The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) provides simply: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The ERA was drafted by Alice Paul in 1923. Congress overwhelmingly passed the ERA in 1972. Thirty-eight states are required to ratify a Constitutional Amendment for it to enter the Constitution. Because thirty-seven states have ratified the Amendment, most recently Illinois in June, 2018, only one more state is needed. That state could be Virginia, a state uniquely situated to continue standing up for individual rights by amendment of the United States Constitution.
Legal scholars have stated that the deadline that accompanied the amendment is not valid, having no basis in Article V of the Constitution; and if it is nevertheless ruled valid by courts, Congress can exercise its authority to extend the deadline as it did once before, or eliminate it, or ignore it, count intervening ratifications, and discount state rescissions as it did for the Fourteenth Amendment.
The text of the Amendment does not mean men and women are, or must be, equal in any particular measure. It means men and women will not be denied equal rights under law by U.S. federal or state governments. This includes Constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
Equal rights are not securely protected by the U.S. Constitution. That is why the Constitution had to be amended to give women the right to vote. The word “men” appears throughout the Constitution. Women are only clearly granted rights once: in the 19th Amendment, which gave all citizens the right to vote.
The U.S. Constitution currently does not guarantee equal rights
While the Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted by courts as providing a medium (“intermediate”) level of protection against discrimination based on sex, this does not apply the highest level of scrutiny that classifications such as race and national origin receive, to help ensure that the government discriminates against women or men only for compelling reasons.
Virginia’s Constitution contains an equal rights guarantee and the sky has not fallen
Article I, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution has provided a guarantee of equal rights for 48 years. The federal Equal Rights Amendment will provide reasonable checks on federal as well as state governmental power.