Saturday, January 4, 2020

Go Ahead, Virginia, Ratify the ERA

Virginia is on track to be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution, which would constitutionally guarantee equality of rights on account of sex.  Virginia’s approval would meet the requirement for ¾ of states to ratify before a Constitutional Amendment is added. Once this step is complete, there will be issues to resolve.

First, Congressional authorization on the proposed Amendment expired in 1979. It will have to be renewed by a super-majority of Congress.

Second, several conservative states rescinded ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. It is unclear if a ratification can be rescinded.    

Two of the most common criticism of the ERA, first elucidated by Phyllis Schlafly, are that it will constitutionally guarantee a right to abortion, and same-sex marriage. In family law, there is a fear that ERA will allow lousy, incompetent men easier access to child custody. In Maryland and Hawaii, gender equality laws were used in the courts to procure recognition of same-sex unions. However, these proved to be exceptional cases. Many states, in fact, have Equal Rights Amendments in their State Constitutions; and a number of these have not legalized same-sex marriage or late-term abortion at the state level. Sympathetic moderate and conservative groups should emphasize this unspoken point.

So far, the US Constitution has not been amended during my lifetime. The 27th Amendment, concerning Congressional pay, was ratified in May 1992.  

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