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The ERA, Once more Once

Phyllis Schlafly is back on the scene, telling in The Los Angeles Times the story of her successful 1970s movement against the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have added to the Constitution: “The Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Why tell the story of a thirty-years old rebellion? Because a thirty-years old establishment has reared its head again, sillily advising once more that those words be added to the Constitution. As Ms. Schlafly observes, the amendment—now called the Women’s Equality Amendment—has very little chance of passing, because states have already considered and, on the whole, rejected the thing. The reason is not, of course, misogyny; the law already protects women against subordinative discrimination. Ms. Schlafly writes:

While claiming to benefit women, the ERA would actually have taken away some of women’s rights. We based our arguments on the writings of pro-ERA law professors, among them current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The amendment would require women to be drafted into military combat any time men were conscripted, abolish the presumption that the husband should support his wife and take away Social Security benefits for wives and widows. It would also give federal courts and the federal government enormous new powers to reinterpret every law that makes a distinction based on gender, such as those related to marriage, divorce and alimony.
And law professor Ilya Somin, who supports the proposal, argues:
If enacted today, the ERA would have a number of effects that many political liberals will deplore, including abolishing affirmative action for women and cutting back on key aspects of Title IX. It might also have some results that they would approve of, such as potentially undercutting bans on same-sex marriage. To my mind, the effects that liberals dislike are more likely to arise - at least in the short term - than those they will applaud. Affirmative action for women and Title IX gender balancing have considerably weaker political support than the restriction of marriage to opposite sex couples, and are therefore more likely to be struck down by politically savvy judges interpreting the ERA.
I would also be surprised if such things as Dartmouth’s Women in Science Program (which, if I understand correctly, receives federal monies) survived the Women’s Equality Amendment.


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