Sunday, March 14, 2004

Failed amendment issues include flag desecration, abortion, women's rights

By Ray Cooklis
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, only 27 amendments have been made to that document, including the first 10, adopted as the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Although the Constitution allows for amendments to be made by the states calling a formal Constitutional Convention, that method has never been used. Instead, a vote by two-thirds of each house of Congress sends a proposed amendment to state legislatures, three-fourths of which (38) must ratify it for it to be added to the Constitution.

Amendments have been ratified for such purposes as abolishing slavery (13th Amendment, 1865), granting women the right to vote (19th, 1920), establish the federal income tax (16th, 1913), elect senators by a direct vote instead of through state legislatures (17th, 1913), prohibit alcoholic beverages (18th, 1919), and repeal the ban on alcoholic beverages (21st, 1933).

Another six amendments adopted by Congress, but not ratified by the states, would have:

• Governed the size of the U.S. House based on population growth.

• Taken away the U.S. citizenship of anyone who accepts a title of nobility from a foreign government.

• Prohibited Congress from abolishing or interfering with slavery in any state.

• Given Congress the power to regulate or prohibit child labor.

• Established equal treatment under the law regardless of sex (Equal Rights Amendment).

• Allowed elected representation in Congress for residents of the District of Columbia.

Also, dozens more amendments have been proposed over the years but were not adopted by Congress.

Among them were proposals to: prohibit incarceration for minor traffic offenses; establish a right to "equal high quality" health care; prohibit flag desecration; let state legislatures propose amendments; force a national referendum for any deficit spending; prohibit early release of convicts; establish the right to a home; prohibit abortion; allow the states to set term limits for members of Congress; eliminate the Electoral College; expand House terms to four years; repeal the Second Amendment (right to bear arms); allow 16-year-olds to vote; and make English the nation's official language.

Learn more about it

For more information on the Constitution and its amendments, visit the Library of Congress Web site thomas.loc.gov and click on "Historical Documents." For more discussion, sidelights and trivia concerning the Constitution, visit www.usconstitution.net.

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