It’s 2018. People are still making specious arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA provides equality of rights under the law for both men and women. It’s that simple.
There are people who forgot to go to law school writing about Social Security laws that are already gender-neutral. There are people who talk about the military draft. Are they aware that the military already decides who fights where, taking into account physical and other factors; that last fall the Pentagon under this administration already proposed a gender-neutral draft registration; and that 15% of our military is already female? There are people who talk about abortion. Are they aware that Illinois has had an ERA-type provision in the state constitution since 1970 and, to the best of my knowledge, that provision has NEVER been found by a court to mandate that abortions be provided. Anyone who says otherwise must produce a legal opinion from a licensed Illinois attorney stating that the ERA will mandate abortions. If they can’t do that, then you’ll know they’re lying to you.
Here are Ten Reasons Why We Need the Equal Rights Amendment:
(1) The late Justice Scalia and current Justice Ginsburg have made clear that nothing in the U.S. Constitution – other than the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920 – specifically includes women. The ERA will leave no doubt that women and men have equal rights under the law.
2) The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment has been used by Courts to extend legal protections to women. The 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868 in order to extend citizenship and equal legal rights to African Americans following the Civil War. “Originalist” judges argue that the 14th Amendment was never intended to cover women. Therefore, the Supreme Court currently treats sex discrimination cases less seriously than other discrimination cases.
(3) It is hard to amend the Constitution, the supreme law of our land. But once a law is part of the Constitution, it’s hard to remove.
(4) Here are some federal laws from the ‘60s on that protect against sex discrimination: Equal Pay Act; Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII (Equal Employment Opportunities); Fair Housing Act; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Equal Credit Opportunity Act; Pregnancy Discrimination Act; and Family and Medical Leave Act . Congress can repeal these laws.
(5) Presidential Executive Orders can also be undone. President Obama signed an Executive Order – the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order – which included two rules that impacted female workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims. In March 2017, President Trump signed his own Executive Order revoking the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order.
(6) The constitutions of twenty states – including Illinois – now have ERA-type provisions. Those protections extend to only state legal matters, not federal.
(7) Every major world religion includes the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s equality. That is also one of the most important tenets of any faith.
(8) The ERA provides equality to both men and women. Both our sons and our daughters should have equal rights under the law.
(9) “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This is the Equal Rights Amendment. It is a basic statement of fairness and belongs in our Constitution, the highest law of our land.
(10) There is no good argument against the ERA. There are many important reasons to add the ERA to the Constitution now.
Illinois citizens will not get to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment – which is too bad because surveys show that over 90% of Americans support the ERA. We will, however, get to vote on who represents us. Ask your legislators whether they support equal rights for women and men. The right answer is obvious.
Michele H. Thorne
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