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Sex Discrimination

The Equal Rights Amendment

The boldest attempt to outlaw sex discrimination was Congress's passage in 1972 of a constitutional amendment, popularly known as the EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT (ERA). The ERA, which had originally been introduced in Congress in 1928, stated 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." It gave Congress the authority to enforce this provision by appropriate legislation.

The ERA, like all constitutional amendments, had to be ratified by at least three-fourths of the states to become part of the Constitution. At first the amendment was met with enthusiasm and little controversy in the state legislatures. By 1976 the ERA had been ratified by 35 of the needed 38 states. In the late 1970s, however,

Kevin Knussman, with his wife Kim (seated) and ACLU lawyer Sara Mandelbaum, won a four-year legal battle with the Maryland State Police who had denied him unpaid parental leave during the latter stages of his wife's pregnancy in 1994.

conservative groups mounted strong opposition in those states that had yet to ratify. Opponents contended that the ERA would lead to women in combat, unisex bathrooms, and the overturning of legitimate sex-based classifications. Although Congress extended the period for ratification until 1982, the ERA ultimately failed to win approval from the required 38 states.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Secretary to SHAsSex Discrimination - Historical Background, Sex Discrimination And Title Vii: An Unusual Political Alliance, Sex Discrimination Laws