California State University, Fresno

By Erica Hernandez | October 03, 2011


The United States prides itself on the notion of liberty and justice for all, but when it's still struggling to ratify an amendment that simply seeks equality for half the population, one must ask, exactly whom does "all" include?

The Equal Rights Amendment, which is only one sentence long and just 25 words, is simple.

"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 was written in 1923 by Alice Paul, suffragist leader and founder of the National Women's Party, shortly after women gained the right to vote.

The ERA was reintroduced to Congress every year until it finally passed in 1972 and has been ratified by 35 out of the 38 states needed so far.

Though American women have come a long way since the passing of the 19th Amendment, the right to vote, they are still fighting inequalities in forms of sexual discrimination every day.

The types of sexual discrimination vary. They usually range from but are not limited to, issues based on maternity rights, equal pay and whether or not women belong in certain occupations. Ratifying the amendment will help eliminate these issues.

"Well, one thing about having an amendment in the Constitution is it's not just a law. It's not susceptible to the same kind of easy overturn of laws," Fresno State women's studies chair Loretta Kensinger said.

There are still laws that exist where women are judged or seen as not having equal rights, "A constitutional amendment will say it will not be tolerated," Kensinger said.

The ERA isn't just one sided though. Ratification is important because it would set a zero-tolerance rule in sex discrimination across the board.

Whether it be for a woman's legal right to equal pay or for a man's right to equal custody of his children, the amendment "crates a more solid standing, gives it more solid legal footing," Kensinger said.

Contrary to popular belief, the struggle for equality among men and women is still an issue many don't know about. There are still people actively fighting the ratification of the ERA.

"It's shocking. Most people don't even know that it's not in the Constitution. When you talk to non-women's studies majors who don't know about the ERAs and the fact that it's nonexistent in the Constitution, they can't believe that in the eyes of the constitution women are not equal to men," political science major Leila Alamri said.

The reasons for opposing the ratification are just as extensive as those that support it.

Oppositions range from social practice and the belief of two separate spheres for men and women, religion and the belief that God created women under men and protective rights for women in the military.

One of the biggest arguments against the ERA has been that ratifying it would take away women's protection from combat.

"Its pretends that was in a different kind of historical time," Fresno State women's studies professor Jan Slagter said.

Although she doesn't condone war, Slagter understands the significance of the military in the struggling economy. Regulation women in the military cut another slice out of women's already limited work options.

"We live in a social reality where there are so few jobs," Slagter said. "It's a way to get a job, to get some training, to learn a skill and people are relying on the military to get that."

As of this year, a new bill has been introduced to Congress which will remove the ERA's ratification deadline and make it part of the constitution when three more states ratify it. So far we are still waiting on three-out-of-15 states that have yet to ratify.

Response to a New Attempt for Equal Rights

Carolyn Cook says: October 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Hey Erica, Thanks for the great piece! As the architect of HJ Res. 47 to remove the time limit on the ERA, I could really use your help in reaching out to CA legislators to support our bill. One thing you may not be aware of is that Congress prefers that women start all over again at the beginning for 38 states! How insulting and insane. As the next generation to get us into the Constitution, we must unite for our equality NOW! Please LIKE our Facebook page at United for Equality and follow us on Twitter.