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"Despite pronouncements in the 1980s to the contrary, the Equal Rights Amendment is not dead. Actually, by all indications, the battle has heated up in recent years. "

from "Do We Still Need the ERA", May 6, 2004


The ERA in the Media

The ERA is mentioned frequently in the media, but we select only those articles whose primary focus is the ERA and that we feel are particularly relevant to our campaign. However, the views expressed in the following articles do not necessarily reflect the views of 4ERA. Permission to reproduce or re-post an article must be obtained directly from the author or publishing source.

July 2009


For Immediate Release
July 21, 2009

Reps. Maloney, Biggert reintroduce Equal Rights Amendment

WASHINGTON, DC –Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) today reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. House, along with Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and over 50 other original co-sponsors.

“Women have made incredible progress in the past few decades. But laws can change, government regulations can be weakened, and judicial attitudes can shift. The only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the United States is to write it into the Constitution,” Rep. Maloney said. “These 54 words, when passed by Congress and ratified by 38 states, will make equal rights for women not just a goal to be desired but a constitutional right.”

“Thanks to the work of pioneers like Lucretia Mott and Francis Willard, American women have achieved a level of independence and equality once thought to be unattainable,” said Rep. Biggert. “This amendment will carry on that tradition by forever enshrining the rights and freedoms of our daughters and granddaughters in the Constitution of the United States. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Maloney and my other colleagues in this historic effort, and look forward to working with them to protect the basic liberties of women here and around the world.”

“We have long since passed the time when there should be any question that equal rights for women should be enshrined in our nation’s constitution. And, yet, there are still those who believe that simple equality is a radical and dangerous notion. Clearly, we have made extraordinary progress, but our work is not finished. I am proud to join my New York colleague, Carolyn Maloney, and the many dedicated activists, in the reintroduction of the long overdue Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution,” Rep. Nadler said.

“The time is long overdue for a constitutional guarantee of equality between the sexes. Throughout the history of this country, women have faced systematic and purposeful discrimination. Women were conspicuously absent from the Constitution when it was drafted more than 200 years ago, and today, women still have no explicit legal guarantee of equal protection. As such, we know the ERA must be ratified to ensure meaningful and lasting equality for all women,” Terry O’Neill, newly-elected President of the National Organization for Women said.

“Although women in the United States have made considerable gains in the last 40 years, we are now lagging behind the rest of the world in closing the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum, the US ranks 31st of 128 countries overall, but 76th in educational attainment, 36th in health and survival, 69th in political empowerment, and 70th for wage equality for similar work. In the representation of women in our Congress, we rank 71st. Clearly, the US needs an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution to help women overcome systemic sex discrimination in our nation,” said Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority.

“Women deserve equal rights. People might think my generation has forgotten, or doesn't even know about, the E.R.A. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm proud to stand with the generation that produced the Carolyn Maloneys and Ellie Smeals, and hope our generation can continue to benefit from their efforts, with the implementation of the E.R.A. at last,” said Shannon Lynberg, National Director of the Younger Women’s Task Force.

The ERA was first introduced as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments,” considered the founding of the women’s rights movement in the U.S. It came closest to ratification in the 1970’s, when 35 states approved it, falling just 3 states short of the two-thirds necessary for a constitutional amendment to be ratified.


June 2009

ERA Fails by One Vote in Louisiana Legislature

by Ed Anderson, The Times-Picayune
Wednesday June 03, 2009
BATON ROUGE -- An attempt to make Louisiana the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution died in a Senate committee by one vote Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs voted 3-2 against Senate Concurrent Resolution 7 by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, probably killing it for the session.

The resolution would have put the state on record as endorsing the amendment to ban gender discrimination as the law of the land. Congress in 1972 passed the proposal and submitted it to the 50 states where three-fourths are needed for ratification.

"It is a freedom of choice bill not only for women but for men and for families," Dorsey said.

"How can we go to a Muslim country and ask them to have equal rights (for women) when we don't have an equal rights amendment (in this country)?" asked Randy Piedrahita, general counsel for the state Democratic Party, a chief backer of the measure.

But Michelle Ghetti, a faculty member of the Southern University Law Center testifying as a private citizen, said that Congress gave backers of the amendment seven years to ratify it, a period that ended 30 years ago. In that time, she said, four states have rescinded their approval of the measure.

Since first proposed, Ghetti said, issues like abortion, same-sex-marriage and other measures dealing with rights have cropped up that may not have been anticipated when the amendment was passed by Congress. "The better route is to let Congress pass (a new version) and send it around to the states" to ratify it, she said.

"I think there are laws out there that already prohibit" discrimination, said Sen., Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe.

"We live in a Deep South state," Dorsey said. "We have a history of years and years and years and years of discrimination."

Voting for the bill were Sens. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans; and Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport. Joining Walsworth in voting against it were Sens. Jody Amedee, D-Gonzales; and Jack Donahue, R-Covington. Sen. John Smith, D-Leesville, was absent; Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, as chairman of the panel did not vote.







March 2009

Tied Vote on ERA in Arkansas Senate


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A new proposal to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment has failed in Arkansas, 27 years after a federal deadline to accept the anti-discrimination measure.

The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted 4-4 on the resolution, dashing hopes that it could be considered by the full Senate.

Backers of the resolution said they hoped to try again with the measure, which is also pending before a House committee. Opponents said they believed it would allow same-sex marriage and government-funded abortions in Arkansas.

The amendment states that the equality of rights "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

"We have women running corporations and we have women being killed in battle," state Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, the resolution's sponsor, told the committee. "We women deserve the respect and recognition of our country's Constitution."

Arkansas was one of 15 states that had not passed the amendment when the deadline passed in 1982. But supporters of the amendment say it could still be added to the Constitution if more states ratify it, and point to the ratification of the 27th amendment in 1992.

The 27th amendment, which forces lawmakers to wait one election before raising their salaries, was ratified more than 200 years after it was proposed as part of the Bill of Rights.

In 1971 and 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment swept through Congress, with votes of 354-24 in the House and 84-8 in the Senate. Over the next five years 35 states ratified the measure, but it fell three states short of the 38-state tally it needed for ratification in 1982.

In the current Arkansas session, the amendment's ratification had the backing of Gov. Mike Beebe and legislative leaders, but has faced opposition from conservative groups who warned lawmakers that it may have unintended consequences. The same resolution failed before a House panel two years ago.

John DiPippa, dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, said it was highly unlikely the Supreme Court would decide that the ERA has anything to do with abortion funding or same-sex marriage.

DiPippa said he believed the ERA also would benefit the nation's standing in the world, comparing it to the effect desegregation had during the civil rights era.

"Brown v. Board of Education changed the way the people of the world understood and viewed the United States," DiPippa said. "I believe the federal ERA would have a similar effect internationally."

The four senators who voted in favor of the resolution had already signed on as co-sponsors; all four are Democrats. Voting against the measure were three Republicans and one Democrat.

State Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, said she believes she has enough votes to get an identical resolution passed in the House but is two votes shy of the number needed to get it out of a House committee. Smith said she was saddened by Tuesday's vote but hoped to get enough support to push the measure through the House.

"It shouldn't be a tough vote at all," Smith said. "Voting for equality is an easy vote, and I hope we come to that conclusion."


February 2009

Kansas Debates a State ERA

February 24, 2009

By Scott Rothschild
Lawrence Journal
and World

Topeka - A proposal to put an equal rights amendment in the Kansas Constitution was praised by supporters who said the measure would provide fundamental protections for women.

But opponents of the proposed amendment said it would lead to same-sex marriage, would ease abortion restrictions and would even strike down laws against rape.

The resolution states: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state or any of its political or taxing subdivisions on account of sex."

To be put in the Kansas Constitution, the measure would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate, and a majority vote at the polls in a statewide ballot.

After the hearing, Federal and State Affairs Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said he wasn't sure if there would be a vote on the measure by the committee.

Kansas ratified the federal equal rights amendment in the 1970s, but that effort eventually failed to gain national ratification. Twenty-two states currently have equal rights amendments in their state constitutions.

Anthony Singer, an attorney from Wichita, said he supported the proposed Kansas amendment because he wanted his three daughters to be considered as equal with men under the law.

Singer, who identified himself as a Republican, said, "Gender equality is not a Republican issue. It's not a Democratic issue. It's an American issue. It's something that we all ought to get behind and support."

Krista Kastler, a graduate student in social welfare at Kansas University, said the amendment would give women stronger legal standing when facing discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace.

"This amendment would make it easier for women to take action against injustices they face," Kastler said.

But Judy Smith, director of the Kansas chapter of Concerned Women of America, described the amendment as an "unnecessary and outdated icon of radical feminism." Smith said that if approved the amendment could be used to remove laws against rape. A supporter of the amendment, attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, said that was "ridiculous."

Beatrice Swoopes, of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said that because only women receive abortions, the amendment could be used to strike down laws that restrict abortion.

"It is intentionally open-ended to put the abortion question in the hands of the courts," Swoopes said.

Jeanne Gawdun, of Kansans for Life, said that could jeopardize laws dealing with late-term abortion or parental notification.

But Kari Ann Rinker of Wichita, with the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, said the amendment, as evidenced in states that have equal rights amendments, will not result in changes to abortion laws.

That issue, along with other claims that the amendment would allow same-sex marriage and uni-sex bathrooms, is brought up by opponents to "denigrate this important debate," Rinker said.

She said Kansas' pioneer history is full of breakthroughs for women and approving an equal rights amendment would "follow through with the unfinished business of the heroines of our past."


