Why was the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution defeated?

The Equal Rights Amendment was an amendment to the United States Constitution that 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.”

In fact, it was such a commonsensical no-brainer that the U.S. Congress and 35 of the necessary 38 states quickly ratified it in the 1970s.

However, that was before certain business interests and religious-right conservatives realized that there could be potential political gain in opposing it. How to oppose equality without looking like fools or bigots was the problem.

It required turning the amendment into something it was not. For example, here’s Ronald Reagan, candidate for the presidency: “Human beings are not animals, and I do not want to see sex and sexual differences treated as casually and amorally as dogs and other beasts treat them.

I believe this could happen under the ERA.”

Pat Robertson, another presidential wanna-be and television evangelist, declared that the amendment

“is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”

How could you argue against logic like that? Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment tried to bring the question back to the issue of equality, but their opponents managed to muddy the waters enough so that no additional states supported the ERA.

Its ratification deadline expired in 1982, three states short.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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