Friday, August 15, 2008

The ERA is Beneficial for America

The United States government should make women and men equal under the law by includng the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the constitution. The entire amendment consists of the following three sections:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In talking with others about the ERA I'm sometimes told that we don't need the ERA because women already have equal rights under this or that law. For example, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prevents gender discrimination in education. And the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits gender discrimination by certain (not all) employers and grants both sexes access to public facilities.

However, this patchwork of laws does not cover all areas of life. So it is still legal to treat females (and males) unfairly based solely on their gender. Today in the United States females have much less political, economic and social power than males, thus the ERA will greatly help us achieve equality with men. Roberta W. Francis, Education Chair of the ERA Task Force, says...

It is necessary to have specific language in the Constitution affirming the principle of equal rights on the basis of sex because for more than two centuries, women have had to fight long and hard political battles to win rights that men (at first certain white men, eventually all men) possessed automatically because they were male. The first - and still the only - right that the Constitution specifically affirms equally for women and men is the right to vote.
...under current court decisions about sex and race discrimination, a white male claiming race discrimination by a program or action is protected by strict scrutiny, but a black female claiming sex discrimination by the same program or action is protected by only skeptical, not strict, scrutiny.
...lawmakers and judges must be encouraged to include equitable consideration of female experiences as they deal with issues of Social Security, taxes, wages, pensions, domestic relations, insurance, violence, and more. Without an Equal Rights Amendment providing motivation, the status quo will change much more slowly.
We need the ERA because we need a clearer and stricter federal judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination. Lower-court decisions in the various circuits and states (some with state ERA's and some without) still reflect confusion and inconsistency about how to deal with sex discrimination claims. Sex discrimination should get the same judicial scrutiny as race discrimination.

Other countries have laws that specifically affirm legal equality of the sexes. The equal rights legislation in those countries is not ideally implemented but they have it. The United States can increase it's human rights reputation if we have a prime law that guarantees that it is illegal to treat a person as inferior because of their gender.