Despite the jubilation of Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, sponsor of the Virginia Equal Rights Amendment resolution and supporters – the passage was only symbolic. As previously reported in this paper, when the original measure passed Congress in 1972, a deadline of 1977 was given for ratification by two-thirds of the states. When the required number of 38 states ratifying fell short, the deadline was extended to 1982 – that was 38 years ago, and still, the required number of ratifying states was not achieved.

In the meantime, five states have rescinded their original ratification, and the Department of Justice has issued an opinion that a proposed amendment may not be revived after the deadline for ratification has expired. If the Congress wishes to propose the amendment again, they may do so, following the same procedure consistent with Article V of the Constitution.

Since our current Constitution already protects the rights of women, as it does men (14th and 19th amendments), is the ERA necessary?

Should it in its current form be reintroduced, there are several potentially negative consequences:

1) women would be required to sign up for Selective Service, and while reinstatement of the draft is unlikely now, if necessary in the future what would be the consequences for families?

2) Depending on legal interpretation, the ERA could make gender-segregated bathrooms illegal in public buildings.

3) Any government-funded women-only institutions – i.e. facilities for battered women and those harmed by domestic violence; women’s correctional facilities – would be at risk.

4) It could guarantee publicly funded abortions, as pro-abortion supporters argue that placing any limitations on abortion amounts to sex discrimination.

While the original idea of ERA as conceived by Alice Paul (1923), quoting her – “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government” – was justified as a way to protect the rights of women, adopting it could actually do harm to both women and families.

Denise Doyle.