Why the Equal Rights Amendment Needs to Die . . . Again

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

While many of us were unaware, the Equal Rights (ERA) Amendment – which many believe is just about granting women equality in America – almost met the 38-state threshold needed to amend the U.S. Constitution a few days ago when Virginia lawmakers took up the issue. Thankfully, it failed to garner sufficient votes.


Although it sounds simple enough, the problem lies in how this amendment will be applied if it ever makes it into the Constitution.

As Jarrett Stepman explains for The Daily Signal, the ERA is built upon a false premise – that the use of the word “man” in the Constitution excludes women.

However, this is not true. The word “men” in the Declaration of Independence means mankind and human beings in general, whether male or female. Although it’s correct to say that the men who wrote the Constitution did not have our modern view of the equality of the sexes, the document would never be written in a way to disqualify women from the basic rights and dignities afforded by their Creator.

For example, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia that only a barbarous society would deny women their equal, God-given rights.

This means the assumption that the document is sexist is, well, sexist.

For this reason, Stepman concludes that “Ultimately, the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment likely would cause more problems than it would solve, even for the people who have become proponents.”

For example, it would mean women will be registered for the military draft. Laws regarding alimony could be eliminated.

As the late attorney Phyllis Schlafly, who was instrumental in killing the ERA in the 1970s explained, it would “[A]bolish the presumption that the husband should support his wife and take away Social Security benefits for wives and widows.”

She added: “It would also give federal courts and the federal government enormous new powers to reinterpret every law that makes a distinction based on gender, such as those related to marriage, divorce and alimony.”

Even more concerning is how some proponents of the ERA believe it could be used to label any attempts to restrict abortion as sex discrimination. It could also be used to add a constitutional right to taxpayer-funded abortion.

National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis, who refers to the ERA as a “feminist ruse,” believes the amendment could be used to force employers to subsidize contraceptives and abortifacients.

“When the giants of the abortion industry insist that Congress use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions, they will come carrying a copy of Madison’s founding document,” DeSanctis warns. “Every demand for complete sexual libertinism, facilitated by the state, will suddenly have behind it the imprimatur of the U.S. Constitution. That’s what they’re after.”

Thankfully, the ERA has quite a few hurtles to overcome before it becomes enshrined in our Constitution.

For starters, the original ERA that passed in Congress in 1972 had a seven-year deadline. Even though that deadline was extended to 10 years, by 1982, only 35 states had ratified the amendment.

Despite that long-past deadline, in March 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, followed by Illinois one-year later which became the 37th state, which should mean that only one more state is needed.

This leaves the question about whether or not Congress can set deadlines and if those deadlines still apply – up to the courts.

In addition, thanks to the effective crusading of Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970’s, several states that originally ratified the ERA – Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, South Dakota and Kentucky – decided to rescind their ratification. Will the courts uphold these withdrawals of support?

As DeSanctis explains, even if the required 38 states do manage to ratify it, the ERA still has a long way to go.

“At the very least, the pro-ERA movement will face an uphill legal battle,” she writes. “It will need to prove both that Congress can’t set ratification deadlines and that states can’t rescind their ratification votes.”

These are just a few of the reasons why the ERA should remain a dead issue.

“The Constitution already protects equal natural rights for women,” Stepman concludes. “There’s no need to revise the document to include a weapon for left-wing social engineering on a national scale.”

The following states have refused to ratify the amendment: Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah.

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