Contrary to the belief of eighty percent of Americans, the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The effect of this lack of protection can be seen in every corner of our society, including economic inequalities and a lack of representation in leadership. For almost one hundred years, women’s organizations and activists have attempted to rectify this by advocating for the inclusion of an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the Constitution. In the past few years, there has been a revived push for the ERA due to the amendment’s first congressional hearing in thirty-six years, its ratification by three states since 2017, and public support from high-profile politicians, celebrities, and activists. However, the ERA is only the first step.
Part I of this Note will explain the current sources of protection against sex discrimination in the Constitution and outline the historical background necessary for understanding how this level of protection was achieved. Part II will illustrate why the status of women in the United States today still calls for stronger constitutional protections, including why the current measures are insufficient. Part III will then discuss how, even though the ERA is a vital first step, states’ equal rights amendments and Fourteenth amendment jurisprudence teach us that its passage alone will not remedy the gender inequality in our country. Finally, Part IV will recommend legislative measures necessary to give the ERA “teeth,” modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.