On March 22, 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment was sent to the states for ratification. Thirty-eight states needed to approve the amendment within seven years. In that time frame, only 35 states passed the ERA, and Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota ultimately rescinded their ratifications.
The 1982 Supreme Court decision in NOW v. Idaho upheld and validated the ratification deadline. But ERA activists continue to wrongly claim only one state is needed to pass the amendment. This past election Tuesday, Democrats claimed victory in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment by gaining control over the Virginia state house and vowing to pass the measure.
In light of this, congressional Democrats took a resolution, led by Rep. Jackie Speier, to committee markup. This resolution rids the ERA of its seven-year ratification deadline and thus paves the way for Virginia to be the “last” state needed to pass the amendment.
ERA supporters forget that the ratification deadline protects Americans. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Dillon v. Gloss (1921) that Congress has the power to choose a reasonable time frame for the states to consider amendments. Amendments should have a “contemporaneous consensus” or a time frame that protects the Constitution and Americans from amendments that are no longer relevant to the current day.
Most would agree we’ve come a long way since the 1970s. Gone are the days of rotary phones and a world with no internet.
The ERA Actually Removes Protections for Women
It is doubtful the creators of the amendment believed men whoidentify as women should be included in the ERA’s protection of “on the account of sex.” This is a current-day cultural phenomenon that will underwrite the original intent of the ERA — mainly to give women equal access under the law.
In the past year and a half, Democrat-backed congressional legislation has been characterized by sexual orientation and gender identity provisions, or SOGI. This policy, like that in the Equality Act and Violence Against Women Act, includes SOGI language providing special accommodations for the tiny minority of individuals who identify as other than their biological sex. Institutions serving women, such as women’s prisons, shelters, sports teams, restrooms, and locker rooms, would be forced to allow equal access to men who claim they identify as female.
Some may think today’s interpretation of “on the basis of sex” is what makes the ERA sex-neutral, but this has been the case since its conception in 1972. The ERA ignores biological distinctions between men and women in order to provide women equal protection under the law. By doing so, the amendment removes all protections for women merely because men don’t need those same protections.
These include workplace practices that accommodate pregnant women, state labor laws for women who do heavy and manual work, government programs that support mothers, such as WIC, and laws and presumptions that support women in alimony, child support, and the requirement for husbands to pay the medical bills of dependent wives.
More importantly, the Equal Rights Amendment will remove all laws that restrict abortion, a procedure only for pregnant women. In both New Mexico and Connecticut, state ERAs were used to overturn abortion restrictions and mandate the taxpayer funding of abortion (N.M. Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson, Doe v. Maher). In light of Roe v. Wade, the 1970s ERA supporters no doubt thought all resistance to abortion was destined for failure. But here we are in 2019, and the pro-life movement has gained a lot of traction. This is even true among younger generations.
Congress Wants More Power
Lastly, the ERA is a congressional power grab. The amendment’s section 2 gives Congress authority to “enforce the provisions of this article.” Similar to the enforcement clauses found in other constitutional amendments, the language, doubled with the broad implications of the actual ERA substance mentioned above, would allow for a very broad interpretation of how the amendment is to be enforced. This clause undermines states’ rights and will give Congress more power to legislate politics instead of actual policy.
If Democrats really want to revisit the ERA debate, they must stop attempting to railroad the ERA through Congress. Americans shouldn’t so easily give lawmakers the ability to pick and choose which aspects of law they no longer like. This sets a dangerous precedent with the potential to completely negate our Constitution.
Surprisingly, it is not just conservatives who believe the road to ratify the ERA must start over. At a recent event at Georgetown University, feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ratification deadline can’t simply be legislated away. On this, conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly and RBG agree.
American women and men need to let their U.S. representatives know that legislating text away that doesn’t align with their political agenda violates their constitutional duty. At the markup, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brushed off the amending process by saying he “stands on principle.” It seems Democrats are seeking to pass the ERA purely in the name of feminism, laws and court decisions to the contrary be blasted.
The irony of the Equal Rights Amendment is that it will erase womanhood in the name of equality rather than empower women to be women. Just like in Schlafly’s day, we need to let the House, the Senate, and our state lawmakers know that not all women agree with the Equal Rights Amendment. We at Eagle Forum are dedicated to this cause and would welcome the help of a new generation of Eagles!