The ERA: It’s About Time

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first written in 1923 by Alice Paul.  It took 49 years to be passed out of Congress.  However it failed to be ratified by the required 38 states to become a part of the United States constitution.  Right now, three-fourths of Americans believe the ERA is part of the constitution.  Some ask then, is it necessary to actually ratify at this point?

Yes, it is.

The ERA states:

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.

In each new Congress the ERA is introduced.  In January Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill in their respective houses in Congress.  Menendez explained that since it has not been ratified the courts might not guarantee protection for women under the law. Given who is in power at any time, the 14th amendment could be interpreted as only applying to half the population.  In January, Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal said, “We’ve got to make sure it’s explicit in the constitution.”

With continued examples of gender- based discrimination coming to courthouses around the country every year, stating in no uncertain terms in the constitution will have an impact on our national conscience.  In June Rep. Maloney said “The Equal Rights Amendment is still needed because the only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the U.S. is to write it into the constitution.”

While we struggle to see this come to fruition, America strongly urged Iraq and Afghanistan to include women in their constitutions.  It is hypocritical of us to help other countries rebuild their governments and neglect the same issues at home.

The latest introduction of the ERA has two approaches.  The first would start the clock to ratify back at zero.  This means passing the ERA through Congress all over again, and seeking ratification from three – fourths of the states, meaning 38 states.

The second approach is called the “three state strategy”.  With 35 states having already ratified the amendment by 1982, this would mean it would just take three more states to ratify.  Once that happens, the ERA would become a constitutional amendment.

How is this possible?  In 1789 the Madison amendment regarding Congressional pay raises was passed.  The three-fourths goal was reached in 1992.  Some in Congress believe the 203 years it took the Madison amendment to pass means the 35 existing ratifications of the ERA are still viable.  What this really means is once three of the remaining states pass the ERA in their legislature, we amend the constitution.

In case you’re wondering the states yet to ratify are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Find out more about what is happening with the ERA.

Learn if your legislator is a co-sponsor.  If not, please contact them about co-sponsoring.

Back in June Sen. Menendez said “It is a disgrace that American women are still not constitutionally guaranteed equal rights under the law.”  He is right.  We can do something about it.  Instead of seeing the amendment introduced again with each new Congress, we can help see it pass once and for all.

Originally appeared on Fem2.0


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