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Gender Ideology is Losing. The ERA Should, Too.

March 08, 2023

Medical professionals and the public are pushing back against radical gender ideologies that have claimed the minds, bodies, and lives of too many children. Those at war against biological sex are losing — but only if the ERA is defeated, too. 

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted its latest hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment. This time, to consider the merits of removing the amendments’ pesky expiration date. 

Senate Democrats and pro-ERA testifiers avoided unpopular laws that redefine sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). This isn’t surprising. In the last month, advocates of radical gender ideologies have suffered numerous blows. Nicola Sturgeon, Minister of Scotland, resigned after her Gender Recognition Reform Bill allowed Isla Bryson — a convicted male rapist, who later identified as a woman — placement in a female prison. 

In the United States, seven states passed or introduced laws to ban sex-sterilization surgeries or cross-sex hormones for minors. BMJ, an esteemed academic journal, released a study highlighting disagreement among medical professionals on how to treat gender dysphoria. And, a few days before, a whistleblower from the Washington University School of Medicine spoke out against the radical treatments prescribed to minors. With public opinion moving against such redefinitions of gender, those on the Left need a new strategy. 

Here's where the Equal Rights Amendment comes in. The ERA is, at best, a trojan horse for radical ideologies that redefine sex to include “gender identity.” The reality is much worse. If ratified, the ERA could go further than current SOGI laws and dissolve the meaning of sex altogether. 

Jennifer C. Braceras, the director of Independent Women’s Law Center, testified against the ERA’s harmful impact on women. She explains, 

To begin with, the ERA does not define the word “sex” … Today, the current administration is actively trying to redefine sex-based protections under Title IX and other federal laws to include “gender identity” … Can there be any doubt, then, that activists will try to use the ERA to constitutionally require all sorts of unpopular policies that state and federal legislatures will not or cannot pass?

Still, Senate Democrats and ERA supporters avoided questions about the ERA’s impact on women’s sports, academic opportunities, or the privacy of sex-specific spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, and prisons. Instead, they claimed these issues distracted from the larger point of equality for women. 

Two comments from Tuesday’s hearing highlight this well. First, Chairman Dick Durbin mocked opportunities for female athletes, saying, “Now we hear that what’s at stake really is not a constitutional right for women, but the fate of field hockey.” Similarly, Ms. Thursday Williams said, “There are a lot of concerns about men performing in women’s sports. We’re not worried about that.” 

It’s tempting to think that the Equal Rights Amendment simply provides equal opportunities to men and women — that gender identity laws, not the ERA, are the greater threat to the well-being of women in sports, private spaces, and as mothers. This is far from the case, and Democrats know it. Rather than be upfront about their tactics, those on the Left are using the ERA as a trojan horse for their radical redefinition of sex. 

Further, the ERA would erase all legal distinctions between men and women. As Inez Stepman points out, current laws based on gender identity require men to “identify” as women to access sex-specific spaces. Yet under the ERA, “Lia” Thomas could remain “William” and have the right to swim on the women’s team. Why? Because the ERA ensures that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Men could enter public female spaces given that they cannot be “discriminated” against based on their sex. 

Laws are at their best when narrowly tailored. The ERA nullifies or renders unconstitutional special benefits and protections that women already have under the law. There is a big difference between laws that recognize distinct needs and laws that discriminate against women on illegitimate, non-essential grounds. It is precisely because we value women that laws are tailored to account for their unique position as women, mothers, and athletes. 

The only way to defeat the ERA, and radical gender ideologies, is to recognize the inherent difference between men and women. Sex is much more than one’s physical biology, but it is certainly not less. The dissolution of sex must be fought in every sphere, especially in the upcoming ERA debates, for this movement that values women, mothers, and biological sex to succeed. 

Emma Waters is a visiting fellow at Independent Women’s Forum. You may find her on Twitter: @emlwaters. 

This article was originally published by RealClearPolicy and made available via RealClearWire.
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