State of play. This Congress, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in support of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has already moved the measure onto the Senate’s Legislative Calendar for potential consideration in April. There are rumors that supporters will also attempt forced consideration on the House Floor.
Dobbs‘ undoing, erasing women. If it was ever properly ratified, the Equal Rights Amendment would constitutionalize abortion and radical gender ideology. It would undo the historic victory in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), the U.S. Supreme Court case that correctly concluded that there is no right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution, and it would erase women from the Constitution.
Procedural defects. The only good news is that this current effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment—in the tradition of the past efforts—will fail. As a proposed constitutional amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment is bound by a unique set of procedural requirements for ratification. Currently, supporters are pursuing ratification outside of these bounds and through improper means.
Substantive issues. That said, we remain vigilant because of the Amendment’s dire consequences. Of course, the text sounds good: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” But as we have explained before, “the amendment could have a reverse effect on women’s progress.” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), for example, expertly revealed in a 2019 House Judiciary Committee hearing that activists will use the Equal Rights Amendment to constitutionalize abortion and gender identity.
Abortion. Any difference in treatment between men and women can be considered denial or abridgment of equality. This even includes natural, common sense differences, such as pregnancy and birth. Rep. Johnson explained:
- [I]n 1988, the Colorado Supreme Court held that Colorado’s ERA in its state constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
- Ten years later in 1998, the Supreme Court of New Mexico took the next step and relied on New Mexico’s state-level ERA to strike down a state reg[ulation] that restricted state funding of abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. In New Mexico, Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson, the court held as follows:
- “Neither the Hyde Amendment nor the federal authorities upholding the constitutionality of that amendment bar this court from affording greater protection of the rights of Medicaid-eligible women under our state constitution in this instance. Article II Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution guarantees that equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.” “We construe,” the court said, “the intent of this amendment is providing something beyond that already afforded by the general language of the equal protection clause.”
- More recently, NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a March 13, 2019, national alert, admitted their belief that the Equal Rights Amendment would,
- “reinforce the constitutional right to abortion. It would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws.”.
Gender Identity. Equality could also mean reinterpretation of the law that makes distinctions based on sex, such as registration for the Selective Service. The Equal Rights Amendment could be used to force women to register for the Selective Service, and the legality of women-only spaces would be thrown into question.
Further, while the Amendment only uses the word “sex,” Rep. Johnson exposed through congressional questioning that it would be used as a tool to advance gender ideology.
- Kathleen M. Sullivan, Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan: “The proper textual reading of the term on account of sex does include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity, and that is just a textual reading of the term on the basis of sex.”
- Pat Spearman, Co-Majority Whip, Nevada Senate: “When you talk about on the basis of sex, gender identity is a new way of saying this is who I am.”
- Patricia Arquette, Actor and Advocate: “That is going to be argued in court.”
And as many of you know, Mrs. Beverly LaHaye, Concerned Women for America (CWA) Founder, started CWA and mobilized thousands of women across the country because of her concerns with the Equal Rights Amendment. She spoke out against not just the Amendment’s harms for the unborn but the unfair characterization of women as a monolithic block of pro-abortion feminists. Radical gender ideology presents new challenges, but our mission remains the same to advocate for Biblical values in public policy and through that, “speaking the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15.