SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – If Utah ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, what would change?

We went to Paul Cassell, Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, for insight.

“You have an interesting question. Do we really need an Equal Rights Amendment in Utah when we have the state constitutional provision already extending equal rights to women?” Cassell asked rhetorically.

For a state who has been at the forefront for human rights, but the worst in the country when it comes to women’s equality, Professor Cassell said the ERA is a step towards changing the culture.

“I think everyone acknowledges that even if the Equal Rights Amendment passes, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure that women have the same kinds of opportunities that men have always enjoyed.”

According to Fair Utah, proponents of the ERA, the amendment would provide:

  • Higher judicial standard of equal treatment for women and men
  • Legal recourse when people experience sex discrimination
  • Constitutional protection from future sex discrimination laws
  • Protection from rollbacks of current supportive laws
  • Blanket protections for all Americans, regardless of the state in which we live
  • Constitutional value of women as full citizens under the law

“Right now the United States Supreme Court has gone maybe 99 percent of the way there towards achieving equal status in the law for men and women and the proponents say it’s time to eliminate that last one percent,” Cassell told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

Opponents argue the ERA would:

  • Prohibit any restrictions on abortion or its tax funding
  • Compel women/girls to compete against men/boys in sports
  • Abolish female privacy in prisons, locker rooms, women’s shelters, nursing homes, hospitals
  • Subject women to selective service registration and front-line ground combat
  • End all incentives for women-owned businesses
  • End female scholarships
  • End women-only sports programs
  • Abolish alimony guidelines
  • End lower auto and other insurance rates for women
  • Treat any legal distinction based on sex the same as racial discrimination

“I don’t think the Equal Rights Amendment would radically change society. A lot of what the proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment wanted to achieve has already been achieved through United States Supreme Court decisions,” Cassell explained. “There are people in Utah and indeed all over the country who are somewhat skeptical about transferring decisions to federal decision-makers including federal judges. The Equal Rights Amendment clearly would give power to federal judges to make a decision about sex-related issues, and that’s one of the concerns.”

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