High Country Press / HCPress.com
WOMEN'S HISTORY--IN THE MAKING?
Story by: Bernadette Cahill
Posted: March 24, 2011
"I hope that all Women start paying attention and get behind their representatives and senators to have a quicker chance to ratify it." --Pinky Hayden of Blowing Rock, former state legislator
A bill introduced recently in the United States Congress, if it becomes law, could remove legal objections to North Carolina's ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The National Council of Women's Organizations, the National Organization for Women, the American Association of University Women and the National Women's Political Caucus are among 25 organizations endorsing the bill.
H.J. Resolution 47, which Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced on March 8---International Women's Day---removes the deadline that killed the ratification process in 1982 after 10 years. The House referred the new bill to the Jidiciary Committee.
Alice Paul wrote the original Equal Rights Amendment, said Carolyn Cook, executive director of United 4 Equality, a Washington-based group lobbying for the deadline's removal. Paul's national campaign between 1913 and 1920 led to the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the vote.
The ERA states: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
When first introduced by two Republicans in 1923, the ERA Paul had written had no time limit. Congress imposed a seven-year restriction in final passage to the proposing clause of the 1972 amendment resolution, said Cook, but not in the amendment itself. Congress later extended this by three years.
By 1982, 35 of 38 required states had ratified, but the ERA was considered dead. Some states have used the deadline to argue against considering ratification.
In North Carolina--one of 15 unratified states--23 bills of different types addressed constitutional equality of the sexes between 1972 and 1982. The ERA received one positive vote only, in the General Assembly.
The deadline has resurfaced because the Madison Amendment, ratified in 1992--203 years after its initial submission to the states--has raised questions about the validity of a ratification deadline. Legal opinion states a strong case exists for the continuing viability of the ERA based on this precedent.
"I am thrilled that they have introduced this bill to Congress to allow us to go forward with the ERA," said Pinky Hayden of Blowing Rock, the High Country's representative in 1982 in the North Carolina General Assembly when the ERA failed the last time. Hayden has called since 2008 for ratification.
"It makes total sense to me that we won't have to start at ground zero again. I hope that all women start paying attention and get behind their representatives and senators to have a quicker chance to ratify it," she said.
Getting three more states to ratify is known as the Three State Strategy. The removal of the deadline is now part of that strategy.
The ERA was re-introduced in Congress every year since 1983 to re-start the process entirely, most recently in 2010. This Start-Over Strategy would require a two-thirds majority in both House and Senate, the re-ratification by the 35 previously ratified states, plus ratification by three more.
A spokesperson for previous sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said that she plans to introduce the ERA in this Congress "soon." A spokesperson for previous sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said by email, "It looks like we are planning on re-introducing, but we don't know when yet."
"We don't want [the Start-Over Strategy]," said Hayden. "We are already almost there. We have already proven that 35 states have ratified and only lack three more states. [This would allow us] to move forward and get [the ERA] into the Constitution so that women can be protected. It's time we had equal rights."