Flora Crater, ERA Activist Dies


By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Flora M. Crater, 94, a feminist and political activist who waged a decades-long campaign to persuade Congress and the Virginia legislature to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, died of a brain tumor Feb. 1 at her daughter's home in Hockessin, Del.
Ms. Crater, founder and editor of the Woman Activist newsletter and the Almanac of Virginia Politics, led a group of women known as Crater's Raiders to lobby for the ERA during the 1970s and 1980s. She was still working for the amendment with various organizations until her death.
Although the Virginia legislature has never ratified the ERA, and a leading legislator in 1984 called equal pay for comparable work "a communist concept," Ms. Crater never gave up the fight.
"We keep continuing the fight," she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2000. "This isn't symbolic, either. You've got to remember that 35 states ratified it."
She was the first president of the National Organization for Women's Virginia chapter and was the first coordinator of the Virginia Women's Political Caucus as well as former chairman of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Indefatigable in her efforts to promote women's issues, Ms. Crater ran as an independent for lieutenant governor in 1973, capturing 10 percent of the vote.
The race cost her only $15,000, leading her to quip, "I got more votes for the buck than any other statewide candidate."
Four years later, inspired by the National Women's Conference in Houston, she ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate but lost.
"People tell me you can't talk about such things as collective bargaining and hope to survive in Virginia politics, but I don't believe that," she told The Washington Post at the time. "If we Democrats remain silent, we are putting ourselves in a bind, a trap, a cage. If we don't talk about the issues that are important to us and our constituency, we are not going to bring our constituency to the polls."
Flora Marina Trimmer was born April 19, 1914, in Costa Rica, near her family's home in Nicaragua. Her mother was Nicaraguan and her father was an American accountant in the sugar industry.
She lived in Cuba, New York and Washington before her family settled in Orange, a town between Fredericksburg and Charlottesville where she spent most of her childhood.
She attended Strayer College in Washington, but it wasn't until she was 67 that she graduated from college, at George Mason University.
Ms. Crater started working for improvement and racial integration in the Fairfax County schools shortly after moving to Falls Church in 1942.
She supported the creation of a county executive form of government and backed such political candidates as Ed Lynch, the first Democrat elected to the General Assembly from Fairfax who actively opposed the Byrd political machine that dominated state politics.
In 1972, she was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and favored Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), the antiwar presidential candidate.
She started the Woman Activist Inc. in 1973 and three years later launched the Almanac of Virginia Politics. The latter was turned over to George Mason University in 2003, and it is now updated every two years.
In 1997, the Virginia General Assembly issued a commendation honoring Ms. Crater for her lifetime of work empowering women and minorities.



December 2008

By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau

December 30, 2008

LITTLE ROCK — A state legislator said today she would propose again that Arkansas ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, whose resolution proposing state ratification of the ERA was narrowly defeated in committee during the 2007 session, said she plans to bring back the resolution during the 2009 session and is confident it will pass this time.

“I’ve had legislators who’ve questioned it in the past say, ‘Hey, I’m going to support it this time.’ … I think everything’s in line to pass it in the next session,” Smith said.

Jerry Cox, executive director of the conservative Family Council, said his group will oppose the resolution, which he said would obliterate legal differences between men and women.

“I think it’ll be a little easier to stop that, since we’ve already talked about it during the recent session,” Cox said, noting that some of the legislators who initially signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution in 2007 later withdrew their sponsorship.

Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but to date only 35 states have ratified it. Approval in 38 states is required for the amendment to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

The amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Ratifying the amendment in Arkansas would send a message, Smith said.

“We’re now in the column of 15 (states) that say gender equality is a bad idea. What this would do would make us No. 36 of the states that say gender equality is a good idea, and that’s a great column to be in,” she said.

Smith’s 2007 resolution, which Gov. Mike Beebe supported, received a 10-10 vote in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, falling just short of the 11 votes needed to advance.

Longtime ERA opponent Phyllis Schlafly testified before that committee that the amendment would cause women to be placed in combat, legalize same-sex marriage and eliminate restrictions on abortion.

Schlafly’s arguments defied logic, Smith said today.

“Maybe people at the time believed that, but I don’t think they’ll fall for some of that this time,” she said.


FEW Congratulates President-Elect; Releases Survey Results

WASHINGTON, Dec 02, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --

Federally Employed Women (FEW) congratulated President-Elect Barack Obama as our 44th President and pledged to work with him and his staff on issues of importance to federal workers. "We are very excited to start working with the new Administration and Congress to help enact important legislative initiatives impacting and benefiting federal workers," stated Sue Webster, FEW's National President.

FEW also released the results of a member survey ranking the organization's legislative priorities for the 111th Congress. "While FEW will continue working on all of these issues next year, this survey gave us some insight as to which ones our members felt were most important," advised FEW Vice President for Congressional Relations Cecelia Davis. These issues are:
1. Equal Rights Amendment
2. Unused Sick Leave
3. Government Pension Offset/Windfall Elimination Provision
4. Rehiring Retirees
5. Diversity in the Senior Executive Service
6. Federal Employment Retirement System Redeposit
7. Paid Parental Leave

"We hope to work closely with the Obama Administration and new Congress in achieving these legislative priorities," asserted Janet Kopenhaver, FEW's Washington Representative. "To help the effort, FEW has numerous projects and initiatives planned for January," Kopenhaver added. This includes the publication of a Legislative Agenda with Issue Papers; compilation of federal worker employment statistics by congressional district; and in-person meetings with legislators and their staffs.

FEW is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1968 after Executive Order 11375 was issued that added sex discrimination to the list of prohibited discrimination in the federal government. FEW has grown into a proactive organization serving more than one million federally employed women -- both in the military and civilian workforce. For more information, visit www.few.org.


October 2008

Equal Rights Amendment Fans Grab Obama's Coattails
October 24, 2008

Paul Bedard, US News and World Report

ERA. For anyone younger than 50, it's a baseball acronym for pitching success. For the rest of us, it stands for the 1970s-era Equal Rights Amendment. And guess what's planning a comeback on the coattails of Sen. Barack Obama should he emerge victorious November 4? That's right; feminism is speeding back into vogue. "Gains that I thought we had earned in the '70s are being eroded and rolled back," argues New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "A lot of our time is spent combating rollbacks, and if we could get the constitutional amendment firmly in place, a lot of our energies would be released to work on other things," says the most ardent House Democratic supporter of renewing the fight for the ERA. A brief history: The ERA passed the Senate in the early 1970s and was sent to state legislatures for passage. But when the 1979 deadline was up, it had fallen three states short of the needed 38. It went nowhere in the Reagan era and, well, didn't seem like a big issue during the past two administrations. Ironically, Maloney says, most Americans just assume it's law. She blames the guys in the media. "There are not enough women reporters out there who might write about it," she says. Maloney and Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, smelling political victory in Washington for Democrats, say the ERA is needed to cement advances like Title IX and get final approval of the Fair Pay Act. Both think it will have a second chance because Obama has made women's rights an issue and the Illinois senator and his veep choice, Joe Biden, are cosponsors. But before foes start sputtering, let's add that quick passage isn't assured. Says Smeal: "I don't see it passing right away, but it will be moved up."

August 2008

Bowing to pressure from women's organizations from around the country, including 4ERA.org, the Democratic Party placed the Equal Rights Amendment back into this year's party platform. The Democratic Party first included the ERA in their platform in 1944 but it was removed during the 2004 convention.

excerpt from the Inter Press Service:

"The party platform laid out aggressive stances on many women's rights issues, and, in line with a Democratic shift to emphasise the troubled U.S. economy -- a top concern for many voters -- much of the language about women was couched in economic terms.

"We know that when America extends its promise to women, the result is increased opportunity for families, communities, and aspiring people everywhere," read the platform, vowing to support a number of bills that buttress women's rights in the workplace, such as equal access to jobs and equal pay. The platform noted that in the U.S., "women still earn 76 cents for every dollar that a man earns."

The platform also notably reaffirmed support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) -- an oft-proposed but unratified amendment to the constitution that unequivocally outlaws any discrimination based on sex. The ERA has been a hallmark of Democratic platforms for decades, but was dropped by, as Goldstein put it, "lily-livered" Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry in his 2004 run for the White House."

Democratic Party Platform


June 2008

Elly M. Peterson, 94; Republican Urged Moderate Direction for Party

from the Washington Post

Elly M. Peterson, 94, who as the Republican National Committee co-chairman during the 1960s and 1970s was one of the highest-ranking women in her party, died of complications from an infection June 9 at La Villa Grande Care Center in Grand Junction, Colo.

A moderate Republican who launched outreach efforts to African Americans, Mrs. Peterson became co-director of ERAmerica in 1976 as the unsuccessful effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment reached its high-water mark.

She also battled an attempt by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly to seize control of the National Federation of Republican Women in 1972. That fight, Mrs. Peterson's biographer Sara Fitzgerald said, resulted in Schlafly leaving the group to found the Eagle Forum, which became one of the prime opponents of the ERA.

Mrs. Peterson's efforts to retain a moderate faction in the increasingly conservative party continued through the late 1970s, when she told a reporter after the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston, "We're coming out of this with a whole new breed of women" who are potential recruits for the Republican Party "if we just don't label them as misfits and oddballs."

Described as warm and down-to-earth as well as a formidable organizer, Mrs. Peterson influenced a generation of women who would later seek public office.

"She was a wonderful mentor to all the young people" at the RNC, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) said. "We all called her 'Mother' because Elly was the mother hen who took care of all of us. She didn't hesitate to do what needed to be done. You didn't want to get in her way. . . . With Elly, anything was possible, and that made you think anything was possible."

At a time when female political activists were welcomed as volunteers but disregarded when powerful jobs opened up, Mrs. Peterson became the first woman in numerous positions.

Starting in 1963, she was the first female state party chairman in Michigan, the first woman in Michigan to be a major-party candidate for the U.S. Senate and the first woman to address the Republican National Convention. She was the first woman to co-chair the RNC twice and to serve as deputy campaign chairman for a presidential candidate.

Mrs. Peterson fiercely resisted stereotyping, Washington Post political columnist David Broder wrote in 1970, noting that her "sheer energy and capability won her right to operate at the full range of her talents.

"It is, I think, accurate to say her abilities would have earned her the national chairmanship, were it not for the unwritten sex barrier that both parties have erected around the job," Broder wrote. "Certainly, her organizational talents made her views as respected and her advice as sought-after among her colleagues in the party as anyone in the past decade."

In Michigan, Mrs. Peterson recruited young moderates to run for office. Spotting an opportunity for her party, she opened year-round GOP headquarters and neighborhood service offices in predominantly black areas of Michigan cities in the 1960s and later tried to expand the concept nationally.

She was recruited to run against the highly popular Sen. Philip A. Hart (D-Mich.) in 1964 but lost in the Democratic landslide that year.

Notwithstanding her personal political preferences, Mrs. Peterson had many friends among Democrats. When she was co-chairman of ERAmerica with Liz Carpenter, former press secretary and staff director for Lady Bird Johnson, the two shared a house in Washington.

"Elly Peterson was a delight to work with, and she knew how to rally Republicans behind the ERA," Carpenter said in a telephone interview from her Texas home. "We almost made our goal of getting the ERA passed but not quite. I wish we had another shot at it."

A strong supporter of abortion rights, Mrs. Peterson was a charter member in the National Women's Political Caucus and lobbied President Richard M. Nixon to appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decade later, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor to the high court.

Mrs. Peterson became disaffected with her party in 1980, when its national platform was stripped of references about its historical support for equal rights for women. Two years later, she rejected the Republican candidate for governor, declaring him too conservative, and supported the successful Democratic candidate, James Blanchard.

She eventually identified herself as an independent, although she closely followed the bid by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) for the Democratic presidential nomination over the past year, Fitzgerald said.

