As social justice issues related equality such as the gender wage gap, police brutality, transgender rights, and undocumented immigrants have gained national attention in recent years, there is a growing movement to codify these concepts into more comprehensive civil rights laws. While the U.S. Constitution and various other federal and state laws do guarantee some form of equality, activists have wanted specific protections to be listed in new laws as well, rather than blanket statements about prohibiting discrimination based certain protected characteristics.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has recently told an assembly at the Georgetown University Law Center that this equal rights amendment should be a priority and the population should restart the process to make a formal constitutional amendment. She stated that previous efforts from the 1960s until recent years seem to have fallen short, and there needs to be a new process to move towards greater legal protections for everyone. Even at 86 years old, she continues to be one of the more outspoken justices regarding progressive views.
The discussion was sparked by a question from a current judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which asked whether a Formal Equal Rights Amendment would ever be codified into federal law. The main point of the amendment would be to ban sex based discrimination and guarantee equal gender rights in the text of the constitution.
Ginsberg said that the state of Virginia had only ratified the amendment long after the deadline, meaning the process for a new amendment to receive support from at least 38 of the states would need to start all over.
The amendment has a long history, and it was first introduced in the 1920s around the time that the women’s rights movement began to make serious progress in the United States. The Department of Justice claims that the former ratifications expired years ago, and some had previously removed their support for the amendment after initially expressing interest in changing the constitution. The initial set of deadlines passed between the late 1970s and early 1980s after the amendment received DOJ approval. An assistant attorney general who works for the DOJ recently opined that because Congress never extended the deadline for the amendment to pass, prior efforts are essentially over and the process needs to start all over again.
Ginsberg further commented that in addition to the formal legal protections, the amendment would send a message to future generations that equality is a human rights issue that should transcend politics and boundaries.
Ginsberg also addressed her personal health and how it affects her tenacity. She states that after surviving cancer four times, she now has a renewed passion for life and hopes to still accomplish many things with her remaining days. She mentioned that she is still receiving large amounts of support from many people around the country through invitations to various engagements and mailings.
The effect of new laws or an amendment
Federal legislation or a constitutional amendment would ideally protect all people within the U.S. from employment discrimination and other decisions that illegally affect someone’s civil rights based on their gender.