STEVE CHAPMAN says the Equal Rights Amendment has already happened:

One supporter of the revived amendment is Democratic State Rep. Lindsley Smith of Arkansas, who told The Washington Post, “The question I get most frequently is, ‘Lindsley, I thought this already was in the Constitution.’ ” What she overlooks is that, for all intents and purposes, it is.

In the last three decades, the Supreme Court has handed down a string of decisions overturning laws that treat people differently on the basis of sex. It required the all-male Virginia Military Institute to admit females, ordered the Air Force to provide the same dependent benefits to spouses of women as it provides to spouses of men, and struck down an Oklahoma law setting a different drinking age for men and women.

These decisions (and others) grew out of the same principle, that everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment.

Actually, that’s why I’m inclined to favor passage of the ERA. To the extent it locks in antidiscrimination and universalizes it, it reduces the likelihood that courts and agencies will depart from the principle when they think it politically correct, or politically expedient. Chapman, on the other hand, fears just the opposite — that an ERA will open things up to massive judicial activism.