April 2008

Equal-rights law is long overdue in Florida

by Beth Reinhard, Miami News Herald

The caustic chant came from the middle of an auditorium filled with voters listening to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, one day before New Hampshire's presidential primary.

The incident drew some media attention, but nothing like the firestorm over her teary moment in a diner the same day, credited with driving empathetic women to the polls in droves. The rumpled heckler was quickly dismissed as a lout.

The January incident came to mind as I thought about the Equal Rights Amendment pending in Tallahassee, once described by Gov. Jeb Bush as ``kind of like going back and wearing bell-bottoms.''

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

First introduced in 1923, the ERA was not passed by Congress until 1972. Then it failed to clear three-quarters of the states as required, falling just three short. One was Florida, and the yearly ritual ever since by a handful of female legislators to get it done has come to be regarded with faint amusement and little suspense.

The women trek to the Capitol to get patted on the head, or worse, ignored. See you next year, gals!

This year is no different, with only one Senate committee deigning to consider the bill so far and not a single one in the House.

Why, asked sponsor Sen. Gwen Margolis of Sunny Isles Beach, can her colleagues summon the courage to apologize for slavery -- as it did, admirably, two weeks ago -- but can't abide saying women are equal to men?

What if the heckler in New Hampshire had yelled ''Shine my shoes!'' at Clinton's African-American rival, Barack Obama? Would the national reaction have been as muted?

I'm not suggesting we fall into the trap of comparing who's got it worse. No one wins that game, especially if your name is Geraldine Ferraro, who suggested that Obama caught a lucky break being black. As Obama has said, not so lucky when trying to hail a cab in New York City.

The most common objection to the Equal Rights Amendment is that we don't need it. But supporters argue that it's the only way to guarantee, across the board, that sex discrimination is subject to the same legal standard as race discrimination, prohibited under the 14th Amendment.

''It's harder for women to prove discrimination,'' said Margolis, who, when first elected in the early 1970s, played poker and went hunting with the good ol' boys in Tallahassee to gain acceptance. She went on to become the first woman to serve as president of the Florida Senate.

Now that it seems possible to elect a female president of the United States, shouldn't she earn more than 77 cents on the dollar paid to her male predecessor in the White House?

Carole Griffin of the Florida Eagle Forum -- apparently their motto is ''fly like an eagle but not so high that your husband feels bad'' -- recited a list of horrors to the lone Senate committee that considered the amendment: no more Mother's Day and Father's Day, legalized prostitution, integrated prisons, coed scout troops. One Republican senator sanely pointed out that none of those ''silly things'' have come to pass in Florida, even though the state constitution already declares men and women equal.

House Speaker Marco Rubio should do right by his two daughters and make sure the ERA gets a fair hearing. Gov. Charlie Crist, who has shown he cares about civil rights, should demand it.

And while they're at it, they can iron their own shirts.


September 2007

Maryland Appeals Court Says ERA Unrelated to Same Sex Marriage

On September 18, 2007 Maryland's highest state court refused to interpret their state Equal Rights Amendment as justification for same sex marriage. In it's decision the court acknowledged the amendment was added to Maryland's state constitution to prohibit discrimination based on gender and does not address issues related to sexual orientation. Read the decision.

For further reading about the case:

Washington Times

Baltimore Sun.

Washington Post

The Associated Press


July 2007

Presidential Candidate Richardson Vows to Work to Pass the ERA

July 17,2007

Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor

New Mexico Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson promised yesterday to "go further than any other candidate to support women," outlining his plans to expand paid family leave, lobby for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and ensure Supreme Court nominees who protect past decisions like Roe v. Wade.

Read full article

March 2007

Media coverage of the re-introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in Congress has been extensive.

Here's a sampling of links to articles from around the country:

Alberquerque Tribune (April 6, 2007)

Boston Globe (April 4, 2007)

Catoosa County (GA) News April 4, 2007

The Minnesota Daily (April 2, 2007)

Washington Post (March 28, 2007)

Colbert Report video

Media coverage of Arkansas ERA campaign

Smith and Pryor testify at Committee Hearing

Kansas City Star Editorial Column

KATV 7 story

Other coverage

TV coverage: Arkansas Matters ; Today's THV

Ratify the ERA -- UPDATED

by Max Brantley

[Arkansas Times, Janurary 24, 2007]

Darn it. We're unable to run our video camera out to the 10 a.m. rally sponsored by the Arkansas Business and Professional Women at which, for the first time in 10 years, an Arkansas governor will endorse the Equal Rights Amendment -- an amendment that happens to be favored overwhelmingly by American citizens according to all the polls I've seen.

Retrograde male lawmakers, particularly in Southern states like Arkansas, have stood in the way of the amendment's adoption. But some gutsy women in the Arkansas legislature continue to wage the fight, which needs only three more states for ratification.

Rep. Lindsley Smith of Fayetteville will ceremoniously drop the House resolution, with 65 co-sponsors, in the hopper to kick off the event. Sen. Sue Madison has 11 sponsors so far in the 35-member Senate. We hope that's simply because the process isn't completed and not because the Brotherhood is as disappointing on equality as it is on sound governance.

But back to the original point. Kudos to Mike Beebe (and Bill Halter, Charlie Daniels and Martha Shoffner) for the breath of fresh air in standing up for simple equity (and if you think we've achieved it yet, check the pay rolls and executive office suites in Arkansas). Jim Wood, Mark Wilcox and Dustin McDaniel, why weren't you listed in the D-G article this morning? UPDATE: We're told it was at least a partial screwup. Both Wilcox and McDaniel were at the rally. Now what about you, Jim? UPDATE: A reader says Wood was there, too.

Good. With all statewide constitutional officers, a commanding majority of the House and support of most Arkansas congress people, do you think that's enough cover to produce a majority in the Senate? Let's call the roll and figure out who needs to be shamed by the womenfolk back home.



State Equal Rights Amendments Revisited:
Evaluating Their Effectiveness in Advancing Protection Against Sex Discrimination

by Linda J. Wharton

Rutgers Law Journal--Summer 2005

This article first appeared in Rutgers Law Journal last summer, but has recently been made available online. It is an excellent article and a valuable resource. Click here to download it. We greatly appreciate Dr. Linda J. Wharton's comprehensive review of state Equal Rights Amendments and the impact they've had on state laws.

Dr. Wharton is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where she teaches courses in Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties, Women and the Law and Public Education and the Law.

Before joining the faculty at Stockon, she served as the Managing Attorney of the Women's Law Project, a public interest law firm located in Philadelphia, where she specialized in litigation and law reform relating to gender discrimination She also serves as a consultant on issues of gender equity in education and has taught courses in sex discrimination law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Rutgers School of Law and in the Women's Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Women's History Project.

Linda Wharton graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in 1977, and from Rutgers Law School with a J.D. in 1981. She was a law clerk to the Hon. Dolores K. Sloviter, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and an associate with the law firm of Dechert Price & Rhoads in Philadelphia, PA. She is the former Chair of the Women's Rights Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association. She is currently a member of the Haddonfield Human Relations Commission.


Equal rights amendment overdue
Until we unite as a nation, the rest of the world has every right to view us in the light of hypocrisy.

by Abby Bar-Lev
The Minnesota Daily
December 12, 2005

Eighty-five years ago feminists around the country fought for the right to vote. They fought long and hard for what today seems like a commonsense liberty: women’s suffrage. Eighty-two years ago feminists pushed for adding an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that officially barred discrimination based on sex. Apparently, that was asking too much. Hope is not lost and the strive for equality is not over. Only three states are needed to ratify the amendment. Its addition to the United States Constitution is absolutely necessary to finally and officially include the equality of the sexes into our country’s most sacred document.
Thirty-five of the necessary 38 states have already ratified it, including Minnesota. Why is it taking so long for this country to approve such an imperative and simple amendment to the Constitution? The text of the Equal Rights Amendment is as follows: “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.” What is so threatening in that?

The amendment remains alive thanks to the precedent known as the Madison Amendment. The Madison Amendment is the 27th amendment to the Constitution and deals with Congressional pay raises. It was ratified in 1992, but was first proposed in 1789 — 203 years prior to its ratification. The Supreme Court found this passage of time to be acceptable. Eighty-two years has certainly not expired the possibility of the amendment’s ratification into the Constitution. Relatively speaking, it may yet be in its infancy.

We must not allow it to gray before we accept it into our Constitution. The amendment remains as necessary today as it was in 1923. Beyond the symbolism of officially declaring men and women equal, it would have some very important constitutional effects on our country. Federal courts often still struggle with sex discrimination cases, unsure as to how to approach the issue. Supporters of the amendment argue that sex, like race, should be considered a “suspect class,” and thus held to “strict scrutiny.” Strict scrutiny is the highest level of judicial scrutiny. If the amendment is passed by the full 38 states, sex discrimination cases would be held to the same standards as race discrimination cases. In other words, states would bear a very heavy burden — the strongest judicial burden — to prove that it absolutely needs the law in question. As the Alice Paul Institute and National Council of Women’s Organizations said, “We need the ERA to clarify the law for the lower courts, whose decisions still reflect confusion and inconsistency about how to deal with sex discrimination claims.” So, although the Equal Rights Amendment holds a vital symbolic role (one that says the United States holds a zero tolerance policy toward sex discrimination), it also maintains a very real and necessary role in our judicial process.

Outside our domestic justifications for the amendment lie international motivations. At a time when the United States is attempting to spread democracy to various parts of the world and has pushed for women’s equality to be included in the constitutions of other countries, it is embarrassing that we do not affirm the same equality in our Constitution that we strive for around the world. The closest thing we have for equality of sexes in the Constitution is the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. According to the Alice Paul Institute and National Council of Women’s Organizations, the equal protection clause, “has never been interpreted to grant equal rights on the basis of sex in the same way that the Equal Rights Amendment would.” Adding the amendment to our Constitution would be the strongest affirmation of our intrinsic creed as a country to achieve equal justice under law. Until we unite as a nation to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution, the rest of the world has every right to view us in the light of hypocrisy.

Thankfully, the ball seems to be rolling on the Equal Rights Amendment. Since the Madison Amendment, a new “three-state strategy” has emerged, pressuring three of the fifteen states that have not ratified the amendment to do so. The most vigorous ratification drives are in Illinois, Florida and Missouri.

We need an Equal Rights Amendment in our Constitution. The amending process to the Constitution is long and arduous, but eighty-two years of asking for equality has been long enough. We need the amendment in our Constitution, and we need it now.

