Danger and Deception

Commentary by

Katherine Bussard

Ex. Director & COO


You may recall reading about the so called “Equal Rights Amendment” in your history books, but did you know that this failed attempt to amend the US Constitution is resurfacing in the US Congress right now? While the earliest versions of the amendment date back to 1923, it saw heavy debate in 1972, and then died down for almost 50 years. The ERA is anything but what its name suggests, and while its sponsors tout that the proposal would ensure equal protection for women, the reality is that it devalues women and stands to undo decades of real human progress and equality. 

The Presumptive Lies of the ERA

Lie 1: Gender is a chosen self-expression.

Truth: Gender is an immutable, sacred part of our Creator-endowed identity. 

Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Coupled with Psalm 139, those who ascribe to a Judeo-Christian worldview understand that when we are formed in the womb, God ordains our sex as either male or female, and that sex becomes an inherent part of who we are. Even with all advancements of modern medicine, a biological male who received all the hormone blockers and gender reassignment surgeries available would still have a stronger bone density, a larger heart, and greater lung capacity than a biological female. And no matter many surgeries a biological male goes through or how he views himself, a man’s body will never be able to do a woman’s body can do: birth new life. Furthermore, to suggest that behavioral preferences, self-identification, and biology account for the sum total of what it means to be male or female devalues both sexes. There is more to our identity that these simple factors—and our God has a distinct and special purpose for women and a distinct and special purpose for men that is hardwired into our most basic human nature (Romans 1). These natural differences are beautiful and worth of celebration—they should not be erased by forced conformity to bad public policy. Gender is an immutable, sacred part of our Creator-endowed identity.

It should be further noted that ignoring the difference between men and women leads to a host of dangers, especially for women. If passed, the ERA would make segregation on gender as criminal as segregation based on skin-color or ethnicity. While we should never segregate people based on skin-color or ethnicity, there are some outstanding occasions for sex-based segregation. For example, in same-sex spaces like dressing rooms, rest rooms, and locker rooms, sex-based segregation protects women from sexual predators with nefarious intentions. The same is true for women’s prisons and women’s shelters, where exposure to the opposite sex can, in the best of circumstances, substantially deter healing and recovery, and in the worst of circumstances, can lead to rape and other forms of violent abuse. Further, female athletes would never have a chance to be recognized for their ability, earn scholarships, or receive awards if forced to compete against biological males, who have numerous physical advantages. No real supporters of women’s’ rights would advocate for a policy that so endangers and disenfranchises them.

Lie 2: Women are victims of constitutionally enshrined inequality. 

Truth: The Constitution provides equal protection for the rights of all people, regardless of sex. 

The 14th Amendment is clear: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

It is ridiculous and offensive to suggest that women are not protected by this language.  To reach that conclusion, one would have to assert that women are not people. Anyone who makes that argument cannot seriously consider themselves an advocate of the equality of the sexes or women’s rights. The truth is plain: the Constitution provides equal protection for the rights of all people, regardless of sex.

Even societally, it is hard to say with a straight face that women are oppressed victims. We have the same ability and opportunity to vote, to own property, to get an education (more women actually obtain college degrees than men), to have meaningful careers in our chosen professions, to compete in athletics, to hold public office, to live single or married, and to enjoy a thousand other privileges, as any other person living in this nation. Far from being victims, women in America are some of the most privileged and successful people ever to walk the earth. Great sacrifices have been make by both men and women in ages past to afford these liberties and privileges, and we would be fools to undo their hard work by passing something like the ERA that seeks to erase gender distinctions altogether. 

Lie 3: Women don’t have control of their bodies unless they can get abortion on demand.

Truth: The bodily autonomy of a woman is—in no way—undermined by protecting the bodily autonomy and fundamental right to life of a person still inside her womb. 

If passed, the “Equal Rights Amendment” would constitutionally enshrine a right to abortion on demand for all 9 months of a pregnancy, and allow tax payer dollars to pay for the procedure. Many women, myself included, are horrified by this. We don’t want a constitutional right to abortion. We would never suggest that the violent and barbaric murder of an unborn child equates to our own bodily autonomy.  We are also aware that the many side-affects of abortion actually endanger our own health, as well that of innocent children. Modern women understand that those advocating for life are not seeking to control women or their bodies; we simply believe that the human life growing inside a woman’s body deserves protection too. A real “Equal Rights” policy would defend the life of the baby as well as the woman and rightly value them as individual persons, each worthy of equal protection under the law. 

