Some bad ideas just keep coming back. And when they do, they’re often more dangerous than ever. One such proposal was the Equal Rights Amendment, which proponents claimed would protect women’s rights by prohibiting discrimination based on sex.
Congress passed this amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1972 and gave it seven years to achieve ratification by three-fourths of the states. Thirty-five states ratified. In a constitutionally questionable move, Congress extended the deadline three more years. Still the amendment failed to garner the necessary support of 38 states. The ERA expired. It’s dead.
The ERA would not protect women’s rights. Over a decade of consideration, it became clear it would severely undermine many commonsense protections for women and could be used to end restrictions on abortion.
Currently, there’s a misguided attempt to revive the ERA. In the past couple of years, Nevada and Illinois have passed bills to “ratify” the amendment. Virginia plans to do so this year. Supporters claim that’s all they need. Alabama, Louisiana, and South Dakota disagree. They have filed a lawsuit arguing that the ERA has expired and it’s illegal to hold open the ratification process.
According to Kristin Waggoner, Senior VP at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the ERA is worse today than it was 40 years ago. She points out: “the word ‘woman’ never appears in the ERA.” Instead,” she writes, “the amendment focuses on ‘sex’ — a word increasingly in danger of becoming meaningless as ideologues push to disassociate the term from biology and replace it with ‘gender identity’.”
Under state and local ERA-type policies, women and girls are already seeing their physical privacy, their athletic opportunities, and even their physical safety compromised.
Mike Farris, ADF’s President, was involved in the 1982 litigation that halted the unconstitutional attempts to extend the deadline to ratify the ERA. He thinks we’d be unwise to revive it today. But if supporters insist otherwise, he says, “They can go to Congress and start over.”