Although you have likely not heard much about it from the media, the Democrats recently unveiled a plan to illegally add an element of their radical, intersectional agenda to the text of the U.S. Constitution. The controversial amendment could eliminate all laws that recognize biological differences between men and women, and it could force taxpayers to fund abortion-on-demand. Worse yet, their actions come decades after the Left tried and failed to convince Americans to adopt the proposed amendment democratically. Congressional Democrats’ plot to declare victory despite their national repudiation is so unscrupulous and unserious that their main witness at a recent hearing was actress Alyssa Milano, who said they have an “obligation to fix the Constitution” and “stop it from failing” everyone “who is not a cisgender man.”
At issue is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a benign-sounding Nixon-era amendment that concealed an unpopular feminist agenda. Critics say it would erode the legal protections of women and create a constitutional right to abortion just as Supreme Court justices seem poised to amend, or overturn, Roe v. Wade. Regardless of its substance (which we’ll discuss in a minute), conservatives should be alarmed at the Democrats’ plan to amend the text of the U.S. Constitution 38 years after their ratification efforts failed.
The Equal Rights Amendment seemed destined to become the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1972. Article V of the Constitution requires amendments to pass Congress by a two-thirds margin, then be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states out of 50). The ERA — which was championed by democratic socialists Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan — passed the U.S. House of Representatives by the required margin in October 1971 and cleared the Senate five months later. But the legislation they passed contained a time limit: The ERA had to be ratified within seven years.
That hurdle seemed insignificant, as a total of 30 states ratified the ERA within a year — 14 of them within the first month. Five more states followed by 1978, when the Democrat-controlled Congress voted to extend the deadline to June 30, 1982.
The reason the momentum ground to a halt can be encapsulated in two words: Phyllis Schlafly, a well-educated mother from Illinois who would go on to found Eagle Forum. Schlafly gave the American people an opportunity to think through the ways the ERA would impact daily life. The main text of the amendment read: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Women already enjoy equality under the law thanks to the 14th Amendment, she said. In fact, she continued, society gave women such an elevated state that legal equality would downgrade their status. How would eliminating all laws made “on account of sex,” she asked, affect such policies as:
- women’s exemption from being drafted into military service;
- separate facilities for showers, restrooms, college dorm rooms, battered women’s shelters, and prisons;
- federal programs like Title IX, Social Security benefits for women who worked in the home, and Women Infants and Children (WIC)
While her opponents insisted Schlafly exaggerated the impact of the bill, its legislative history says otherwise. For instance, in 1972, the U.S. Senate rejected by an 82-9 vote an amendment that said:
The provisions of this article shall not impair the validity, however, of any laws of the United States or any State which exempt women from compulsory military service, or from service in combat units of the Armed Forces; or extend protections or exemptions to wives, mothers, or widows; or impose upon fathers responsibility for the support of children; or secure privacy to men or women, or boys or girls; or make punishable as crimes rape, seduction, or other sexual offenses.
Senators proposed a portion of this amendment specifying that the ERA does not overturn state laws banning “sexual offenses” as a separate amendment; the Senate rejected it, 71-17. Indeed, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) recently said that the “ERA will eliminate sex discrimination in the armed services.” Conservative scholar Inez Feltscher Stepman of Independent Women’s Voice said that, taken to its logical conclusion, the ERA could require the military “to draft men and women in equal numbers and to send equal numbers of women and men into combat positions.”
But the biggest fight over the ERA is how it would impact abortion — and here, it is not conservatives making the bold claims. To this day, the abortion lobby believes the ERA would strike down pro-life legislative protections in all 50 states. “With its ratification, the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion by clarifying that the sexes have equal rights, which would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws because they violate both the constitutional right to privacy and sexual equality,” NARAL wrote on a website, which it has since deleted. The president of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, agreed, “There are no equal rights for women without access to abortion, plain and simple.” Since the Left insists that “access” requires federal funding, the office of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) surmised that the renewed ERA fight is “about eliminating federal and state life protections and ushering in an era of taxpayer funding of abortion.”
After the United States had an opportunity to digest these arguments, momentum stopped, then reversed. Although the Democrats extended the ERA’s ratification deadline, no additional states signed on, and five states rescinded their previous ratification votes: Nebraska (1973), Tennessee (1974), Idaho (1977), Kentucky (1978), and South Dakota (1979).
The debate had been had, and the Democrats lost. Many people assumed they’d heard the last of the platform-shoes-and-bell-bottoms era proposal outside reruns of “Mrs. America.” But the Left never accepts any rejection. Now the Democrats are trying to revive a proposed amendment that went out with Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Nevada ratified the long-dead ERA in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018, and Virginia in 2020. They then proclaimed these states had pushed the moribund amendment over the finish line — never mind the five states that had withdrawn their support.
The Trump administration’s Justice Department ruled the ratification had come too late. But its supporters said that the time limit was part of the legislation, not part of the ERA text itself, so it could be ignored. They also argued the Constitution doesn’t give states the option of rescinding support for an amendment.
The Democrats tried to sue the ERA into the Constitution and lost again. In March, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, an Obama appointee, ruled that a “ratification deadline in a proposing resolution’s introduction is just as effective as one in the text of a proposed amendment,” so the deadline to adopt the ERA “expired long ago.” He didn’t address whether a state can rescind its support of an amendment. The three states that ratified the ERA after the deadline appealed his decision in May. But even the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed to reject their arguments. “How can you disregard states that said ‘we’ve changed our minds’?” she asked in 2020. “I would like to see a new beginning” for the ERA’s ratification, starting from scratch, she said.
With its legal fate still uncertain, the Left decided to simply declare the ERA part of the Constitution. First, in March, the House passed a resolution from retiring Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) retroactively repeating the ERA’s 1982 ratification deadline, 222-204. Then on October 21, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing where they said the ERA is part of the Constitution. This is where Alyssa Milano comes in.
The “Who’s the Boss” star testified before the House that the “debate is over. We won.” She then asserted that the U.S. government has an “obligation to fix the Constitution”:
The states have directed Congress to amend the Constitution, and it is now the duty of Congress and the Administration [sic] to get out of the way and remove the arbitrary, unnecessary, and shameful deadline that was cynically imposed nearly a half century ago as a poison pill. … The lack of Constitutional [sic] protections for anyone who is not a cisgender man is a blemish on the very idea of Americanism. … The Framers failed us when they did not include women in the Constitution. Congress failed us when it added the deadline for ratification of the ERA. You, the members of this committee, have the opportunity and the obligation to fix the constitution [sic] and stop it from failing us.
Her words echo Barack Obama’s statement that the U.S. Constitution “reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.”
Still, some in attendance found them persuasive. At the end of the hearing, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who represents the D.C. suburbs, said, “I contend based on this testimony, that the ERA is now an amendment to the Constitution duly ratified by the 38th state, the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Alyssa locuta est, causa finita est.
After the Green Bay Packers lost a game, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi reportedly said, “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.” With Phyllis Schlafly no longer here to fight them, the Democratic Party has decided to take the same approach toward the Equal Rights Amendment. The Democrats’ cynical attempt to move the goalposts, rewrite the Constitution, enshrine abortion as sacrosanct, and legally obliterate the immutable biological differences between males and females should show every patriotic American how far the Left is willing to go in its bid to fundamentally transform America — and how vigilant we must remain to keep our republic.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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