Equal Rights Amendment very much alive for its supporters

by Julie Brown

Plymouth Observer (Michigan)
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Laurel Prussing is a Democrat and Lyn Bankes a Republican, but both are wholehearted in their support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Bankes' name is familiar to many, as the Livonia resident is a former state and county legislator. Prussing is mayor of Urbana, Ill., and spoke Saturday, Aug. 27, at a Women's Equality Day luncheon at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

Bankes, before the speech, recalled how her parents told her to get married and have children when she was young. She did, loved her family and yet something was missing. "I was not happy with all the housework." In 1972, Bankes and Laura Callow, now Michigan ERAmerica past chair, picketed to establish a Women's Resource Center at Schoolcraft, a mission accomplished. Bankes finds that women, regardless of views on abortion or guns, "issues that tend to divide women, the Equal Rights Amendment pulls us together."

Prussing recalled how when she attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts in the 1960s, women couldn't use the library at nearby Harvard. She recounted job discrimination early in her career, including filing of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. "That was not a pleasant thing to do," the mayor told some 130 people, mostly women, gathered at Schoolcraft. She won her suit.

Michigan has ratified the ERA, and it's passed the Illinois House, said Prussing, who's involved in legislative issues for the American Association of University Women. It's two votes short in her state Senate, but she noted her senator, an anti, isn't running again. "It's kind of like three steps forward and two back, but you can see progress over time," Prussing said. She cited activity in the Florida legislature, as well as women governors being elected in Louisiana and Arizona.

She urged members of Business and Professional Women, AAUW and other groups to push for passage, and that voters ask office seekers their views. Prussing noted George W. Bush won't be in office forever. "If we can live through that, we can live through anything," she said. "You just have to keep up the pressure."

Bankes believes Republican women in office are behind the ERA. "I would hope that this is an issue they would support. I know that a lot of Republican women voters support it." Bankes recalled the ERA's legislative death in the early 1980s, including candlelight vigils on the Capitol steps in Lansing and in downtown Detroit.

Currently, advocates are seeking ratification by three more states. Section 1 of the ERA reads "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Callow of Michigan ERAmerica fervently believes in those words, and was pleased so many turned out for the luncheon.

"We were just thrilled that it is still an issue and people care about it," said Callow, who believes passage is realistic. "It's an issue that has the support of the majority of Americans," some of whom believe it's already in the federal Constitution.

Rochester Hills resident Barbara Bonsignore - a past AAUW state president and regional director, serving as AAUW rep to several coalitions - is also optimistic. "From what we've heard today, it's really a matter of perseverance," she said. "Women are tenacious and dedicated." That happened with the voting amendment's passage in 1920, Bonsignore said, and will happen with the ERA.

Also impressed was Pat Donath of Lansing, past president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. She cited three workshops coming up this fall and winter for women interested in running for public office, "to say yes, I can do this, I can run for office."

One thoughtful question at the luncheon involved how to get younger women involved in the ERA cause, and indeed there weren't too many younger people there. I stood out a bit at 46, so clearly there's a need to recruit younger people of both genders, some of whom don't know just how far women have progressed in recent years.

Prussing also recounted the bad old days when the unisex bathroom argument was used to fight the ERA, and noted gay marriage and abortion are now cited by opponents. She said the constitution being drafted in Iraq calls for women's equality, and yet its U.S. counterpart isn't that inclusive. It was heartening to see so many people give up several hours on an August Saturday to learn more about the ERA and push for its passage. The Bush administration hasn't been noted for its support of women's rights, but that doesn't mean that passage is impossible. Remember what Susan B. Anthony said.



Elders urges women to continue fight for equality
Saturday, Aug 27, 2005

By Rob Moritz
Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK - Dr. Joycelyn Elders said Friday that the Equal Rights Amendment should have been passed.

The former U.S. Surgeon General was keynote speaker at the opening of an exhibit at the state Capitol celebrating the 85th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

"We need to protect (women's) rights at all cost," she said to a crowd of about 75 in the state Capitol Rotunda. "We've got a huge unfinished agenda that we've got to take care of."

The weeklong exhibit on women's suffrage, sponsored by the secretary of state's office, includes large displays highlighting six leading women in the fight for equal voting rights. One display is a collage of women's "firsts," including the first women elected to the U.S. Senate, Hattie Caraway of Arkansas.

During her speech, Elders praised Arkansas for being at the forefront of the women's suffrage movement. The state was 12th to ratify the 19th Amendment - the second Southern state.

Elders, born in the small Howard County community of Schall, was selected in 1987 by then-Gov. Bill Clinton to serve as director of the state Department of Health. In 1993, after Clinton was elected president, Elders was appointed Surgeon General. She resigned the office in 1994.

Friday, she urged women to continue to fight for women's rights, including passage of the ERA, which says equality of rights shall not be denied or abridged by a person's sex.

Arkansas was one of 15 states that did not ratify the amendment when a congressional deadline passed in 1982, leaving amendment supporters three states short of the 38 states needed for ratification. Supporters continue to try and get three states to approve it.

Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, and Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, co-sponsored a resolution during the recent legislative session that would have supported the amendment, but the resolution failed by two votes in the Senate. It was not considered in the House.

After Elders' speech, Smith said she has talked with Madison and the two lawmakers plan to refile the resolution during the 2007 session.

Attending Friday afternoon's event were several Central High School students who read famous quotes given by the women who fought for the 19th Amendment.

Elders urged the young women, and all women, to continue to fight for their rights, and to promote equality.

"We still have a lot of work to do," she said, adding that women still are paid less than men and control just 15 percent of the wealth.

"We've come a long way but we still have a long way to go," Elders said.

Get Your March On: Supporting the Equal RightsAmendment as Progressive “Strategery”
From Progressive Commons
By Andrea K Rufo
March 29, 2005

As we near the end of March, we reach the perfect time to reflect on what this month is all about: Women's History. We've come along way, my fellow women. Our foresisters' successes are our rewards as we vote, hold political positions, practice law and medicine, fight in combat, take birth control, and speak our minds. Look at us now, ladies! We've got the WNBA, and a US Women's Olympic Hockey Team. We have women breaking down barriers in significant positions from Secretary of State to CEOs. We've made amazing achievements and society has made substantial progress. A simple glance at our country's legislative procurement is evidence enough that equality was not so ideal after all. We've got Roe v. Wade, Title VII, Title IX, Violence Against Women Act, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Huh? What do you mean we never passed the Equal Rights Amendment? What's so scary about the Equal Rights Amendment? A crucial question, and one that recent Congressional action is pushing back in the mainstream of political practice. Earlier in the month Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment to the House, and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) reintroduced it in the Senate.

Sure the ERA has been reintroduced to the Senate almost as many times as Strom Thurmond, so enthusiasm over this most recent proposal may be less than overwhelming, but in some ways, this may just be the right historical, social and political climate for the ERA to thrive. But first, in the honor of the month, and for the sake of my argument, I offer a brief history.

In 1923, three years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alice Paul, a prominent suffragist drafted the Equal Rights Amendment, with the simplistic text that throughout the US �men and women shall have equal rights.� Despite the momentum the suffrage movement had built for the procurement and advancement of women's rights, the proposed ERA was viewed with initial skepticism. The ERA was described by antifeminist movements as legislation designed to eradicate the differences between men and women. Social conservatives and labor parties who were concerned that the ERA would make gender-specific labor laws unconstitutional were successful at keeping the proposed amendment at bay, and so in 1943, Alice Paul redrafted the language of the bill from one employing positive rights rhetoric to one employing negative. The new draft read that: �Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." The Amendment still floundered politically.

It wasn't until the late 1960s and the rise of the second wave of feminism and the civil rights movement, that the ERA was put center stage again. As the feminist movement grew in social and political power, with previous strongholds like Labor backing down, the ERA, which had been introduced in every Congress since its inception, finally managed to pass both the House and the Senate. On March 22, 1972 the proposed Equal Rights Amendment was sent to the states for ratification. Between 1972 and 1975, thirty four of the required thirty eight states ratified the Amendment. But despite its momentum, opposition roared across the country.

The Anti-ERA movement is summed up best by the work of conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who organized and lead the STOP ERA, one of the best examples of conservative rhetoric and �strategery� at work. STOP ERA, whose primary attention grabbing stunt was to bake home made bread and send it to influential members of Congress, State legislatures or other political figures, with the handwritten note: �to the breadwinner from the breadmaker,� took the traditional stance that the ERA would take away women's rights by eliminating differences between men and women. They argued that women would no longer be exempt from military status, or from labor laws that protected them from difficult or dangerous work. They also argued that the ERA would lead the way for gay rights, and a constitutional right to abortion, both which were destructive to society and our moral foundations. And as the debate waged on in the 1970s, Anti-ERA organizations even offered the argument that the ERA would lead to unisex insurance application, and (gasp) unisex bathrooms.

In 1977 (the same year as Alice Paul's death) Indiana ratified the ERA. No other state ratifications have occurred since. Even with a granted extension, the time period for ratification ultimately expired in 1982. A month after its expiration it was reintroduced again. Congresswoman Maloney and Senator Kennedy's efforts are the most recent in an ongoing, seemingly futile attempt to keep the almost century old proposal in play.

The perception of the ERA as a political issue is, frankly, not high. It has been seen as dead since the 1970s, and as an annoying pipe dream since the 1980s. Women's groups, who retain support for the ERA, have moved on to issues and legislation that will likely fair better. It has even at times been deemed useless, preempted in spirit by the 14th Amendment, and replaced in need by Title VII. Sure, it's not as sexy as gay marriage, not as emotionally divisive as Terri Schiavo, and not as media worthy (apparently) as Michael Jackson, but I contend that the ERA, and its reintroduction at this particular time in this particular political climate, is an issue progressives must not only take note of, but actively fight for. The

ERA's long political career has faced two major rhetorical periods. In the first, from its inception to the post-civil rights/second wave feminist movements, it was rhetorically categorized by opponents as dangerous, and destructive. It was going to eliminate gender differences in the workplace, it was going to let women into the army, it might even have lead to same sex bathrooms. The second, from its expiration to its current role as the perennial Congressional bridesmaid, the ERA has been rhetorically categorized as meaningless and unnecessary. Yet neither the text nor the position of its supporters has changed since its inception. How then have conservatives and other anti-ERA lobbyists managed to get away with getting an issue completely wrong, taking a 180 change in their rhetorical position, and yet still win? The alleged negative harms associated with the ERA occurred without the passage of the ERA, and have occurred to the greater progress of society. So what remains the harm to passing the ERA? Why resist it? Why now?

It would be somewhat persuasive if ERA opponents simply cited the Republican mantra of less government and less laws as a reason against the proposed amendment. Of course, that argument was somewhat more persuasive prior to the Republican Congress' recent �pass whatever we can� strategy in dealing with the debate over Terri Schiavo. But even if we believed this supposedly essential tenet of Republicanism was alive and well, it would still only be a persuasive argument if the effect of the ERA is already being brought about by some other legislation, and that remains an incredibly difficult argument to win. The only possible examples, as previously stated, would be Title VII, possibly Title IX, and the 14th Amendment.

