Recently, there has been a renewed push by radical feminists to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution, which removes any legal distinction between men and women through its broad and rigid language. The ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It conspicuously lacks any language that provides for reasonable exceptions. Instead, its inflexible language could potentially invalidate any law that recognizes the inherent differences between the sexes.
In the words of ERA supporters themselves, “the ratification of the ERA would at long last end the legal distinctions between men and women in the United States of America.” The fear that any reasonable legal distinction would be removed is not merely a matter of speculation, but has been realized in states that have adopted an ERA. For example, the Supreme Court of Washington cited their state’s ERA in ruling that all schools must open their sports teams to both sexes. Even more significant than the particular details of the case is a statement from one of the justices that illustrates just how sweeping and uncompromising the ERA’s language really is. He states,
“With some qualms I concur in the result reached by the majority. I do so, however, exclusively upon the basis that the result is dictated by the broad and mandatory language of Washington's Equal Rights Amendment. Whether the people in enacting the ERA fully contemplated and appreciated the result here reached, coupled with its prospective variations, may be questionable. Nevertheless, in sweeping language they embedded the principle of the ERA in our constitution, and it is beyond the authority of this court to modify the people's will. So be it.” (emphasis added).
The removal of all legal distinctions between men and women would be devastating for several reasons, but first and foremost because it fails to recognize God’s natural order. Sacred Scripture, reason, science, and common human experience clearly reveal that God, in his infinite wisdom, created mankind male and female. Since God created men and women in His own image and likeness, both possess an intrinsic and equal dignity. At the same time, God also created them with unique yet complementary natures. Instead of denying this eternal truth, the law should take the distinct natures of men and women into account in appropriate circumstances. One evident example is designating separate bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing facilities in public spaces for the sake of privacy, dignity, and safety. Various physical and strength-related distinctions are also appropriate in many circumstances, such as the military or team sports.
When stripped of its shallow soundbites and boiled down to its essence, the ERA is nothing more than radical feminism’s attempt to abolish the unique and God-given dignity of women in exchange for a futile attempt at complete sameness with men. We should see the ERA for what it truly is: an affront to the dignity of every woman. We know that in woman, as in men, God has created a beautifully unique nature that should be celebrated and cherished. While the Left fashions itself as the champion of diversity, the ERA reveals the egalitarian commitment that drives this dangerous vision of equality. In reality, the Left’s worldview rejects the authentic diversity of men and women in favor of a corrupted understanding of equality as sameness. Even at the risk of being called sexists, people of faith and decency must continue to fight for the unique dignity of both men and women before it is lost to the ever devouring throngs of radical feminism.
By James Rossi
James is a 2018 Summer Policy Intern at The Family Foundation and a student at Christendom College.