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Bringing Women into the Constitution

As the women’s movement organized and grew after 1964, many feminists agreed to a theory of equal rights heavily influenced by civil rights ideology and consistent with ideas of American liberalism. The theory downplayed the importance of biology in determining people’s lives. Just as race had little effect on individual talents, neither were there any sex differences relevant to abilities. It also ignored the relationship of economic status to the effective use of rights, a concern that had moved labor activists opposed to the ERA. According to this civil-rights approach laws should be written to encourage individual choice and not to classify people according to sex, beliefs, or race. Women and men have many more human qualities in common than they have differences. As long as laws continued to separate them, women would be discriminated against according to outmoded stereotypes of woman’s place. Thus, to achieve equality, this view argued that sex should not be a permitted basis for writing laws. In 1970, many laws still classified people by sex, especially in family law, education policy, social security, and the military. Leaders of the new feminist movement set about to change the basic law to achieve equality of individual rights.