Title VII and Title IX though are limited in their application to specific areas: employment and education, respectively. And the 14th Amendment's equal protection provision has an unreliable history of protecting women. Its adoption and its text were all done in a historical context that did not intend to include women or strike at sex-based discrimination. Even in its application, the 14th Amendment was not used to address discrimination against women until 1971. Furthermore, under the 14th Amendment, sex-based discrimination, while unconstitutional under the 14th, are interpreted only under an intermediate scrutiny test, where so long as the law in question can be shown to exist for and is narrowly tailored to address a compelling state interest, it can pass constitutional muster. Claims of racial discrimination, however, are reviewed under strict scrutiny, where few if any laws making racial distinctions are found to be valid. In setting up these levels of review, the courts have recognized that such differential treatment is justified because race is the primary area for which the 14th Amendment was adopted, not sex.

Even if we interpreted all of the gender based laws from the 14th Amendment to the Equal Pay Act as a kind of pro-equality bulwark, it still wouldn't have the same legal effect as passage of the ERA. Not only does the individual nature of anti-sex discrimination laws preclude complex litigation and pigeon hole women's experiences into set areas and archetypes, but none of these present day laws are operating to overwhelming success. Just last week the Department of Education announced that the were weakening the requirements of Title IX, creating a large loophole by which universities can essentially do nothing but still meet their requirement to accommodate the interests of the underrepresented sex. And the Census Bureau released a new report yesterday reminding us once again that a white male earns in excess of $66,000 a year over any similarly educated woman or non-white male for that matter.

If anything, the inability for specific anti-sex discrimination acts like the Equal Pay Act and Title IX to reach their full potential in protecting women's rights is evidence of the need for a larger rhetorical framework and legal recourse to fill in the gaps, and bolster existing laws. Furthermore, the Government has the power to make laws, to repeal laws, to cut funding and resources to laws, to appoint administrators who won't enforce laws, to not hear cases on certain laws, to limit the legal application of laws, or to pass new laws that replace existing laws. Such is already underway in Title IX, and even in the Family Medical Leave Act. Current legal protections against sex discrimination offer no consistent guarantee, or uniform protection.

But it's not just the ability of the ERA to actually push us towards achieving equal rights that demands the attention and efforts of progressives, its the rhetorical power and progressive image it provides in the face of our current slide into conservatism.

Witness not just the reversal of conservative rhetoric vis a vis the ERA, but the divisive nature of conservative rhetoric vis a vis women. At the same time that the ERA languishes in Congress, Republicans, particularly Bush like to parade their gender-friendly positions for the purpose of political clout. It was when rallying support for both the invasion of Afghanistan and war in Iraq that Bush finally, after years of lobbying from feminist organizations, began to speak out against inhumane treatment of Iraqi and Afghani women. It was as support for the Iraq war wanned significantly that images and stories of women in Iraq voting for the first time made its way into presidential speeches. And then there is the uncertain, complicated and ever present image of Condelleza Rice that is, in a party that patted itself on the back for nominating a �Hispanic� for Attorney General, a reminder that they support our rights, just not enough to put it in stone.

This time around, the arguments against the ERA don't hold water. The threat of women in the military or even of same sex bathrooms are no longer. And as such, the debate should be reframed as new. We should no longer focus on answering the proffered harms of the ERA, or carving out as yet unaddressed legal areas for its unique application. We should instead frame the debate over this simple question: Why, with all our advancement, all our devotion to freedom and liberty, have we not passed the Equal Rights Amendment? Why, if we can have Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, or Title IX, can we not have the ERA? Why if women are making actual progress, are holding political positions, practicing law and medicine, fighting in combat, taking birth control by choice, at the same time as they are facing less political support, less pay or harassment in the workplace, restrictions on access to reproductive choices, violence within and outside of the military, do we not see the ERA as an effective way to increase this progress by curtailing the acts that limit it?

What exactly is the remaining fear of the ERA? What is at stake for opponents that they would continue to fight against its adoption? The obvious answer is the one Alice Paul and her sister suffragists were given: a woman in full control of herself, able to make unfettered decisions, unlimited in her access to the world, threatens the legitimacy and stability of a patriarchal society. The not so obvious answer, is that the ERA is seen not just as an anti-sex discrimination law, but as the gatekeeper for future anti-gender discrimination laws. The ERA would potentially conflict with state based restrictions on abortion access, would add civil based claims for violence against women, would uniformly attack discrimination in work, education, and public accommodations, male-only sports teams, and the Augusta National Golf Club. But it might also, in the same way that the courts feared strict scrutiny of gender based claims might, open up the doors for declaring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unconstitutional. The ERA remains unpopular because the ERA remains threatening. The only problem, is that conservatives can no longer logically advance the argument that gender equality is threatening to society in the same way that they argued that gay marriage was threatening to heterosexual marriage.

So why not push them into their own catch-22. Getting behind the ERA, promoting its final passage after all these years, in the name of the advancement of women to date and the promise for the positive progression of women in the future, would force conservatives into either supporting the ERA and ensuring its passage, or articulating a coherent reason why it should not be adopted at the same time that they are exporting US style democracy, US conceptions of freedom and liberty, and US images of gender equality to the rest of the world.

Diehards Breathe Life into Equal Rights Amendment
By Allison Stevens
WeNews correspondent

WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)--Dozens of lawmakers and women's rights activists gathered in the shadow of the Capitol on a blustery afternoon Tuesday to hail the reintroduction of legislation that would add a few sentences about sex to the Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women.

After the conclusion of the celebratory press conference, speakers conceded, however, that the Equal Rights Amendment is moving nowhere fast. The amendment was first passed by Congress in 1972, but died a decade later because it failed to win approval by three-fourths of the states within a pre-set time limit.

"In this environment, much of our agenda won't go very far," said Martha Burk, chair of the Washington-based National Council of Women's Organizations, an umbrella group of nearly 200 women's rights groups that was founded in 1983 after the amendment was defeated. "I don't think Republicans will allow it to come up for a vote."

Phyllis Schlafly, the social conservative who led the campaign to torpedo the amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s, agreed. "I don't think it has a ghost of a chance," she said in a telephone interview. "I think they're just looking for a press release."

There is a good reason for the skepticism.

In the first three months of this congressional cycle, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have put legislation backed by women's rights groups--such as a proposed hike in the minimum wage--on the back burner. At the same time, they have advanced bills opposed by the same activists, such as a measure that would make it harder for debtors, most of whom are women, to get a fresh financial start by filing for bankruptcy. Bush has also proposed massive budget cuts to programs that aid women and children, including a proposed $60 billion cut to Medicaid over the next decade.

Those efforts come after four years in which Bush, along with religious conservative congressional leaders, worked to limit reproductive rights and undermine laws protecting equality in the workplace and in sports and education. Activists contend that, taken together, these legislative efforts represent a "war on women" that has forced women's rights activists to devote more of their resources toward fighting the opposition rather than promoting their own agenda.

Diehards Will Not Let ERA Be Buried
Nonetheless, women's rights activists refuse to surrender a prize they have been fighting for since 1923, when suffragist Alice Paul traveled to Seneca Falls to unveil the first equal rights amendment at the 75th anniversary of the storied 1848 Women's Rights Convention.

The amendment was introduced in every session of Congress since then until it passed a half century later, in 1972. As it had done on all amendments (with one exception) since the amendment that barred the manufacturing and consumption of alcohol, Congress applied a seven-year time limit for ratification. In its first year out of Congress, 22 of the needed 38 states approved the amendment, leaving proponents optimistic that they would meet the deadline. But their mood soured as the political climate turned more conservative and progress slowed.

Three states short of ratification and one year away from the deadline, women's groups lobbied Congress for an extension and won three more years. The battle came down to Illinois, which approved it and then rescinded it. It officially died on June 30, 1982.

Ever since then, lawmakers have reintroduced the amendment at the start of every Congress in the hopes that they can once again win the two-thirds support needed to amend the Constitution. But the effort has come to be viewed by some as more of a ritual than an actual initiative, especially in recent years as religious conservatives have consolidated their hold on power.

"I think this is a really discouraging environment," said Jennifer Ring, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada in Reno. "I don't expect anything good to happen in the next few years."

Lack of ERA Could Be Used to Motivate Women
But if they can't enact the amendment in the near future, proponents hope to use legislation in another way: as an organizing tool. That was what motivated Burk to brave the gusty winds and speak at an outdoor press conference with few reporters in attendance. "We will make it an icon," she said, "a starting point we can rally around."

That is a smart strategy in a time when conservatives are in control, Ring said. "It's just more important than ever that the voice for equal rights for women not be silenced," she said.

Although appreciative of their efforts to keep up the drumbeat for equal rights, some activists say women's groups should do more to revive momentum for the amendment, which would provide new legal protections for women and, at the same time, shield them from efforts by hostile government leaders to take away rights already won.

Dispirited by the defeat of the amendment, women's groups have moved on to other causes, critics say. They have since expanded their portfolio of issues and, at the same time, seen a drop in activism, leaving them overcommitted and underfunded.

"Having a long agenda with few active members makes it very difficult to be successful at anything," said Idella Moore, an activist who describes herself as a modern day Rip Van Winkle. She left the country after the amendment was defeated and returned two decades later to find the movement had lost its momentum. Hoping to revive the debate, she founded 4ERA, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Atlanta that focuses exclusively on the equal rights amendment. Because it is fairly new and carries none of the political "baggage" associated with some feminist organizations, 4ERA has attracted support from members of all parties, ages and sexes, she said.

In addition to the "start-over strategy," so-called because it would mean supporters would have to cover the same territory in the halls of Congress and in the state Legislatures to pass the amendment, Moore is emphasizing the "three-state strategy", a plan based on a 1997 legal opinion that suggested that the time limit can be extended or repealed. Proponents of the strategy cite as precedent an amendment to raise congressional pay that was approved in 1992--203 years after it was first passed in Congress.

The "three-state" campaign is taking place in 13 of the 15 states that did not approve the amendment and is most active in states that came closest to adopting the amendment during the last campaign, Moore said. The most promising of these states is Illinois, where Democrats hold the governor's seat and both houses of the legislature. The amendment passed the state House in 2003 but stalled in the state Senate. An Illinois legislator has already reintroduced the bill in the state House.

Supporters are also actively lobbying state legislators in Florida and Missouri, two other states that came close to passing the amendment. Campaigns are also active--at various levels of intensity and development--in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Nevada and Mississippi, Moore said. There are no active campaigns in the two other states that did not pass the amendment, North Carolina and Utah.

