Julie Suk, a professor of law at the Cardozo School of Law, spoke in a lecture at The University of Akron’s School of Law Monday afternoon about how constitutional equality should go beyond gender equality and reach disadvantages faced by women.
The lecture, which was titled, “The Constitution of Mothers: Gender Equality and Social Reproduction,” took place in the new Brennan Courtroom at the University’s law school. In the lecture, Professor Suk highlighted the role of motherhood. Many countries, such as Germany, have guaranteed protections and rights for mothers in their constitution to promote greater gender equality, she said. This is a way countries go beyond simply promoting gender equality.
Professor Suk said solely prohibiting sex discrimination is inadequate to address the damaging effects of raising children on women. She gave the gender wage gap as an example of this. She said that the gender gap is really the motherhood gap. The gap narrows significantly if you compare women who are not mothers to men, Suk said. However, there is a large gap if you compare mothers who work to men, whether or not the men are fathers.
Because of this discrimination, an equal rights amendment is needed for the United States, but it must be one that exceeds gender equality and protects disadvantages women face, such as disadvantages they face as mothers. Unfortunately, an equal rights amendment like the one that was approved by the Senate in 1972 would not meet these expectations.
Recently, Nevada ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, 35 years after the deadline to ratify the ERA had passed. If Nevada’s ratification could be made valid through congressional action, only two more states would have to ratify the ERA for it to be put on the United States Constitution. However, Suk said that the ERA, at this point, may not actually change the law and would be purely symbolic. This is because since the time of the ERA, other laws have passed that guarantee equality for women. An example of this is Title IX. These laws give women the equal rights the ERA would have given to them.
At the end of the day, an equal rights amendment is still necessary in the United States, but it must have a different vision than the one that was passed in the Senate in 1972.
The event was held by The Center for Constitutional Law to celebrate Constitution Day. The Center for Constitutional Law is one of four resource centers established by Congress in 1986 to research and inform students and the public about constitutional issues.
The director of The Center of Constitutional Law, Tracy Thomas, has a blog that features similar issues as the lecture. The blog is titled “Gender and the Law Prof Blog.” Tracy Thomas also attended the event.
Julie Suk has degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. Some of her publications include “Are Gender Stereotypes Bad for Women? Rethinking Antidiscrimination Law and Work-Family Conflict,” “Discrimination at Will: Job Security Protections and Equal Employment Opportunity in Conflict,” “Procedural Path Dependence: Discrimination and the Civil-Criminal Divide” and “Gender Parity and State Legitimacy: From Public Office to Corporate Boards.”