I believe equal rights for all US citizens are important. Our country was founded on the proposition of equality. It’s there in our Declaration of Independence, first among the truths our Founding Fathers held to be self-evident: “All men are created equal.” Admittedly, in the absence of Founding Mothers, our Founding Fathers left a good deal of work to be done in ensuring equality for all citizens. They were, after all, white males, and the laws they wrote were intended to protect white, male citizens—but the beliefs they set forth were new and bold, and in promising to defend them, they stood together in pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
As our country has grown, so has its promise—yet there still exists a wall between that promise and its practice.
As of August 1, 2009, 18 female US soldiers have lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 28 have been wounded. As of August 1, 2009, 103 female US soldiers have lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom—102 of them having fallen since President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq from the deck of the USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003; since that same day, 598 female US soldiers have been wounded in Iraq. One hundred twenty-one women killed, 626 wounded, thousands more serving, and each of them having made the same promise to fight for our country; each of them having pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor; each of them willing to give that last full measure of devotion to a nation whose Founding Fathers, living in a different time, did not provide for them in our Constitution the explicit equal protection guaranteed to men.
I’ll borrow from Shirley Chisholm’s address to the US House of Representatives on August 10, 1970:
This is what it comes down to: artificial distinctions between persons must be wiped out of the law. Legal discrimination between the sexes is, in almost every instance, founded on outmoded views of society and the pre-scientific beliefs about psychology and physiology. It is time to sweep away these relics of the past and set further generations free of them.
You asked for practical implications: It took our Supreme Court 103 years to apply the Fourteenth Amendment to sex discrimination, yet to this day it remains in court a woman’s burden to prove discrimination is unreasonable. Title IX, meant to ensure sex equality in public education, faces continued attack. Women today earn 75 percent as much as men for the same work, and they hold only 13 percent of the top executive positions in our country. Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment would provide firmer legal ground for both women and men fighting against sex discrimination in our country’s courts.
Thank you for your question.