César XV the evening of March 29 at Circus Circus Reno. Info and reservations at CesarChavezNevada.com/
LYING IN WAIT. Remember that white-sheeted southern congressman who screamed “you lie!” at President Obama during his first State of the Union address?
Tsar Donaldov Vladimirovitch will address Congress Feb. 28.
I suggest soccer rules. Every time the tsar commits what Winston Churchill called a “terminological inexactitude,” (the word “liar” is banned in Parliament), attendees should politely hold up a red card.
No offense could be taken. It’s the favorite color of presidents from here to Moscow.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 48-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail <email@example.com> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. Portions of this column appeared in the 19 July 1997 edition.