In Colorado, the language is that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Colorado or any of its political subdivisions because of sex.” This is one of at least twenty states with similar language. These amendments generally demonstrate a significant State policy of equality, which has been read into various other statutes.
The issue is a lack of clarity on the extent of these amendments. A number of cases have used these amendments to address incomplete health care benefits. Other cases, based on these amendments and others, have changed inheritance laws. However, it is not clear which situations will trigger a case under these amendments.
Is it a violation to make any delineation on the basis of sex? In the case hypothetical law prohibiting women from dancing in the streets, is this a violation of the equal rights amendments? The law is specifically preventing one gender from acting in a way permitted to the other. There is probably a perfectly good public policy reason to prevent people from dancing in the streets, but the question becomes why is the law limited to one gender.
These laws crop up time and again, though at the current point this mostly comes down to the regulation of the body. For example, women are permitted to breastfeed in public. This does make common sense as men are physically not able to breastfeed. However, other laws, such as public decency laws, may limit the actions of one gender on the basis of what is appropriate as determined by culture.
This goes directly to the question of the extent of the equal rights amendments. While some states have taken the test from the U.S. Supreme Court which demands intermediate scrutiny, there is a question of if the States can demand higher scrutiny. Additionally, what do the other rights in the Constitution, such as the right to privacy have on these cases? In essence, these equal rights amendments have utility and offer protection on the basis of gender. However, there are questions as to the extent that protection is offered and how gender will be treated by courts in the future.