Rep. Robert Andrews, a Democrat who represents Mount Laurel, N.J., the birthplace of Alice Paul, joined lawmakers at the congressional press conference to introduce a resolution at the federal level that would require Congress to verify the ratification of the amendment if and when the needed three states pass it.

Three States May Still Be Too Many
Proponents acknowledge that the three-state strategy--regarded by many as the easier of the two solutions--will not lead to victory in the near future.

The issue is not at the top of either party's agendas; both Republicans and Democrats, in fact, have dropped language supporting the amendment from their legislative platforms. And a great deal of ignorance surrounds the issue. A recent nationwide poll sponsored by 4ERA showed that 72 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that the Constitution already states that men and women are entitled to equal protections.

Meanwhile, religious conservatives continue their opposition to the amendment, claiming it would legalize same-sex marriage, draw women into military drafts and outlaw single-sex bathrooms.

"It would forbid us for making any differences for the treatment of men and women, at any time, at any place or any reason," Schlafly said. The three-state strategy, she added, is "dishonest and impossible . . . People are wasting their time."

Still, women's rights activists have no plans of giving up, whether that means they will continue to introduce the amendment at the start of every Congress until it wins a second passage or whether they find a way to circumvent the time limit.

There are some signs that they may one day find success. The United States, for example, has backed provisions in the Constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq that provide for women's equality. And in the United States, women from both parties--Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--are viewed as credible candidates for president in 2008.

"It seems to be that most things pass in America when they're way overdue," Ring said. "The Constitution is a kind of museum for struggles that have been fought and won."

Allison Stevens is Washington Bureau Chief at Women's eNews


For Immediate Release
March 15, 2005
The Equal Rights Amendment Is Reintroduced

Afghanistan's new constitution guarantees equal rights, ours doesn't

"It's 2005 and American women still do not have their equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution," says Rep. Maloney

WASHINGTON, DC - American women still do not constitutionally have equal rights under the law, even though the U.S. ensured equal rights for women in the Afghan constitution. Polls have shown that most Americans support equal rights, but they think they are already guaranteed in our Constitution. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), John Dingell (MI-15) and Rob Andrews (NJ-1) were joined by leading women's groups at a press conference today as they re-introduced the bipartisan ERA.

"It's 2005 and women still do not have their equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution," said Maloney. "We have fought wars overseas and guaranteed equal rights in the Afghan constitution, but we still don't have them here at home.

"Most Americans think equal rights are already in the Constitution, but that's simply not the case. We cannot ignore the discrimination against women that goes on in our daily lives, even now in the 21st century."

"The time is now," said Dingell. "America cannot wait any longer to make sure women have equal rights. When the ERA was first proposed in 1923, it was viewed as radically progressive. Now, some three decades after Congress first passed the ERA, it's seen as commonsensical. The fact that it is not yet part of the United States Constitution is indefensible. For the sake of our daughters and granddaughters, it's time we correct this situation."

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said: "Not only should the United States set an example for the world by guaranteeing equality for women, but American women need it now. With most families dependent on employed women, a significant wage gap persists mainly because of sex discrimination and sex segregation in the workforce.

"Meanwhile, our laws for fighting sex discrimination are too weak and do not have the clout of the Constitution. Equality in education is also continuously threatened, be it by presidents of major institutions or study commissions trying to water down Title IX."

Congress actually once passed the ERA, in 1972. However, 38 states over 10 years were needed for ratification, and only 35 ratified it. The ERA has had high levels of support in recent years - in the 108th Congress, there were 202 co-sponsors, while in the 107th Congress there were 211.

Afshin Mohamadi
Press Secretary
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14)
c: 202-225-3703


Dozens Renew Call for ERA Ratification

From TBO.com News:
by Jerome R. Stockfisch

March 15, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Their war stories take them back decades. State Rep. Mary Brandenburg pointed to the 30-year-old ``ERA YES'' button on her lapel Monday afternoon. ``I kept it,'' the Democrat from West Palm Beach said. ``And I never lost hope that one day the Equal Rights Amendment would become a reality.''

Dozens of veterans of the women's equal rights movement, state lawmakers and relative newcomers to the cause gathered at the state Capitol to renew the call for ratification of the 24-word statement. In unison, many repeated the text from memory: ``Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.''

Bills have been introduced this legislative session that could make Florida the 36th state to approve that language.

``The fight will never stop,'' said Rep. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, sponsor of the House bill. ``We will fight until we get it done.''

Some considered the issue dead when advocates failed to reach the 38-state ratification threshold by a 1979 deadline. The deadline later was extended to 1982. The ERA originally passed out of the U.S. Congress and was sent to states for three-fourths ratification in 1972.

But ERA advocates think there is new life in the campaign. Legal scholars are suggesting that ratification of the ``Madison Amendment,'' an obscure proposal on changes in congressional pay, in 1992 - more than 200 years after Congress passed it in 1789 - establishes that time limits on constitutional amendments are not valid.

The courts likely would have to sort out any such post-deadline ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Campaigns are under way in all 15 states that never ratified the original amendment. Florida, Georgia and Illinois are being viewed as the three battlegrounds with the most promise.

Advocates repeat some of the same issues they confronted three decades ago - pay inequity, sexual harassment in the workplace - with some new twists.

State Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, said women end up paying more for health care and have less comprehensive coverage under many health plans. ``When we have government paying for Viagra for men, but not contraception for women, it's wrong,'' he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. negotiators have settled or are hashing out constitutions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan that specifically address equal rights for women.

``What does that say about us?'' said Alexandra Burke, a Florida International University student. ``I`m wondering what they're modeling that after.''

Despite Monday's enthusiasm, the ERA legislation faces an uphill battle in Tallahassee. The House bill has four committee stops and the issue is not a priority of Gov. Jeb Bush and Republican leadership.


Nevada lawmaker raises equal rights issue

February 24, 2005

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A Nevada lawmaker's attempt to revive the federal Equal Rights Amendment has been thwarted by a legal opinion finding the amendment has expired.

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain planned to introduce the ERA - an amendment prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender - this week. But she said the Legislature's legal advisers told her that because a 1982 deadline for adoption had passed, ratification efforts could only be resurrected by a vote in the U.S. Congress.

McClain, D-Las Vegas, has instead requested a draft resolution supporting equal rights for women and urging Congress to propose a new equal rights amendment. The Elections Committee approved the request in a quick huddle on the Assembly floor Thursday.

The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972, but failed to pass the 38 state legislatures necessary for ratification by the 1982 deadline set by Congress. Nevada lawmakers rejected the amendment in five legislative sessions, voting it down for the last time in a 30-second voice vote in 1981.

But many women's rights advocates now argue that the 1982 deadline wasn't the end of line. They point to the Madison Amendment, a congressional pay measure adopted in 1992 after a ratification process that lasted 203 years.

Since then, a "three state strategy" has emerged. Its premise is that if three of the 15 states that rejected the ERA ratify it now, a legal case could be made for the amendment's adoption.

Legislators in Illinois and Florida already have reintroduced the ERA this year. Similar resolutions are likely in Virginia and Georgia, said Roberta Francis, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organization's ERA task force.

Noting that women's salaries still lag behind men's, McClain said the amendment is needed "now more than ever."

Her effort inspired little enthusiasm from her colleagues.

Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, voted against the request for the resolution, saying she doesn't think women need special protections.

"It's just not necessary," she said. "I'm sitting here in a seat that was once occupied by a man. I don't think I got here because I'm a woman. Society has changed so that woman are judged by their abilities."

Senate Majority Leader William Raggio, R-Reno, said he worries the issue may be a distraction from other priorities on the Legislature's agenda.

"It's something that's just going stir up all kinds of arguments," he said.

Nevada lawmaker revives Equal Rights Amendment
by KATHLEEN HENNESSEY, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Carson City, Nev. (AP) --

It took nearly 50 years for the Equal Rights Amendment to pass the U.S.
Congress in 1972. It took 30 seconds for Nevada's state senators to kill it
in 1981 _ the fifth and last time the measure to constitutionally ban sex
discrimination was considered in the state.

But pro-ERA lawmakers in Nevada _ and several other states _ may get another
shot. Thanks to a creative legal strategy and some renewed enthusiasm, the
ERA is attempting a comeback.

Leading the charge in Nevada is Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas,
who said the amendment is needed "now more than ever." In the next few days,
she plans to introduce a resolution to adopt the federal ERA.

Legislators in Illinois and Florida already have reintroduced the ERA this
year. Similar resolutions are likely in Virginia and Georgia, said Roberta
Francis, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organization's
ERA task force.

A constitutional amendment must pass Congress with a two-thirds vote and
earn ratification of two-thirds of state legislatures to become law. The ERA
was three states shy of the 38 states needed when a congressionally mandated
deadline passed in June 1982.

But many women's rights advocates now argue that the 1982 deadline wasn't
the end of line. They point to the Madison Amendment, a congressional pay
measure adopted in 1992 after a ratification process that lasted 203 years.

"That made some feminist legal minds say, well, the argument that we've
taken too long can't be raised, given that we just accepted an amendment
that took two centuries," said Francis.

Since then, a "three state strategy" emerged. Its premise is that if three
of the 15 states that rejected the ERA ratify it now, a legal case could be
made for the amendment's adoption.

"I would be turning cartwheels if it happened," said Terry O'Neill a
spokeswoman for National Organization for Women. "A series of hurdles have
to be cleared, but hurdles are hurdles. They're not insurmountable."

In recent years, several state legislatures have debated the ERA. Illinois
has come the closest to ratification, when the House passed the amendment
last session. It died in the Senate without a vote.

From 1973 to 1981, the Nevada Legislature took up the ERA five times with
little success. In 1978, over objections from ERA supporters, lawmakers put
an advisory question on the ballot. Voters rejected the amendment by a 2-1

Julianna Ormsby says she hopes opinions have changed. She teaches women's
studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is working with McClain
on the Nevada effort. She said her students and other young women are
surprised to learn that sex discrimination isn't specifically prohibited by
the U.S. Constitution.

"They assume they're protected by the 19th Amendment, which only gave women
the right to vote, or the 14th Amendment, which provided for equal
protection, but did not specifically mention sex," said Ormsby.

"Young women grow up with the assumption that their sex is not going to used
against them," said Francis. "Their jaws drop when they realize that there's
still resistance to putting something in the constitution that says equality
of rights shall not be denied on the account of sex."

The biggest challenge, said Francis, is to convince the general public that
the ERA still is necessary. In a 2001 survey conducted for the group, 92
percent of people surveyed believed men and women should have equal rights,
and 72 percent thought that gender equality already was specified in the

Advocates also are struggling to maintain the amendment as a top priority
for women's groups.

