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As noted in the article "The Equal Rights Amendment May Pass Now. It’s Only Been 96 Years" there is at least a nonzero chance that the ERA could become part of the Constitution.

Putting aside the issues of the validity of the ERA, assuming it were to become part of the Constitution, what practical effects would it have today?

Its main clause reads,

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

which I had thought was similar to various existing Federal laws regulating certain areas. Perhaps the ERA would cover a broader set of state & federal laws? Or given the existing laws on the books would it amount to mostly a 'ceremonial' change?

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You're right in saying that many aspects of the ERA are already covered by federal laws. One of the most glaring reasons to include this amendment is that, just any federal law, it could be repealed. The amendment would be a guarantee for those protections under any and all circumstances (although there could also be an amendment to invalidate the ERA). I'll attempt to keep the answer brief when discussing the impact of the ERA with modern laws.

Arguably, the most important topic would be the current abortion debate. Conservatives have led the charge and made progress in a number of states to limit abortions. They feel the ERA is a major threat to their argument. Indeed, Liberals on the other side have argued that the ERA would guarantee reproductive rights. However, the ERA would mostly be overshadowed by Roe v. Wade. Either case, the amendment would no doubt add another layer of arguments to the debate.

Let's consider the draft as another example. Arguably, it would be well argued that a male only draft would violate this amendment, in which case the Government would have two options: 1. Eliminate the draft, or 2. require women to be drafted as well. Both will be unfavorable options.

There are a number of other modern cases that may be affected: restroom policy, equal pay in the workplace, etc.. All of these cases will be evaluated with a new lens.

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    Re: "Both will be unfavorable options." I'm not sure that assertion aids the answer, definitely not without citation. It reads like an unsubstantiated opinion. – DariM Nov 7 at 2:47
  • @DariM You're right that I'm predicting a government response, and only by the passage of the amendment would we know for certain how the government would respond. However, I don't believe it's an imaginative stretch to see the pickle the government will find itself in. The government would not want to eliminate conscription in the event of a war where more bodies are needed. And, just for the reason that males are only drafted, the government would not want women drafted with men. Of course, I would be open to an option that would solve both problems. – Matthew Drews Nov 7 at 4:04
  • Eliminating the draft is not unfavorable option. – jo1storm Nov 7 at 10:56
  • "1. Eliminate the draft, or 2. allow women to serve as well" Just wanted to comment that women are allowed to serve (and they do so in significant numbers in every branch). Women are not required to sign up for selective service nor, if there ever is a draft, can they be compelled into service. I agree with you though that the ERA could change all of that. Maybe change the wording to, "required to sign up for selective service", which implies that they could later be drafted. – ouflak Nov 7 at 16:44
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    @jo1storm - I'm also failing to see what would be so unfavorable about applying it equally regardless of "sex". – T.E.D. Nov 7 at 19:03

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