by Tammy Caputi

Unlike most countries in the world, the United States does not have a constitutional equality provision guaranteeing equal rights for women.

Cathi Herrod, of the Center for Arizona Policy, thinks sex discrimination is something to “pray for”.  She sent false and misleading statements regarding the recent attempt to move ratification of the ERA forward in Arizona. She wrote:

The ERA is a poorly worded amendment to the U.S. Constitution from the 1970s that would restrict all laws and practices that make anydistinction based on sex.”

Here is the wording of the ERA: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

It is clear, concise, and intended to eliminate sex-based discrimination. It does nothing to restrict distinctions based on sex. The ERA underscores that women are not men; we have obvious differences such as the ability to get pregnant, and cannot be discriminated against for these unique, sex-based differences. The Supreme Court has ruled that women can’t be treated differently when pregnant because men can’t get pregnant, and a non-pregnant worker is the standard. The ERA would provide pregnant women equal protection under the law.

Here are Herrod’s reasons for opposing:

“The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment already protects against discrimination based on sex”:

No, it doesn’t. It promises “equal protection of the law”, but was passed with no intent or instance of including sex (and uses the word “male”). It defined citizens, but at the time it was passed women couldn’t vote; a separate amendment was needed to grant women voting rights. The 14th amendment does not consider women as citizens, and has failed to protect our rights.

“With ERA ratification, the U.S. Constitution would mandate a genderless society, ignoring the meaningful biological and physiological differences between men and women.”

The ERA would give women equal protection under the law and include us in our Constitution. It actually highlights gender by calling for women to be protected from discrimination based on our biological and physiological differences from men.

 “Courts likely would find that the word “sex” in the ERA includes gender identity, meaning that the government would no longer recognize two sexes based on biology, but rather a multiplicity of genders based on self-identification.”

Transgender/non-binary humans deserve protection from discrimination as well. No citizen of the United States should have to beg for equal rights under the law, whatever their gender.

“The ERA puts people of faith and religious nonprofits in danger of being penalized by the federal government for continuing to recognize both the existence and differences of the two sexes.”

Guaranteeing women equal protection under the law does not penalize people of faith. Herrod’s implying that “people of faith” deserve the right to discriminate against women if their religion deems it acceptable.  The justification of discrimination against women on grounds of religion is unacceptable. The ERA recognizes the existence and differences of the sexes, and attempts to eliminate unfair treatment based on these differences.

 “ERA takes power away from the states by regulating areas that states have traditionally regulated like marriage, property laws, divorce and alimony, child custody, adoptions, abortion, sex crimes, insurance and so on. The ERA clearly states that ‘Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.’”

There is no issue more worthy of defending at the federal level than the right of women to be equal humans, with equal protection under the law, no matter what state of this nation they reside in.

“ERA ratification likely would overturn state pro-life laws on abortion. Courts in New Mexico and Connecticut have ruled that their state ERAs prohibited certain restrictions on abortion and that they mandated taxpayer funding.”

The right to end an unwanted pregnancy is a legal, Constitutionally protected right in the United States. Women have a Constitutional right to privacy, and to pursue their lives, liberty, and happiness as they see fit. If there are state courts that have ruled an equal rights amendment prohibited certain unconstitutional restrictions on the rights of women to make their own private reproductive decisions, than those restrictions have no legal right to be passed in the first place. This is why we need an ERA- to protect women from discriminatory restrictions based on our sex.

Ms. Herrod says: “Pray that state legislators will oppose the ERA.”

I say: “Vote these anti-woman leaders out!” Women are a majority of this country and are not represented in our own Constitution. We have no legal rights other than the right to vote. We are unprotected from gender-based violence, discriminatory pay, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and unfair work practices. If the only right we have is our vote, then let’s use it and pass this ERA! It’s time!

Tammy Caputi is the owner of Yale Electric West, Inc., a distributor of lighting and electrical supplies. Tammy has spent the last 20 years lighting up the Phoenix Valley! Tammy has a B.A. from Wellesley College in Economics and Women’s Studies and an MBA from Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She is active in the Phoenix Jewish Community, in her local legislative district, in her children’s schools, and in the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce. She currently serves on the City of Scottsdale Development Review Board. She is energized and outspoken and committed to working towards a better Arizona.