Christina Hoff Sommers had an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday on the Left’s campaign to resurrect the ERA.  The amendment’s text may sound harmless–“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”–but as Sommers describes, its application could have serious legal consequences, advancing the radical feminists attempts to outlaw anything that acknowledges differences between the sexes:

Anyone who believes the ERA would be applied with common sense has not been paying attention. Its proponents have an entirely different agenda: to ban reasonable forms of discrimination. By changing the constitutional standard from “equal protection” to “equality of rights,” the ERA would hand radical feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women and the National Women’s Law Center a powerful weapon to wage war on what they view as “the gender system.”

Consider, for example, what happened in 2004 when the U.S. Department of Education changed its regulations to allow public schools to experiment with single-sex classes. Feminist groups were enraged; NOW compared the new policy to separating children by race, claiming that it “perpetuates sex-stereotyping . . . Girls, as the traditionally subordinated group, are likely to experience a badge of inferiority as a result of being grouped on the basis of sex.”

The ERA would constitutionalize this point of view, requiring judges to apply the same “strict scrutiny” they would use to evaluate a law or policy that segregates people by race. I once debated celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred who was suing the Boy Scouts for excluding girls. She accused the Scouts of practicing “gender apartheid.”

She lost the case, but the ERA would guarantee its success. Boy Scouts would be forced to “integrate”; sororities and fraternities would be eliminated or required to merge; religious institutes that do not allow ordination of women would lose their tax exempt status. Single-sex schools and summer camps for boys would be phased out. Tolerating them would be tantamount to tolerating separate but equal schools for blacks and whites or tax deductions for segregationist academies or religious cults.

The fallacy of ERA is that the sexes, unlike the races, really are different in socially pertinent ways. But to hard-line feminists every form of differentiation — every departure from “equality of rights” — is sexist discrimination.

Sommers closes the piece with a challenge to ERA propentents: 

Women are well protected from invidious discrimination by the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ERA proponents need to explain why existing “equal protection” guarantees are inadequate — and which currently legal institutions and practices they would like to see abolished should the ERA become law.

The media fails to issue a similar challenge to ERA supporters, typically casting opponents of the Amendment as sexist ogres.  Let’s hope that Sommers challenge is taken up as this debate begins.