It happened today - October 12, 2015

Stop ERABack in 1971, on Oct. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Equal Rights Amendment” pertaining to “sex,” as they then called gender, by a massive 354-23 majority. It passed the Senate almost as overwhelmingly in March 1972, 84-8, And with the backing of the political establishment left, right and fringe: from Strom Thurmond and Richard Nixon to George McGovern, Jane Fonda and the AFL-CIO it was sent to the states for what was widely assumed would be easy ratification. But then a strange thing happened. The public got involved.

The ERA was simple and straightforward in wording and intention.

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

And in the wake of civil rights for blacks it seemed unstoppable.

It was quickly ratified by 28 states by mid-1973 and got its 35th ratification in January 1977. Just 3 to go for 38, the required ¾ of the states. But that’s where things took a funny turn. A lot of regular people worried about what it might do to the family, and to laws protecting women including those restricting the military draft to men. And they mobilized and prevented it from getting the required ratification by 38 states even though it received an extension of the deadline from 1979 to 1982 of dubious legality.

All that was a long time ago as we now measure such things, of course. And so it’s curious, times having continued to change in sexually radical directions, with women in combat now uncontroversial and the courts in full swing, so to speak, that it has not been reintroduced in Congress as an apparent slam-dunk.

Perhaps the fear is that doing so would invite regular people back into policy debates on gender. And that would never do. Remember what happened last time.