Equality of the Sexes
Examples of Unequal Treatment of Women in America
All American women do not now enjoy:
- Full rights to make important decisions about their own lives
- Fair Social Security pay outs
- Equal representation in elected office (e.g., U.S. Senate: 84 men to 16 women)
- Medical insurance coverage for reproductive healthcare
- Fair salaries and career advancement opportunities
- Necessary protection from violence
- Equal treatment by America’s institutions of government, banking, insurance, education, medicine, commerce, religion, military, and the law.
Why this continues today, and why the ERA is still needed
The right to vote is the only constitutionally guaranteed right that American women have. All the rights that women have won through state and federal legislation can be lost. Legislation can be amended, repealed, inconsistently enforced, or ignored.
Continual Congressional battles over Title IX and the Violence against Women Act, and the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, otherwise known as the international women’s rights law) demonstrate that American women are still not seen as equal under the law.
The Supreme Court did not use the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) to strike down laws that treated men and women differently until 1971. The Court does not hold cases of sex discrimination to the same high level of “strict scrutiny”, or importance, as race, religion, or national origin. If an ERA were added to the U.S. Constitution, sex discrimination would likely also be accorded strict scrutiny by the courts. Thus, women are forced to persuade the courts, on a case by case basis, that statutory sex distinctions are discriminatory, and that discrimination does matter. A more conservative Supreme Court could overrule even these interpretations or refuse to apply them consistently to new cases. Including sex discrimination in the Constitution of the United States of America is a very basic Human Rights Issue. Adding the ERA to the Constitution would be a clarion statement of bedrock equality, affirming that women as well as men must be accorded all of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Continuing to allow more than half the American population to be left out of the Constitution goes against America’s fundamental democratic principles, and needs to be corrected.
What the Equal Rights Amendment can do
- Grant legal equal rights to the sexes.
- Declare unconstitutional pervasive sex discrimination in insurance, business contracts, housing, pensions, estate taxes, Social Security payments, credit, and so forth.
- Guarantee females admission to publicly supported schools and state colleges, universities and vocational schools using the same standards as males.
- Require equal employment opportunity for women in federal, state and local governments.
- Assure that women in the military be accorded the same benefits as men as well as full equal treatment.
- Require the same criminal penalties for men and women and the same rehabilitation opportunities.
- Enhance the dignity of all humankind by proclaiming equality of women and men under the law in perpetuity.
- Propel society forward by unleashing the talent and energies of ALL people, working together to forge a civilized society.
In summary, the Equal Rights Amendment would declare sex discrimination illegal by the government wherever it is now practiced in this country. Two years would be permitted for correction. Citizens would then be able to follow their chosen life’s trajectories according to their needs, desires, and capabilities, and not according simply to their sex. Finally.
Written by Diana Egozcue
Virginia NOW President and ERA Advocate