When Simple Isn’t Simple

April 1

The more time I spend in the political world, the more I am convinced that some of the most dangerous legislation for Christian families, businesses, and churches is in “simple” bills. These are bills that may appear to be very good ideas on the surface, but they often have one huge issue that can cause a mountain of problems: vagueness.

A prime example is the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The essential part of the ERA is one sentence: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” So what’s wrong with that? Don’t we all want equal rights for men and women? Of course we do.

The problem is actually with its simplicity and endless ways it can be interpreted. ERA language offers “equal rights”, which leaves a blank slate for courts to erase protections for women from the law and make-up rights out of thin air. That may sound extreme, but it has already been happening.  A number of states have enacted their own ERAs and what have been some of the results of court interpretations?

  • Husbands are no longer required to pay alimony in certain cases, because doing so places mothers and fathers in an “unequal position”.
  • ERA states have found a constitutional right to abortion, arguing that to not provide abortions is sex-based discrimination.
  • Courts have decided that “sex” should be interpreted to also mean gender. This means a man, who says he is a woman, will have the constitutional right to enter women’s bathrooms, play on women’s sports teams, gain admission into women’s clubs, and earn women’s scholarships.

You see the problem. Simple isn’t simple, or sometimes even good, when it has this much ambiguity. House Concurrent Resolution 3037, currently being considered by our legislature, would clarify that North Dakota’s 1975 ratification of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment is no longer valid (i.e., we no longer support the ERA). Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota supports and will again testify in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 3037 as it is considered in the Senate this week.

The ERA was proposed in 1972, that’s almost 50 years ago, a time when women dealt with obvious discrimination in various aspects of life. However, since that time, numerous federal laws have been passed ensuring equal protection and access for girls and women in school academics and athletics, juries, military service, family leave, protection against sexual harassment and domestic violence, and a host of other protections.

On a personal level, my wife and daughter have certainly benefited from all the anti-discrimination laws enacted over the past 50 years, and I’m very thankful for that. They have had equal job opportunities, equal academic opportunities, been protected from sexual harassment, and many more positives. However, this was without any ERA being in place! I would be the first to admit that there are areas of life where sex discrimination still exists, but the sweeping and ambiguous language in the proposed federal ERA is going to cause a significant undermining of pro-life and pro-family values as it is interpreted by activist courts.

Simple isn’t always simple when it comes to laws. Sometimes simple is actually bad, precisely because it is simple. The 50-year-old ERA is a solution looking for a problem, so please ask your Senator to vote “yes” on House Concurrent Resolution 3037 and let’s tell the federal government that North Dakotans don’t support this deeply flawed and harmful amendment.

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While you will initially see contact info for our federal delegation presented, you can then click on the North Dakota tab to view your state officials’ emails and phone numbers.


Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director