We need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment so that our Constitution honors and respects women equally with men.
Our laws are a formal expression of public policy that play a critical role in advancing social norms. In this moment in history we need all citizens to have fundamental equality under our Constitution so that they can develop their gifts and talents and equally strive for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
A July 2001 Opinion Research Corporation survey showed that 96% of U.S. adults believe that male and female citizens should have equal rights, and 88% believe that the U.S. Constitution should affirm that these rights are equal. http://bit.ly/2nB8e1h
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), would amend the Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. It would give women the same protections afforded men. The truth is how a society, state, country treats women determines how it treats every aspect of life.
The Complete Text of the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul in 1923. It was amended to the present 24 words in 1943.
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Many Native Americans honored and respected women as the Life Givers and women were an important part of the decisions of the community. North America was invaded by men groomed in patriarchy who sought to enslave anyone who was not a white male. See ERA Timeline http://bit.ly/2y9sxvF
1776 Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams and said “Remember the Ladies” as you are drafting the documents to form this new country. He replied that men refuse to give up their masculine ways and will not be ruled by the petticoat.
1837 The Grimke Sisters of South Carolina drew crowds in the thousands to hear them speak about the ending of slavery including the enslavement of women. They talked about equal pay, right to vote and not being owned by fathers and husbands.
1848 the “Declaration of Sentiments” was adopted at Seneca Falls opening with
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
1861-1865 Civil War. Women’s rights activists were active in the abolition movement as the country approached and became entangled in the Civil War.
1868 the 13th, 14th and 15th Civil War Amendments were slated to be for all people. Back room deals excluded women and added the word “male” to the Constitution for the first time.
1869 The men in Congress began to enact a Forced Birthing agenda. (Prior to the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s 1 in 8 women died in childbirth).
1870 abortion was criminalized for the first time on a Federal level covering all the States.
1873 the Comstock Laws were passed making it a crime to put any information on contraception into the US mail. The States then 1 by 1 passed their own version of the Comstock Laws codifying into law that women were to be the Life Bearers for a patriarchal system, owned by their fathers and husbands and forced to birth. Thereby denying them the fundamental right to object to any pregnancy. It was a systematic negation of women as the Life Givers to the next generation and their continued enslavement.
After this stunning betrayal the strategy of suffragists was to get voting rights and then equal protection of the law. The 19th Amendment ending the exclusion of women’s right to vote was passed in 1920.
Resolutions proposing an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) were introduced in every session of Congress beginning in 1923. The ERA finally passed the House by a bi-partisan vote of 354 to 23 in 1971, and a bi-partisan vote in the Senate of 84 to 8 in 1972. But when ERA passed in Congress, an arbitrary and unnecessary time-limit was imposed. This meant that ratification by three-fourths of the states (38) would have to be completed in seven years.
Congress later decided that the seven-year time limit was a flexible guideline and extended the time from March 1979 to June 30, 1982. The ERA was ratified by thirty-five states, three states short of the thirty-eight required for Constitutional Amendments. March 22, 2017 Nevada became the 36th State to ratify the ERA. We just need 2 of the 14 unratified States to ratify
Legal Status of Women Under the Federal Constitution
The U.S. Constitution was adopted under the influence of English Common Law that did not regard women as “persons” but merely the property of their fathers and husbands. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, provides that no state shall “. . . deprive any persons of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Yet it goes on to apportion voting districts in terms of “eligible male voters.” Consequently, the Supreme Court said, in effect, the amendment did not apply to women and hence the Court denied women the right to vote, practice law, serve on juries, and to have equal employment opportunities. Statutes and court decisions now give women these rights. Nonetheless, it took 72 years for white women to gain the Constitutional right to vote with the 19th Amendment and it wasn’t until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act that the dismantling of voting discrimination was a priority.
The U.S. Supreme court has not declared “sex” a suspect classification as are race, religion, and national origin. Therefore full equality under the law cannot be expected to be derived from the 14th Amendment since most courts are conservative in their interpretation.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in California Lawyer Magazine 2011 :
“Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that’s what it meant.” http://bit.ly/2xIvYut
Remove the Deadline Strategy
In 1992, Congress accepted the ratification of the 27th Amendment concerning Congressional pay raises. This amendment was first proposed in 1789 by James Madison and finally ratified 203 years later. In comparison, the ERA was limited to a mere 10 years. Because of this Congressional action, Americans are working to remove the deadline and ratify the remaining states. Two congressional resolutions S.J. Res. 5 and H.J. Res. 53, remove the arbitrary 1982 deadline.
They require a simple majority of both Houses of Congress to be passed. These bills allow ERA supporters to continue working for ratification of the ERA in unratified states. On March 22, 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA, May 30, 2018 Illinois became the 37th State to ratify and on January 15, 2020 Virginia became the 38th State to ratify. 12 States have not ratified the ERA. (Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah)
The legal basis for this strategy is as follows: there is no time-limit in the Constitution for ratifying an amendment; the time limit for the ERA is in the proposing clause not the wording of the ERA; the time limit is flexible. It has already been extended by Congress.
What the ERA Does
- Grant legal first-class citizenship to all females as “persons” under the 14th Amendment.
- Require the revision of present laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.
- Prevent Congress and state legislatures from weakening or abolishing equal rights laws such as Title IX.
- Make unconstitutional the enactment of discriminatory laws in the future.
- Require the defendant, in a sex discrimination suit, to prove that different treatment on the basis of sex is justified rather than requiring the plaintiff to prove it is unjustified.
- Require equal employment opportunity for women in federal, state, and local government.
- Assure that if Congress decided to draft women – as it can without the ERA – women will not be required to serve in position to which they are not physically suited, nor under stricter standards than men. Neither should women be denied equal benefits accruing from military service.
- Require the same criminal penalties for women and men and the same rehabilitation opportunities.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“The Equal Rights Amendment means that women are people of equal stature before the law … That principle belongs in our Constitution. It is in every Constitution written since World War II.”
States and Congress have passed laws to give women equality but those laws can be changed, rolled back and not sufficiently funded, so that there remains systematic discrimination. 26 States have added words for women's equality to their State Constitutions. AK CA CO CT DE FL HI IL IN IA LA MD MA MT NV NH NJ NM OR PA RI TX UT VA WA WY
However in four of those States, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah and Florida the courts have ruled that even with a State ERA that they can use a different burden of proof for sex than the Strict Standard for race and religion.
The Time is Now
Activists have a strategy to drop the ERA Deadline placed in the proposing clause of the Amendment. On March 17, 2021 the House of Representatives voted on HJRes17 to drop the ERA Deadline.
We need to lobby the our Senators to co-sponsor SJRes1 to drop the arbitrary 1982 ratification deadline. Go to ERACoalition.org to check where your legislator stands.
US Women will not have a legal framework for equality that tells the courts, and the world, that it is illegal to discriminate against them unless we garner the will as a nation to ratify this Equal Rights Amendment as soon as possible.
(By Laura Callow edited by Sharon J. Hill and Jean Sweeney)