Lie 4: Denying biological sex poses no threat to religious people. 

Truth: A Constitutional Amendment denying distinctions of sex would carry equal weight with the First Amendment and would greatly restrict religious liberty. 

Ratified in 1791 as the foremost issue in the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech . . . .”  However, to deny that biological gender exists or prohibit religious practice that is based on gender would substantially limit religious conscience and practice. How would institutions that ascribe to the Biblical definition of marriage as a sacred covenant between one man, one woman, and their God, faithfully observe this teaching without discriminating against those in same-sex unions? How could a Christian school deny teen boys access to a girls locker room or dormitory without committing illegal segregation? How could a doctor or medical professional who believes in the sanctity of life refuse to carry out an abortion procedure if such a procedure is a constitutionally protected right? How could a surgeon who holds that gender is an immutable, sacred part of our Creator-endowed identity decline to perform a gender reassignment surgery or withhold puberty blockers? The infringements are endless, and when both positions are enshrined in the highest law of the land, it creates an impossible zero sum game where no rights are well secured. A constitutional amendment denying distinctions of sex would carry equal weight with the First Amendment and would have devastatingly destructive consequences to religious liberty.

The ERA was bad public policy 50 years ago, and it remains bad public policy today. 

The History of the ERA & Good Governance Concerns

When the amendment was first introduced in 1972, congress gave the amendment a sunset date of 1979 to either receive sufficient ratification and be published as part of the Constitution, or fail. At first, nearly 30-well intentioned states quickly moved to ratify the proposal, thinking that they were acting to promote real gender equality….but as more people read the proposed language, it became apparent that the reverse was true. The language endangered women’s rights, endanger the unborn, and proposed extreme risks to religious liberty and other First Amendment rights. State legislatures set the proposal aside and didn’t touch it for almost 50 years, when radical leftist ideology caused it to resurface. Between 2017 and 2020, the states of Illinois, Nevada, and Virginia ratified the old amendment language, with Virginia becoming the 38th state to move the issue, thereby giving the inactive adequate support to become a Constitutional Amendment—except that their action was 41 years after the congressional sunset. The DOJ ruled that it could not be published, and after a series of lengthy appeals, a February 28, 2023 ruling by the District of Columbia US District Court of Appeals rejected the amendment’s addition to the Constitution, citing the 1979 congressional window for passage has closed. Not be derailed, the amendment’s supporters quickly took the issue back to Congress. 

Last week, the US Senate conducted a hearing on  S.J. Res. 4, and the House of Representatives is poised to take up their version of the legislation, H.J. Res. 25. Both bills serve the same purpose—to declare the ERA fully ratified and proclaim the original deadline void. However, debates are raging over whether Congress can retroactively erase its earlier deadline, whether voting on the resolutions constitutes passing a bill or a constitutional amendment necessitating a supermajority of votes, and whether this process upholds principles of good governance. A lot has changed in the last 51 years since the initial amendment was introduced, and the most transparent, representative course of action agrees with the course of the DOJ-to re-initiate the process and put the motion of ratification before the people’s current representatives in the state houses. Certainly, the intentional, deliberative process of crafting good public policy would better serve the people than any plot to retroactively ram defunct ratification measures through Congress with little opportunity for public input.  There were good reasons to abandon the ERA 51 years ago, and those good reasons still exist today. 

About the Author

Katherine Bussard
Ex. Director & COO
As Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Salt & Light Global, Katherine works to disciple servant-leaders in all walks of life, equipping them to share the redemptive love and truth of Jesus. She facilitates training in good governance for communities around the state, mentors other Christian women in leadership, and champions sound public policy. In speaking, writing, and serving, Katherine seeks to encourage the body of Christ to see all of who they are what they do through God’s Word. Katherine resides with her husband and partner in Kingdom service, Jeff.

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