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Six reasons to oppose the ERA

by Patrick Briney, Ph.D, President Arkansas Republican Assembly
January 25, 2007

The ERA anti-family activists are at it again. 4ERA, “a national, non-partisan, single-issue, grassroots organization,” declares its mission is to “build solidarity among Americans for ratifying and promulgating the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.” Arkansas is on its hit list. They sponsored a rally in the Capitol Rotunda January 24, 2007 and invited Governor Beebe & the other Constitutional officers to speak. They also lobbied legislators to support their agenda.

Why Arkansas? This national, anti-family group has targeted Arkansas as part of its three state strategy. To amend to the Constitution, thirty-eight states must ratify the ERA. At present, only thirty-five states have ratified ERA. The support of three states more is needed. The fifteen states that have not ratified ERA include Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia. In a set back for the ERA, five states (Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota) have since rescinded their ratifications thereby requiring ratification by eight more states.

ERA resolutions have been introduced into the legislatures of Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, and Virginia; and active ERA campaigns are being conducted in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. The Arkansas Senate barely rejected the ERA by only two votes in its 2006 session.

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment, as proposed in 1972 by the 92nd Congress, and as published in Volume 86, "United States Statutes At Large" (pages 1523–1524), reads as follows:

The language in this amendment is problematic for the following reasons.

  1. ERA would put "gay rights" into the U.S. Constitution.
    1. Authorities such as the Yale Law Journal have stated that ERA would legalize the granting of marriage licenses to homosexuals and generally implement the gay rights and lesbian agenda because of the phrase ‘on account of sex.’ This is interpreted as including sexual orientation.
    2. The supreme courts of Hawaii and Massachusetts ruled that ERA requires same-sex marriage. Four of nine judges on the Washington Supreme Court agreed that ERA protects same sex marriages, and recently a judge in Maryland ruled the same way.
    3. When Wisconsin state legislators proposed a state ERA with provisions to prevent it from being used to mandate gay rights or abortion funding, the leading ERA advocates (including the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, and the American Civil Liberties Union) publicly opposed the ERA in this form.
  2. ERA would put abortion rights into the U.S. Constitution and make abortion funding a new constitutional right.
    1. In 1998, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that ERA requires the state to pay for all abortions for low-income women.
    2. The American Civil Liberties Union filed briefs in abortion cases in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut arguing that ERA requires tax funding for abortions because it is classified as a medical procedure.
    3. The Connecticut Superior Court ruled on April 19, 1986 that the state ERA requires abortion funding.
    4. Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) introduced an amendment to make ERA abortion-neutral, but it was rejected.
  3. ERA will jeopardize single-sex programs and schools.
    1. ERA would make unconstitutional all the current exceptions in Title IX which allow for single- sex schools and colleges and for separate treatment of the sexes for certain activities. ERA would mean the end of single-sex colleges.
    2. ERA would force the sex integration of fraternities, sororities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, Boys State and Girls State conducted by the American Legion, and mother-daughter and father-son school events.
    3. ERA would risk the income tax exemption of all private schools and colleges that make any difference of treatment between males and females, even though no public monies are involved.
    4. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) proposed an amendment to exempt religious schools from the effect of ERA, but it was rejected.
    5. Religious schools run by churches and synagogues that do not ordain women, or which treat men and women differently, would lose their tax exemption. ERA would put at risk the tax exemption of thousands of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish schools all over the country.
  4. ERA would take away important rights and powers of grassroots control and of the states.
    1. Section 2 of the ERA would give Congress the power to legislate on all areas of law which include traditional differences of treatment on account of sex: marriage, property laws, divorce and alimony, child custody, adoptions, abortion, homosexual laws, sex crimes, private and public schools, prison regulations, and insurance. ERA would thus result in the massive redistribution of powers to our Federal system.
    2. Even though Arkansas voters passed a state marriage amendment in 2004, federal judges could still require Arkansas to recognize same-sex marriage or to give equal benefits to same-sex couples.
    3. Rep. Tom Kindness (R-OH) offered an amendment to give the states concurrent enforcement power, as well as the Federal Government. It was rejected.
    4. ERA would give enormous power to the Federal courts to decide the definitions of the words in ERA, "sex" and "equality of rights." It is irresponsible to leave it to the courts to decide such sensitive, emotional and important issues as whether or not the language applies to abortion or homosexual rights.
  5. ERA would take away legal rights that women possess - not confer any new rights on women.
    1. ERA would take away women's traditional exemption from military conscription and also from military combat duty. Rep. Sam Hall's (D-TX) proposed amending ERA to prevent drafting women, but it was rejected.
    2. Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from requiring women to serve in military combat just like men, but it was rejected.
    3. ERA would make unconstitutional the laws that impose on a husband the obligation to support his wife.
    4. ERA would require "unisex insurance." Rep. Harold Sawyer (R-MI) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from wiping out the ability of insurance companies to charge lower insurance rates to women for automobile accident and life insurance policies, but this provision was rejected. Women will be required to pay higher insurance premiums.
  6. ERA would forfeit male veterans’ rights.
    1. Rep. George Gekas (R-PA) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from wiping out veterans' preference, but this was voted down.
  • ERA is bad for Americans, bad for Arkansans, and bad for the Constitution.
    1. The ERA has been rejected since 1972 because it is a sloppy, confusing proposal. There is no mention of women in the amendment, and attempts to clarify its meaning have been futile. It is fraught with opportunities for special interest groups who are denying their hidden agendas and hoping for its acceptance. The fact that there are legal opinions, court rulings, and debate over the ERA is evidence enough that there is a problem with the wording and interpretation. An amendment should be clear about its intent, and the ERA fails to do this.
    2. The fact that women today have successfully championed their rights in society and in the courts since 1789 is a testimony to the sufficiency of the current Constitution to guarantee those rights. Attempts to approve the ERA, clutters the constitution with redundancy and confusion, takes local and state control away from people, threatens religious and private institutions, and opens the door for anti-family activists including homosexuals and abortionists.
    3. The Constitution lays the framework from which the laws of our federal union are derived. Changes to it should be resisted at every point while demanding that it pass every stringent test devised until it is fully clear beyond all reasonable doubt that law and justice cannot exist without it. The ERA does not pass the simplest tests to justify its acceptance.

    Resources to learn more about the ERA
    Eagle Forum “A Short History of E.R.A.”
    Findlaw


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