In a debate where “equal” means repressive and “right” means agenda, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) is leading the charge to demand a constitutional amendment that will “finally guarantee women equality.” The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) endeavors to remove all differences — social, biological and sexual — between males and females, while granting enormous flexibility to increasingly activist judges to interpret the amendment as they deem appropriate. Several states that have already ratified a state ERA are finding that they’ve done little more than pave the way for homosexual marriage, federally funded abortion, the inclusion of women in the draft and co-ed prisons. This amendment is not about rights; it is about the promotion of a gender-neutral agenda through the suppression of natural differences between men and women.
What is the driving motivation behind the ERA? In America, women enjoy equal rights and protection under the law. Even supporters of the amendment recognize the redundancy. Sue Madison, an Arkansas state senator sponsoring a state version of the ERA says, “I mean, think about it. It’s largely accepted as a matter of law, and yet it’s not in our Constitution.”1 Most laws do not require an amendment to the Constitution; this is no exception. Therefore, proponents are either repeating common sense recognition of the political, legal and social rights of women, or they are attempting to introduce an agenda contrary to American mores.
Many ERA supporters claim that this would not impact laws that protect women from serving in combat units, federally funded abortions, co-ed prisons and homosexual “marriage.” The purpose of this amendment, they claim, is simply to stop discrimination against women and correct wage disparity. Eleanor Smeal, of the Feminist Majority, is more honest about what the amendment could do: “Smeal said the ERA could be flexible enough to allow for gay marriage and state-funded abortion. She said she is convinced the ERA will eventually be ratified, because society is trending to be more tolerant of women’s rights and gay rights.”2 Both the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protect women from discrimination. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) states the irony of their proposal:
“It is inadequate for ERA proponents to argue that all sorts of ‘common sense’ exceptions will be made to the ERA when this is already the law today. The courts will always assume (properly) that the intent of a new constitutional Amendment is to change the law. If the ERA would maintain in force the ‘common sense’ exceptions of present law, it would not be needed.”3
The most accurate method of discovering how this constitutional amendment would impact law is to look at the impact state ERAs are already having on state laws.
Maryland passed a state ERA and legalized same-sex “marriage” as a result. In the Baltimore Circuit Court, the judge ruled that the ERA made banning same-sex “marriage” unconstitutional. Hawaii’s State Supreme Court also ruled in favor of same-sex “marriage” after an activist “proposed that the state’s refusal to issue a license presumptuously violates Hawaii’s ERA which bars discrimination on the basis of sex.” New Mexico’s Supreme Court decided unanimously in New Mexico Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson that the refusal of the state to fund abortions under Medicaid violated the state ERA.
This amendment not only provides a basis for dangerous new laws; it also strips away the very rights that ERA proponents claim to promote! Legislation specifically protecting women such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would be considered discriminatory against men. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Women’s Health, which seeks to “ensure that FDA functions, both regulatory and oversight, remain gender sensitive and responsive,” could be found unconstitutional under this new amendment.
In addition to the various problems with the application of the ERA, the manner in which it has been introduced in Congress and ratified by the states is unprecedented. Although the ERA was approved by Congress in 1972, the states failed to ratify it in the required amount of time even when a ten year extension was provided. During those ten years, however, five states – Tennessee, Kentucky, Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota – overturned their ratification votes. Even if the ERA is approved in this session of Congress, the states will have to re-ratify the amendment. The Washington Post reports, “Even backers of the amendment such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) expect a legal battle on that question. They are reintroducing the amendment in Congress and hope to start the ratification process again from scratch.”
Same-sex “marriage,” federally funded abortion and the inclusion of women in the draft are issues that have actually been discussed in the courts. It’s not too difficult to think of other areas of social life that this amendment will obstruct. Would sororities be required to admit men if a young man thought it would be fun to live in a house full of girls? Would child support laws be done away with because they put an unnecessary burden on a man to provide when a woman should be equally capable? Let’s not wait to find out what an uncontrollable court could decide. The Equal Rights Amendment must be rejected in order to uphold standards of decency and put control in the hands of the people, not judges.
- Kellams, Laura. “26 years later, Senate to vote on ERA issue: Effect of resolution uncertain.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette. March 27, 2005.
- Sheffield, Carrie. “Equal Rights Amendment battle enters new era.” Politico: April 24, 2007.
- Senator Orrin Hatch, The Equal Rights Amendment: Myths and Realities, (Savant Press: 1983).