The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is dead.
The Department of Justice announced as much in January.
Even Justice Ginsburg, the “most prominent feminist lawyer in American history,” has said the ERA has missed its opportunity and proponents need to start from square one.
Still, House Democrats will play Dr. Frankenstein on Thursday as they try to resurrect the ERA monster. They’ve scheduled a vote to remove the 40-year-old deadline on the legislation’s ratification after Virginia became the 38th state to approve the amendment in January, sending hopeful politicians into a tizzy.
Concerned Women for America (CWA) — the organization I lead — was literally founded to fight the ERA 40 years ago. Our founder believed women deserve fairness and equality under the law and was determined to oppose the ERA because it effectively writes us out of it.
The ERA proposes “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” and that “Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
While these words sound promising, in reality, the ERA is the ultimate legislative wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Adding an equality amendment based on “sex” can have a reverse effect on women’s progress impacting about 800 laws. Decades of legal gains, programs, and policy reforms aimed specifically at benefiting women could be challenged and taken away, such as: provisions in the Violence Against Women Act; programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); special protections in marriage, divorce, alimony, and child custody; accommodations for pregnant women in the workforce; spousal social security benefits; female protections on college campuses relating to safety, Title IX, scholarships, and admissions.
Even worse, the ERA Democrats are trying to pass will be used as a trojan horse for the what-gender-will-I-be-today movement. This group is working hard to dissolve the unique differences of male and female in law and policy and to redefine “sex” as “gender identity.” If ERA is passed they would move quickly to negate female status. No doubt activists will cry sex discrimination against women-specific bathrooms and locker rooms. The same goes for women’s sports. Women could be forced into military service, too.
The ERA also could reverse and reduce restrictions on abortion. Pro-abortion groups like NARAL believe judges would be required to strike down pro-life laws because they would “violate both the constitutional right to privacy and sexual equality.” Thus, any limits on abortion or denying taxpayer-funds for abortion could be seen as a form of sex discrimination and a violation of the amendment. This isn’t theoretical. Both New Mexico and Connecticut Courts have used state ERAs to require state funding for abortion.
The ERA opens the door for women to literally lose any special consideration by the law, even though its proponents say that’s the very reason it’s needed. If only ERA supporters would remember the Constitution and decades of established statutes show women are already equal under the law.
The 14th Amendment states, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor … the equal protection of the laws.”
Established law such as Title IX, the Equal Opportunity Act of 1963, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Equal Pay Act, have led to groundbreaking progress against institutional discrimination in education, employment, sports, politics and many other areas of society.
Our opposition to the ERA is based on the fact that erasing the legal distinction between men and women denies female dignity and leaves women unprotected. This cannot be allowed to happen, so I invite and implore you to contact your representative and urge them to vote against the ERA.
Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. She is the author of the book “Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women.”