The Dignity Amendment would guarantee that L.G.B.T.Q. Americans are treated like all other Americans. It would send the message that we are part of the fabric of this nation. It would guarantee that our rights as taxpayers and as participants in the civic life of the country cannot be abridged because of our private lives.
It would make it clear, once and for all, that the “We” in “We the people” includes everybody.
What would it not do? It would not turn you gay. It would not demand that bathrooms be coed. It would not elide the differences between men and women. It would not eliminate child support. It would not force states to pay for abortion.
If some of these fears sound familiar (if ridiculous), it’s because they’re among the canards that conservatives have inflicted upon us regarding the still-unratified Equal Rights Amendment over the past 40-plus years. And yet, in spite of this barrage of misinformation, the E.R.A. — once given up for dead after it stalled three states short of ratification in 1977 — has continued to make progress. Last year, Nevada ratified it. Last month, Illinois did the same. That leaves one more state to go — although the most recent time limit on the amendment expired in 1982. If the E.R.A. were to pass one more state, a legal showdown would ensue. (And not without good reason: The E.R.A. was unique in having a time limit imposed. The 27th Amendment, in fact, was passed after Michigan ratified it in 1992, over 200 years after James Madison proposed it.)
Those of us in L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy have watched with interest as the E.R.A., presumed dead, has been revivified by a changing culture. The #MeToo movement is part of it. The president is surely another. Critics can say that prevention of discrimination on the basis of sex is already settled law, addressed by, among other statutes, the 14th Amendment. But plenty of women look at Harvey Weinstein, and Donald Trump, and wonder, fairly enough, how we can be considered equals in this country when men like this hold sway over our lives.
L.G.B.T.Q. people would be helped by the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, to be sure, just as we would be helped by the passage of the Equality Act, a proposed addendum to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that provides explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
But neither of these provides the kind of explicit and incontrovertible affirmation that the Dignity Amendment would enshrine. Some things demand the most dramatic and historic actions. I suggest that setting the humanity of L.G.B.T.Q. Americans into stone requires nothing less.