Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Equal Rights Amendment
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Equal Rights Amendment


You spent many years devoted to the
passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and it came close, but it didn’t pass.
It missed three states, by three states. Do you ever, do you think that
that would make any difference today, do you think that’s still a good idea? Yes. I
think it’s a fine idea. Not that we haven’t come almost as far as we would
with the ERA by the Court’s interpretation of the 14th amendment. But
still, if you are trying to decide cases the way the Framers would have decided
them, if you ask anyone who who was in Congress at the time the 14th amendment
was sent to the states, does this mean that women will be citizens of equal
stature to men? The answer would be of course not. Many states still didn’t have
married women’s property acts, so women who married couldn’t sue or be sued in their
own name, couldn’t contract in their own name, couldn’t hold property in their own
name. The 14th amendment wasn’t meant to change any of that. But the equality principle, which by the
way, you know, is not in the original Constitution. The Equal Protection Clause
shows up in the 14th amendment, which is a restriction on what states can do when
at the time of the Brown v. Board decision, one of the cases that was
combined in that litigation was from DC, challenging the segregated public
schools in our nation’s capital. Well, DC is not a state and it is governed by
federal law, so what was the Supreme Court going to do, it was facing the
Kansas case and the others on the 14th amendment on the Equal Protection Clause.
Well, the court incorporated an Equality principle into the Due Process Clause of
the Fifth Amendment which governed it but I suppose the best reason is if you
look at any Constitution that has been written since 1950, you will find in it
a statement that men and women are equal before the law. So I have three
granddaughters, I would like to be able to take out my pocket Constitution and
say that the equal citizenship stature of men and women is a fundamental tenet
of our society. Like free speech, the woman’s equal right to do whatever her
talent and hard work enable her to do, I like that to be in the Constitution.

4 Comments

  • Kurt Haas

    With all due respect Justice Ginsberg, we'r as a society grew up without adding duplicative Amendments. You say times were different when the 14th Amendment passed, and women's rights were not guaranteed, yet in the same breath you admit that we are close to it now without the Amendment because of the courts interpretation of the 14th. So why duplicate the effort? Notoriety? To grow an already bloated Federal Government? The Constitution was designed to allow growth in its framework, not force growth for the sake of a historical footnote. Let the future grow Your Honor, and let the party be the footnote of where we were. RIP Justice Ginsberg.

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