The National Organization for Women has taken steps that distance it from
the women's movement's most famous failure. It now lobbies for adoption of
the Constitutional Equality Amendment, a broader measure that bars
discrimination on sex, race, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity,
national origin, color or indigence.

The push for the ERA has brought out some of its original opponents. Phyllis
Schlafly, the conservative head of the anti-ERA movement in the 1970s,
recently testified against the amendment in Missouri and Illinois.

Schlafly said Wednesday that she'll come to Nevada, if necessary, to oppose
the ERA. Time, she said, has only confirmed her original objections and
created new ones.

"It's just as bad as it ever was," said Schlafly. "And it's perfectly
obvious now that it would give us same-sex marriages."

Schlafly also said the amendment would strengthen the pro-choice movement by
protecting abortion funding.

Another obstacle may be Nevada lawmakers' concerns about dealing with an
issue that could prolong the session.

"I think it's a sound approach," Senate Majority William Raggio, R-Reno,
said of the ERA. "But obviously, it's something that's just going stir up
all kinds of arguments."

Francis acknowledged that she's encouraged by legislators such as
McClain who are "making it a live political issue again."

"It seems to me that the two sides, that are defined as being so far apart,
should be able to join in support of something so American as the equality
of rights," Francis said.

Published in the Palm Beach Post

Rep. Gannon tries again to see Florida ratify ERA

By Jane Musgrave

February 3, 2005

Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Michael Jackson's Thriller album was topping the charts and personal computers were little more than elaborate typewriters the last time Florida was the focus of women's struggle for equal rights.

But unlike 1982, when the eyes of the nation were on Florida lawmakers, few will even know that the state is once again on the front lines in the decades-old battle for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

For the third year in a row, state Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, is asking lawmakers to turn back the clock and ratify the U.S. Constitutional amendment that would protect women from discrimination.

With new leadership in the legislature, Gannon said she is cautiously optimistic that this year the measure will at least get a hearing.

Feminists who have spent more than 30 years pushing for the ERA's passage say if Florida acts, the measure could be well on it's way to become law — or at least the subject of heated national debate.

"If Florida and Illinois pass it, it wouldn't be that difficult to get one more state," said Martha Burk, chair of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Women's Organizations.

While many think the ERA disappeared with disco, Burk said some legal scholars contend that Congress had no right to put a 10-year time limit on its ratification.

In fact, the amendment that replaced the ERA as the 27th amendment — one that deals with Congressional pay raises — was ratified 203 years after it was first sent to the states in 1789.

That means the ERA is still where it was in 1982 when Florida helped bury it — three states shy of the 38 it needs for ratification, Burk said.

Still, despite Gannon's optimism, a Senate companion bill and the written support of 11 lawmakers, the head of the House Judiciary Committee said he won't schedule the issue for a hearing.

"My feeling is the judiciary committee has a very full plate of things to do," said Rep. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. "I simply don't believe there's time for it. We are dealing with major issues facing this state that are urgent."

Gannon countered that the need for the ERA is equally urgent.

Women still earn about 75 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women who work for small employers can still be fired for getting pregnant. And unlike the Constitution, laws that protect women, like Title IX or the Civil Rights Act, can easily be changed.

"The saddest part about it is that if we were talking about African-Americans they'd never be able to get away with this," she said. "But we're talking about sex discrimination, which is much more subtle and pervasive."


Published in the ERA Campaigner:

The ERA: A Perspective

Jennifer MacLeod
July 1, 2004

In the aftermath of all the recent attention to the unarguably enormous significance of D-Day, I was suddenly struck by this thought: The MOST significant event/change of the past hundred years is NOT D-Day or World War II, NOT the invention of flight, NOT nuclear energy or the hydrogen bomb, NOT the landing on the moon, NOT the defeat of Communism, NOT the environmental movement, NOT medical and health advances, NOT any particular famous person (good or evil), and NOT the holocaust or international terrorism. There have always been wars, always been shifts in dominance among nations or cultures or religions, always been technological advances, always been increases in human knowledge of the earth and the universe, always been justifiably famous people, and always been brutality and terrorism on one scale or another. What is utterly NEW in the past century or so, and thus far more momentous, is THE EMERGENCE OF WOMEN from what had been their universal status in society for the past several thousand years: almost total subordination to the males of the species. This extraordinary transformation, in which so many women have participated and continue to participate, I believe constitutes the single most significant underlying theme of not only the lives of all women alive today, but of this entire era in the history of human experience. But why is all of this not universally recognized, and treated to the same amount of attention that we constantly see being paid to other, less momentous, events and societal changes? Well, the extraordinary emergence of the female half of the human race is understandably far more difficult for the males of the species to truly understand and acknowledge and absorb, since they are not participants in the way that women are. And men still (for now!) collectively possess far more than their numerical share of money, power and influence, and thus still (for now!) dominate communications and institutions and government and the setting of cultural and societal norms. Thinking women who recognize and fully understand that reality (after all, what is, is), can and do set themselves free to vigorously and effectively advance toward full equality for themselves and for all women. To me, understanding all this provides the perspective by which we can see the enormous potential significance of the Equal Rights Amendment, that includes but goes far beyond whatever happen to be today's most burning specific women's rights issues. The ERA aims for the recognition and full legal acceptance in our country (and, by extension, all around the world) that female citizens and their self-determination and needs and wants and welfare and beliefs and aspirations are every bit as fundamentally important and worthy of attention, respect, influence, and power, as those of male human beings.

Jennifer S. MacLeod is editor of the ERA Campaigner, the newsletter of the ERA Campaign Network.

Dream of Equal Rights Amendment lingers by Barbara Miner

Equal Rights Amendment deserves a second chance, by Brian Morreale

Yes, amend the Constitution--for women, by Martha Burk

Ironies of the equal rights battle, by Ellen Goodman

Women need amendment despite gains, by Martha Ezzard

Back to Top


Published in the Houston Chronicle

Dream of Equal Rights Amendment lingers
By Barbara Miner
June 30, 2004

TODAY, we should have a moment of silence.

On this day in 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment died. Unable to overcome the lies and distortions of its opponents, it failed to win ratification by the 38 states necessary.

Conservatives bombarded the ERA as if it were the devil incarnate. It would lead to unisex toilets, they said. Women would fight in combat alongside men. And homosexuals would want to marry.

In hindsight, it's laughable.

Women in combat? Jessica Lynch and other brave young women have settled that issue.

Gay marriage? Destroying the ERA certainly didn't derail that movement.

Fear of unisex toilets was always my favorite. I grew up with five brothers and sisters and learned at an early age that if you want privacy, lock the door.

But such laughter must be tinged with sorrow.

It's sad that anyone would feel threatened by 24 simple words in the U.S. Constitution stating: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

The fight for the ERA had its origins in the 19th century.

It was at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, that women issued a "Declaration of Sentiments," including these hallowed words: "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 government."

Sound familiar? It should. Except for the phrase "and women," it's lifted straight from the Declaration of Independence.

By 1920, women had won the right to vote, but they were still not equal under the law. In 1923, feminist and suffragette Alice Paul authored the first Equal Rights Amendment. It wasn't until 1972, during the height of the women's movement, that the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives and approved the Equal Rights Amendment. To become part of the U.S. Constitution, it needed to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Within one year, 30 states had approved the ERA, and the amendment seemed destined for success. But opponents, such as Phyllis Schlafly's National Committee to Stop the ERA, launched a campaign that pitted the amendment against motherhood, the family and the Bible.

By the middle of the decade, the ERA was in trouble.

When Indiana became the 35th state to ratify in 1977, many still hoped it would not be the last. With the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, however, it was clear the conservative counterrevolution was in command. Breaking with moderate Republicans and former presidents such as Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Reagan opposed the ERA.

Congress had set a June 30, 1982, deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. When that day arrived, it was still three states short. The promise of the ERA passed into history.

Someday this country will realize, however belatedly, that if the Constitution is to mean anything, it must explicitly affirm the rights of all. Perhaps in the 21st century we will finally enact anew ERA and redeem the promise of equality.

Barbara Miner writes on women's issues for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.


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Published in The American Jurist a publication of American University's Washington College of Law

Equal Rights Amendment deserves a second chance

By Brian Morreale

Monday, March 29, 2004

A common refrain in much of the feminist literature of the late 1970s and early 1980s stated that the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was basically a given. From Betty Friedan to Cynthia McKinney, feminist writers and scholars saw the passage of the ERA as the next logical step in guaranteeing women's rights.

A funny thing happened on the way to ratification: the ERA failed.

Since the time limit for ratification of the ERA expired in the 1980s, there has not been a substantial push for ratification. As Gloria Steinem - among others - pointed out, the ERA could not move through the more recent Congresses.

Some have suggested that passage of the ERA is now unnecessary, since each goal of the ERA has been achieved elsewhere. Is passage of the ERA still an important goal?

Before looking at the ERA, it is important to examine why people have called for it. Inequality between the sexes remains a complex and multifaceted dilemma. It involves issues of economics, psychology, religion and family, as well as social structures, to name a few. Issues of sexual violence, pregnancy, unequal pay, attitudes about gender relations, marriage and politics are all part of the big picture of inequality.

The nature of this overarching problem has morphed over time. Historically, women were not allowed to exercise political power. A hundred years ago, women were barred from all but a few careers. As women entered the workforce, they were paid less than men who did the same work, and were additionally subjected to sexual harassment and physical violence.

Even today, women who start careers on equal footing with men often lack the opportunities to advance and therefore lose ground to men. There are few women at the top of the corporate ladder or in other positions of authority or privilege.

Those who do make it - like Martha Stewart, Rosie O'Donnell and Janet Reno - are subject to ridicule (and possibly prison).

It is also fallacious to write off the disparity as a woman's choice to focus more on the family; society still pressures women to avoid competing with men. The government effort to promote marriage (only among straight couples, of course) is only one of the more conspicuous examples of the push for traditional gender relations.

There are countless statistics and examples showing the continued inequality between the sexes.

Women are without question a disadvantaged group.

Describing the problem, however, is only half the battle. A constitutional amendment is unnecessary in cases where legislative or executive action is enough to alleviate the problem. A determinative question, therefore, is whether prior governmental action on behalf of achieving equality really has been enough to adequately create the conditions where equality can be realized. There has been substantial governmental action and even several constitutional amendments. But however important and promising these actions have been, they have not accomplished the goals mentioned above.

This failure has occurred because these actions have not addressed the underlying sources of discrimination and inequality, nor are they broad enough to deal with a wide range of issues. Instances of government involvement have met one of these two categories, but not both.

For example, laws barring sexual harassment in the workplace are useful in curbing a specific type of discriminatory behavior, but do not work so well in addressing how environments allow sexual harassment to arise. That inequality still exists - and that patriarchal attitudes toward gender relations still hold sway - is prima facie evidence that more must be done.

