Federal and state laws cannot protect the rights of citizens who are not protected by the US Constitution.
In 1789, our system of governance was based on the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Women and slaves were intentionally left out of the equation since they were legally considered the ‘property’ of men.
A woman had no legal rights. She could not vote. She could earn wages but they belonged to her father or husband. She was not allowed to own her possessions or the land upon which she lived. She could not speak in public or attend college. She could not divorce her husband if he became abusive, a drunkard or penniless. Her husband had sole custody of her children and if he divorced her, she became homeless with only the clothes on her back. Rape and domestic chastisement were legal in marriage.
Women were intentionally barred from designing our government under the US Constitution and establishing the education, business, government, military, and religious institutions that govern our lives today. Women will remain 'on the outside looking in' until we return to the foundation upon which our society rests today and carve our place out in writing. Only then will we have established the boundaries of our human rights as equal to men's and the recourse needed to transform our collective consciousness for tomorrow.
The 19th Amendment for suffrage established the first federal guarantee of women's rights across all 50 states. It had encompassed a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice that included the imprisonment and torture of women ordered by sitting President Woodrow Wilson. Many suffrage leaders died before this basic right of citizens was granted including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After 72 years, women finally won the right to vote by only one vote. (incidentally, it was a male legislator who had been instructed by his mother to vote for the Ladies.
HISTORY OF ERA
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written in 1923 by Alice Paul, a suffrage leader and Doctor of Law. The bill was introduced in every session of Congress for nearly 50 years before it passed. A group of 20 women from Pittsburgh (NOW - National Organization for Women) stood up in protest during a Senate hearing. Their act of civil disobedience ultimately raised its profile to finally pass the House and Senate by more than the required 2/3 majority.
When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it insisted that the measure had to be ratified by the necessary number of states (38) within 7 years. This deadline was later extended to 10 years, and between 1972 and 1982, 35 states voted to end discrimination on the basis of sex. Yet, on June 30, 1982, Congress refused to extend its deadline and the ERA ‘expired’, just three states short of full ratification under the US Constitution. A new constitutional amendment bearing the same text with no deadline has been introduced in every session of Congress since. It has never received a hearing.
In 1992, the 27 "Madison Amendment" regarding Congressional pay raises was ratified after 203 years. Though it had no deadline for ratification, the ERA Summit subsequently commissioned a legal analysis by the TC Williams Law School, Richmond VA, that concluded this legislative action could have significant implications for the ERA remaining alive before the states post 1982 for ratification in the final three needed. The three-state strategy has been introduced since 1994. Continued ratification efforts resumed in un-ratified states such as Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois and as recently as 2009. Unfortunately, mainstream media has largely ignored this news story and resolutions have been defeated behind closed doors.
In 27 amendments to the Constitution, the US government established freedom of speech and religion (1st), right to bear arms (2nd) due process (5th), an end to slavery (13th), guaranteed full citizenship (14th) and suffrage regardless of race (15th) and women’s suffrage (19th). Steadily, our collective consciousness evolved from committing horrific human rights violations to electing the first Catholic (Kennedy) and African American (Obama) male presidents. Stunning triumphs, and yet our moral compass cannot ignore the double standard that remains – what about Women who pay taxes yet are not equally represented? What about our military service woman who protect and defend our constitution that does not protect and defend them?
Without a federal blanket of protection across all 50 states, laws for women are arbitrarily and inconsistently applied. Court lack a clear benchmark for ruling on sex discrimination cases, so outcomes vary. Legislation that can take years to pass can be reversed overnight by a single vote or denied necessary appropriations.
The omission of women from the U.S. Constitution has had far-reaching consequences for far too long.
Until an Equal Rights Amendment is written into our Constitution, government cannot be held accountable for improving these circumstances. Likewise, women have little recourse when their human rights are continually violated. The Equal Rights Amendment would require the U.S. government and all fifty states to revise structures, laws, and policies to benefit both sexes equally. It is a win-win-win for Americans.