Summary Questions and Answers
March 1980

“Summary Questions and Answers,” Ensign, Mar. 1980, 2–3

The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment:
A Moral Issue

Summary Questions and Answers

1. Does the Church favor equal rights for women?

The Church is firmly committed to equal rights for women, but opposes the proposed Equal Rights Amendment because of its serious moral implications.

see p. 5

2. What is the Equal Rights Amendment?

It is the proposed Twenty-seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fewer than 60 words it states that under the law, equality of rights will not be denied on account of sex. It also gives Congress the power to enforce it.

see p. 6

3. Why have its proponents felt the ERA is needed?

It has been felt that only a constitutional amendment could provide the massive impact needed to change laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.

see p. 6

4. Is sex discrimination already constitutionally prohibited?

Yes. Based on the Fourteenth Amendment, court rulings in recent years have prohibited sex discrimination while still allowing for natural differences.

see p. 6

5. Why haven’t sex-related inequities been recognized and legislated against before?

They have. Existing laws now prohibit sex discrimination in virtually all areas of American life, including education, employment, credit eligibility, and housing.

see p. 7

6. Would ratification of the ERA erase present inequities?

The ERA does not automatically guarantee equal rights. Existing discriminatory laws would still have to be repealed or amended—the same process of change now being followed. In addition, the ERA would not affect many inequities that result from attitudes and customs. It would prohibit only governmental discrimination.

see p. 7

7. Why is the ERA primarily a moral question?

Court and administrative interpretations of the ERA could endanger time-honored moral values by challenging laws that have safeguarded the family and afforded women necessary protections and exemptions.

see p. 8

8. What would be the impact of the ERA on abortion?

Any reasonable chance for reversing the accelerating trend of courts to grant abortion on demand would probably be eliminated. It could affect issues that have yet to be decided, such as whether parents of minors must be notified and whether government funds will be involved.

see p. 9

9. What would be the impact of the ERA on homosexual marriages?

Constitutional authorities indicate that passage of the ERA could extend legal protection to same-sex lesbian and homosexual marriages, giving legal sanction to the rearing of children in such homes.

see p. 9

10. What would be the ERA’s impact on military service for women?

ERA proponents concede that its passage would impose upon women the same draft requirements as men and the further probability of comparable combat duty, with the particular hazards that poses for women.

see p. 9

11. How would the ERA affect the family?

The ERA could make it more difficult for wives and mothers to remain at home because it could require the removal of legal requirements that make a husband responsible for the support of his wife and children. It could place an added tax burden on the single-income family in order to attain Social Security benefits for the wife, and it could pose the threat of compulsory military service even for married women.

see p. 10

12. What does the Church teach about the particular responsibilities of fathers and mothers?

Our Creator has especially suited fathers and mothers, through physical and emotional differences, to fulfill their own particular parental responsibilities. Legislation that could blur those roles gives cause for concern.

see p. 11

13. Are there dangers in the wording of the amendment?

The vague language of the ERA will, in the opinion of recognized legal scholars, do too little or too much. It is impossible to predict how the courts might interpret this imprecise language should it become part of our Constitution.

see p. 12

14. Would the ERA further erode the constitutional division of powers?

It would transfer from states to the federal government much of the power to deal with domestic relations, and further shift much law-making authority from locally elected legislators to nonelected federal judges.

see p. 12

15. What has happened in states with a similar equal rights amendment?

Court interpretations of similarly worded state amendments give cause for serious concern. State court rulings suggest that reasonable distinctions between the sexes might not be allowed under the ERA.

see p. 13

16. Why is the ERA’s legislative history alarming?

The legislative history of the ERA clearly indicates the intent of Congress to allow no distinctions on the basis of sex. When the ERA was considered, Congress rejected moderating amendments designed to secure privacy to men and women, boys and girls; to extend protection to wives, mothers, or widows; to exempt women from compulsory military service and, particularly, service in combat units; to impose upon fathers responsibility for the support of their children; and to make sexual offenses punishable as crimes. Courts will look to this legislative history as they interpret the amendment.

see p. 14

17. Does the Church’s opposition to the ERA violate the First Amendment doctrine of separation of church and state?

No. Churches have a responsibility and a right to speak out on moral issues. The Constitution neither states nor implies that churches shall not involve themselves in moral issues pertaining to government, only that government shall not establish a religion or prohibit the exercise of religion and free speech.

see p. 15

18. Has the Church encouraged members to oppose ratification of the ERA?

Yes. The First Presidency has repeatedly encouraged Church members, in the exercise of their constitutional right as citizens, to make their influence felt in opposition to the proposed amendment.

see p. 16

19. Have tithing and other general Church funds been given to groups opposing the ERA?

Church funds have not been given to groups, either in or out of the Church, who oppose the amendment.

see p. 16

20. Is favoring the ERA grounds for excommunication?

No. Contrary to news reports, Church membership has neither been threatened nor denied because of agreement with the proposed amendment. However, there is a fundamental difference between speaking in favor of the ERA on the basis of its merits on the one hand, and, on the other, ridiculing the Church and its leaders and trying to harm the institution and frustrate its work.

see p. 17