An amendment would be more productive than normal political action, for it enables more comprehensive governmental action.

It would enable the government to be much more proactive. To guarantee equality for women in the Constitution would enable governmental bodies to address both specific acts of discrimination against women, as well as that which fosters such discrimination.

To draw a parallel, the government was better able to deal with racism and the underlying bases for it (though it has yet to succeed completely) after the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Passage of the ERA has a similar aim. It would enable the government to address women's issues in a manner that can deal with a particular issue as well as respond to the factors that created the issue in the first place. It also would support the ideal that women should share equal opportunities in society with men.

Opponents of the ERA probably would argue that enforcing this kind of ideal is at odds with a free society. That argument fails, however, when one considers that a society is not free for groups who lack the same opportunities as others. In this context, the ERA is no less appropriate than the Thirteenth Amendment.

Opponents of the ERA also likely would point out that two amendments already address women's rights. The Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments have accomplished a great deal for women, but they have not eliminated the bases for discrimination and inequality. Suffrage itself does not bring about equality; nor, apparently, have the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The ERA differs from the Fourteenth Amendment in its message that not only must the law respect the equality of women, but society as a whole must recognize and respect such equality. In 2004, the message is long overdue. On that basis, the ERA would be a positive addition to the Constitution.

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Burk: Yes, amend the Constitution -- for women

By Martha Burk
March 15, 2004

Now that the primary season is over, we can get down to the real throat-cutting. President George W. Bush has already laid the groundwork by proposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. If it passes, it would be the first time our constitution has been amended to limit, instead of expand, rights. Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, hang-doggedly went along as he made the rounds of TV appearances last week, reversing his position to line up with the boss'. Pundits say the point of the whole thing is to energize religious conservatives to swing the election.
If the Bush administration really wants to affect the election, George and Dick should get behind a constitutional amendment all right -- the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA states that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The ERA would grant equal constitutional rights to women -- something we have yet to achieve. It is a simple concept that had the blessing of both political parties until the Republicans struck it from their platform in 1980.
The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, but was not passed and sent to the states for ratification until 1972. Unlike the 27th amendment on congressional pay, ratified in 1992 after hanging around for 200 years, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed with a time limit of only seven years for approval by the states. In that brief time it was ratified by 35 states, but was stopped three states short by millions of corporate dollars backing Phyllis Schlafly's anti-woman storm troopers, who feared unisex toilets more than they valued freedom from discrimination.
Much has changed in the 32 years since Congress first passed the ERA. Women have become the majority of the population and of the electorate. Most are now in the work force full time, including 74 percent of mothers with children between six and eighteen. Women head one-third of all households, and a whopping 61 percent of single parent families.
While much has changed, little progress has been made. On the average, women still make only three-quarters as much as men. They hold 98 percent of the low paying "women's" jobs and only 1 percent of the board seats in major corporations. Three-quarters of the elderly poor are women. And in every state except Montana, women still pay higher rates than similarly situated men for health, annuity, disability, and auto insurance.
Congress, only 14 percent female, stifles the ERA year after year, even though it has been reintroduced in every session since time ran out on ratification. The boys are still unwilling to put their votes behind their rhetoric and accord full and equal citizenship to their mothers, wives, and daughters. Until they do, equality is the birthright of only the male half of U.S. society.
The framers of the Constitution could not have foreseen the modern political posturing, but surely they would cringe at a body that is so willing to soapbox on such sham amendments as gay marriage and flag burning, yet unwilling to release one that directly affects the well being of 52 percent of the population.
The Equal Rights Amendment, now favored by over 80 percent of the people, won't cost the taxpayers a dime. It will benefit not only the women of America but also the men, in this and all generations to come. That would be a real legacy for the Bush administration.

Martha Burk is a political psychologist who heads the Center for Advancement of Public Policy in Washington, D.C.


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Ironies of the equal rights battle

By Ellen Goodman
Boston Globe
December 14, 2003

Anyone who's spent a lot of time white-water rafting down the river of social change gets to see a lot of ironies washed up on the banks. But these are beauties.
About 21 years ago, the Equal Rights Amendment crashed against a handful of legislators in North Carolina, Illinois, and Florida. The opponents had listed three horrible fates that would follow if we added women's equality to the Constitution.
If there were an ERA, we would have (1) unisex toilets, (2) women in combat, and (3) gay marriage.
The fearful specter of unisex toilets was always my favorite. A natural-born radical, my house already had coed bathrooms. But in the intervening years, the integrated john became a hip accessory in Ally McBeal's office and fairly common in colleges.
As for women in combat, there are now 33 women generals, 212,000 women in the military, and everyone routinely talks about men and women in Iraq. There never was a law against women in combat zones and, as Jessica Lynch could tell you, it has gotten harder to tell the front lines from the sidelines.
And now, the third in this trilogy: gay marriage. In the 1970s I don't think even Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum really believed in something as far-fetched as gay marriage. Now gay marriage may be fetched in Massachusetts, and gay almost-marriage already exists in Vermont.
So, there you are. In 2003, we have unisex toilets, women in combat, and gay marriage. The only thing we don't have is, ta da, the Equal Rights Amendment.
In fact, here's another irony to toss on the riverbank of social change. In "Why We Lost the ERA," political scientist Jane Mansbridge wrote, "The campaign against the ERA succeeded because it shifted debate away from equal rights and focused it on the possibility that the ERA might bring substantive changes in women's roles and behavior." Well, we got a lot of substantive changes -- a majority of mothers in the workplace -- but no constitutional status.
The flow of change always takes some odd turns. But a quick look at the modern scenery would make any woman dizzy.
We also have the dubious equality of powerful female role models in movies such as "Kill Bill." But we have only 14 women in the Senate. Wal-Mart is selling a brand new NRA magazine for gun-toting women. But it still refuses to sell the morning-after pill. We narrowed the wage gap. But much of that is due to men's shrinking paychecks. We talk as if men and women are equal. But we've stopped talking about what true equality would look like at home or in public.
How come we got the side effects without the full effects? And how come the ERA is still hibernating?
For one thing, many of the more radical feminists, including some law professors, started to emphasize gender differences over equality. At the same time the National Organization for Women, which once led the ERA struggle, switched to something called the Constitutional Equality Amendment, which would not only ban the "subordination of women to men" but calls for the end of discrimination on everything from marital status to "indigence." Indigence? Earth to NOW, are you serious?
The only folks carrying the traditional ERA banner in this millennium are the stalwarts who have loyally reintroduced it in Illinois, Florida, and Missouri. As for the opponents, today they've gone from saying it's too radical to saying it's superfluous. In Illinois last spring Phyllis -- blast from the past -- Schlafly testified that an ERA would force the Girl and Boy Scouts to merge. Does that portend a unisex Scout meeting before any amendment?
And while we are counting ironies, right-wing culture warriors who opposed changing the Constitution to include women now want to change it to exclude gay marriages.
The absence of equal rights puts us in some awkward positions. Our country is one of a handful that hasn't signed the UN treaty on women's rights. And it's touchy, to put it mildly, to push for greater equality in Iraq or Afghanistan if we're not there yet in America.
While an ERA wouldn't change the average woman's life overnight, words matter. As Mansbridge says, "A simple declaration of equality is the right thing. It deserves to be in the Constitution." At the very least, a discussion would jumpstart the dormant debate about a stalled movement.
In the meantime, we're left steering through this social change with a question: Is it possible that equality between the sexes is actually a more radical idea than marriage within a sex?


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Women need amendment, despite gains

By Martha Ezzard
Atlanta Journal & Constitution
May 20, 2003

Thirty years ago, conservative evangelist Jerry Falwell railed against the Equal Rights Amendment, warning that it would send women to die in combat or to be taken prisoners of war. The ERA fell three states short of ratification -- but try replaying the Falwell line to Pfc. Jessica Lynch or any of the American servicewomen sent to Iraq.

At last, there is a serious campaign in Congress and around the country to revive the ERA -- and the old arguments against it are fodder for late night comedy shows. Many of the so-called horrors Christian fundamentalists touted are modern-day reality, progressive gains that women have realized. They have little to do with the proposed constitutional amendment, then or now.

I remember the ridiculous co-ed restroom "specter" raised by Southern Baptists. Today, co-ed restrooms on college campuses are the norm rather than the exception; even Falwell may have stumbled upon the Southern-style "family restroom" in the Charlotte airport, where fathers can help with diaper changing and infant care when families travel.

So if women have made so much progress in the 21 years since the amendment died, why pursue it?

The answer has nothing to do with social mores, but with bread-and-butter discrepancies that still exist. Sure, a patchwork of new state and federal laws prohibit sex discrimination -- but until women can rely on uniform constitutional protection, they face hurdles men don't in seeking equal pay, pensions, unemployment benefits or workplace advancement.

Victory could be just three states away, some legal authorities say.

The three-state strategy is based on the theory that there is no constitutional time limit for ratification unless it is written into the amendment itself. When the ERA was proposed, the seven-year limit was not part of the amendment text that state legislators voted on (nor was the five-year extension). It was part of the wording of the resolution proposing the amendment.

The precedent for bridging the time limit is the 1992 certification of the 203-year-old Madison Amendment, which bars Congress from voting itself a pay raise that could take effect prior to the next election. Justice Department lawyers, relying on language in a U.S. Supreme Court case, advised approval after the 38th state ratified it because no time limit had been specified. While the court has not directly ruled on an ERA-ratification time limit, respected legal scholars such as Harvard's Lawrence Tribe say the three-state interpretation could be valid.

Meanwhile, bipartisan resolutions in both the House and Senate propose to start the ratification process anew for what would be the 28th amendment.

Given today's economic climate, the timing couldn't be better. Women, some freshly off welfare, are holders of the largest number of low-wage jobs. They often don't qualify for unemployment benefits. And because they take time off to have children, women have earnings records that relegate them to only minimal Social Security benefits. Jobs predominantly held by women are still undervalued in the marketplace, according to a recent report by the American Association of University Women. Female child-care workers, for example, are paid less than mostly male truck drivers, despite educational qualifications and social worth. Without federal constitutional protection, that's the way it will stay in most states.

As the presidential election draws closer, the political climate for women's rights could improve even among conservatives. While Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently poked fun at an ERA resolution in his state Legislature, calling it "retro," a CNN poll last weekend showed President Bush losing support among female voters. Only 44 percent of women say they will vote for him again.

Working women have little time to ponder the legalities of a new ERA campaign. But as they face health insurance, child care and job cuts in a faltering economy, politicians best avoid labeling women's rights "retro" -- lest the label fall to them in 2004.


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