|We the people|
|Suffragist leader Alice Paul|
|U.S. Congresswoman |
Without the ERA, the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex. The first – and still the only – right specifically affirmed as equal for women and men is the right to vote.
The equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was first applied to sex discrimination only in 1971, and it has never been interpreted to grant equal rights on the basis of sex in the uniform and inclusive way that the ERA would.
The ERA would provide a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination, since federal and state courts (some working with state ERAs, some without) still reflect confusion and inconsistency in dealing with such claims. It would also clarify sex discrimination jurisprudence and 40 years of precedent for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who claimed in an interview reported in the January 2011 California Lawyer that the Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, does not protect against sex discrimination.
The ERA would provide a strong legal defense against a rollback of the significant advances in women’s rights made in the past 50 years.
Suffragist march 1917
Without it, Congress can weaken or replace existing laws on women’s rights, and judicial precedents on issues of gender equality can be eroded or ignored by reactionary courts responding to a conservative political agenda.
Without the ERA, women regularly and men occasionally have to fight long, expensive, and difficult legal battles in an effort to prove that their rights are equal to those of the other sex.
The ERA would improve the United States’ human rights standing in the world community. The governing documents of many other countries affirm legal gender equality, however imperfect the global implementation of that ideal may be.
“War on Women Rally” Remarks of Ross C. (Rocky) Anderson, Utah State Capitol
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) (4th-L) speaks as Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) (2nd-L), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (3rd-L), and President of the Feminist Majority Eleanor Smeal (2nd-R) listen during a news conference January 6, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rep. Maloney and Sen. Menendez held a news conference to highlight the absence of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the U.S. Constitution. (January 5, 2011 - Source: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)
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