Corker poised to make difference in women's rights struggle

Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 11:45pm

Ninety years ago this summer, a Republican legislator from Tennessee, Harry T. Burn, was the key vote that gave women the right to vote in the United States. Thirty-five states had ratified it out of the 36 needed to add the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state legislature was tied, with 48 votes for and 48 against. On Aug. 18, 1920, Burn broke the tie.

Now, it seems that another Tennessee Republican could be the key to advancing, in some people’s eyes, the cause of abolishing international gender discrimination.

The Republican? U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

Corker has been identified as a target of a national campaign urging the United States to ratify a United Nations treaty first drafted in the late 1970s called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This year, the CEDAW Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has organized a national campaign to urge the Senate to ratify the treaty. Locally, the campaign has sent postcards to Corker, urging him to vote in favor of CEDAW.

“The reason why you’re seeing so much activity in Tennessee is that [Aug. 26] is Women’s Equality Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the 19th Amendment,” said Jeff Miller, spokesman for the leadership conference.

Burn, who was originally undecided on the women’s suffrage issue, was famously moved to vote yes after receiving a letter from his mother. The City Paper was unable to reach Corker’s mother, Jean Corker, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., by press time.

Corker’s office offered an email statement indicating that, as of now, he is less-than-supportive of the treaty.

“Senator Corker has been a leading advocate for improved access to social and economic opportunity in the developing world and supported efforts to end the suffering of and violence against vulnerable populations, including women. … Like most Americans, Sen. Corker believes we should stand up for the basic human rights of all people and work toward ending violence and discrimination against women wherever it occurs, but he thinks the CEDAW treaty is overly broad and could undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

Nevertheless, for the campaign, it looks in many ways to be the right year to at least attempt to change Corker’s and some of his colleagues’ minds, wielding points including the company the U.S. now keeps in failing to agree to be bound to the terms of the treaty. Qatar’s accession — in effect, the same as ratification but for the fact that Qatar didn’t sign the original treaty — makes 186 out of 193 U.N.-recognized nations on board with CEDAW. The other six non-compliers are Sudan, Somalia, Iran (all with less-than-impressive records when it comes to human rights) and Nauru, Palau, and Tonga (three island countries with a combined population nearly rivaling Chattanooga’s).

This year will also mark the first time the United States has submitted itself to a Uniform Periodic Review by the UN’s Council on Human Rights. A failure to ratify CEDAW could tarnish its record in gender equality. Finally, this year’s mid-term election will likely give some Senate seats to Republicans. Since any treaty requires a two-thirds majority (or 67 votes) for Senate approval, that already means eight GOP votes are needed on top of the full 59-member Democratic Caucus. The prospects look grimmer in 2011.

First, though, a treaty will likely have to be approved by the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, is the ranking member of that committee, but he voted against the treaty in 2002. That’s where Corker, the second-ranking Republican, comes in.

The treaty will likely be required to pass this committee to reach the Senate floor, but Corker’s office said it doesn’t expect ratification to be offered in the Senate during the 111th Congress.

CEDAW has garnered support from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker’s voting history suggests that hoping for his support for the treaty might be something of a long shot. He voted against invoking cloture — which would have ended debate and forced a vote — on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, legislation that extended the amount of time an employee would be eligible to file a pay discrimination suit against her employer. When the 2009 version of the bill finally did come up for a full vote, Corker voted against it. Last year, he voted against an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations Act that called for the Defense Department to end all contracts with companies that stopped employees who were victims of rape from taking their cases to civilian court.

It’s also worth mentioning that Corker has consistently voted pro-life. A treaty like CEDAW that has been construed, accurately or not, as having a “pro-abortion agenda” is unlikely to appeal to him politically.

10 Comments on this post:

By: TharonChandler on 8/30/10 at 7:09

The difference nowadays, between Women and Men, in politics, is that men may have to defend themselves against other men, aggressive polical men being controlled by women, and brute thugs while women hide behind men and security guards and sometimes accuse Men of being 'inappropriate'.

By: nash615 on 8/30/10 at 7:32

I'm embarrassed by my fellow Tennesseans.

By: xhexx on 8/30/10 at 8:09

It's never a good idea for the US to ratify a UN treaty. Corker needs to stay his course.

By: pswindle on 8/30/10 at 9:11

Good Gosh! What has TN elected to the senate? He can't take care of our own business, and he is trying to get involved in the UN. Words fail me. He needs to get in there and vote for the bill to help small businesses.

By: yogiman on 8/30/10 at 4:05

Corker should submit a bill that would take the USA out of the United Nations. The nations are not united. He should follow suit like the League of Nations; get the hell out!

By: MK-Ultra on 8/30/10 at 5:41

How imperialistic of you Mr. Corker .

You are an Al Gore wanna-be .

Please pack up like Al , move to California , and don't return here EVER !

How embarrassing !!

Leave people alone ! Don't change them , you do not know it all , so
let them live how they want to live without interference .

I can't believe your from my home state .

By: pswindle on 8/31/10 at 9:11


How stupid. Leave Al Gore out of this. You should take a little time and check to see the good that VP Gore has done for our state. I sure can't see anything that Alexandra or Cocker has done but run their mouth.

By: on 8/31/10 at 10:11

In some parts of the world, women are treated like property and men are free to abuse them without government sanctions.

The United Nations is trying to prevent that kind of treatment for women.

Maybe some people think that because things are pretty good in the United States, the heck with the rest of the world.

It is sad to realize that some oppose the efforts of the UN toward peace and justice throughout the world.

By: MK-Ultra on 8/31/10 at 11:27

pswindle ,

So that's how you respond to this article ?

Al Gore and Mr. Corker both share a Globalists view .
Interfering with the those countries that inhabit the planet earth
and dictating to them how they should live their lives ,
is both condescending and arrogant .

Al Gore , was washed up here in Tennessee when he showed his true colors
by taking " Bribes " or " Contributions " to pass bills in the senate for HCA and other
" Contributors " for large sums of money . He was so important to his home state ,
that he got slaughtered in his bid for President at the polls here in Tennessee .

Now to be more accurate about your boy AL Gore , when the state was being flooded last may and we needed help from the federal government to rebuild , no one ,
I repeat , NO ONE , heard from your Boy AL !!!
He did nothing to help anyone what so ever !!

So if your not going to stand up for Tennessee when they need you the most ,
Then you are useless !!

California is calling you PSWINDLE !

By: pswindle on 8/31/10 at 1:41

Well, I believe that it is Sen. Frist that is connected to HCA. You have the right to your opinion, but you can't play with the facts. Have you wondered why we have the best roads in the nation? You don't want the truth because you have too much anger.