- - Thursday, January 3, 2019

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

(Equal Rights Amendment, Section I)

The Virginia General Assembly will be taking up the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in its upcoming session. It was decades earlier, in 1972, when this proposed amendment to the United States Constitution was first sent to the states for ratification. Support was initially broad. In the first year after the amendment was passed 22 states ratified it.

Then, for various reasons, the amendment lay dormant until recently when it regained currency, largely due to the #MeToo movement. What should give Virginia legislators pause as they consider the ERA this time around is the ongoing effort to redefine the term “sex.” If sex no longer means what the original proponents of the amendment intended its ratification will have a completely different outcome than was originally intended. Ironically (no, tragically), it will be women — the very people this amendment was drafted to protect — who stand to lose the most.

The language of the ERA dates back to the suffragist leaders of the 1920s who held to the age-old understanding of “sex” as meaning biological men and biological women. However, this age-old understanding is being challenged today.

In an expert declaration to a federal district court, for example, a professor from Duke University and director of the Duke Center for Child and Adolescent Gender Care, Dr. Deanna Adkins, stated: “From a medical perspective, the appropriate determinant of sex is gender identity.” Dr. Adkins argued that gender identity is “the only medically supported determinant of sex.” Her claim that “it is counter to medical science to use chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, or secondary sex characteristics to override gender identity for purposes of classifying someone as male or female” is being parroted more frequently.

If this new medical “science “and new definition of sex is adopted, ratification of the ERA will have the unintended consequence of erasing many of the gains envisioned by its early supporters.

If sex is redefined, women involved in athletics will lose. Just ask the high school girls in Connecticut who saw their hard years of training quashed as biological males were seeded in the same events. Just ask the women cyclists who saw a biological man atop the winner’s platform in the recent cycling world championships. Just ask the women volleyball players who will lose the opportunity to compete on an Olympic team when their slots are given to biological men whose testosterone gives them natural advantages in height and strength.

If sex is redefined, vulnerable women stand to lose their safe spaces — in women’s shelters, in prisons, in dressing rooms, in restrooms.

If sex is redefined, women stand to lose tangible monetary benefits. Women-only scholarships with the intent of promoting diversity will become obsolete. There will be no more women-owned business set asides for federal contracting. Lower auto insurance rates computed on sex-based actuarial statistics will become illegal.

If sex is redefined, women stand to lose in various venues originally designed to promote their prestige as fewer biological women are recognized. Witness: Time’s Woman of the Year was Caitlyn Jenner; Spain’s Miss Universe contestant is a man; the highest-paid female executive in the United States was known as a man for the first 40-odd years of life.

It’s ironic that many of the most vocal proponents for passing the ERA today are the same ones pushing for this new definition of “sex.” It is a quintessential case of “be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it;” with the unintended consequence being a loss of women’s rights. In the rush to jump on the gender ideology bandwagon, promoters of the ERA in today’s world need to be careful not to undermine the gains of the women who have gone before them.

Obviously, no legislator wants to be on record for voting against equality. However, in this case, that’s not what a “no” vote would mean. Instead a “no” would be the the sensible recognition that, in today’s world, the amendment could actually codify a loss of rights for women. Let’s hope Virginia legislators have the foresight to see what’s coming and that common sense prevails in the Commonwealth.

• Carol Nyce, a Virginia mother of six, was a speechwriter for Jack Kemp when he was secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

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