ERA IN LAW
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 the ‘property’ of wealthy, white landowning men.
A woman without legal rights:
could not vote.
surrendered her wages to her father or husband.
could not own possessions nor the land upon which she lived.
could not give a speech, debate an issue or attend college.
could not divorce her husband if he was abusive, drunk, or penniless.
barred from the custody of her children in a divorce and became homeless with only the clothes on her back.
could be raped and physically abused in marriage.
Women had no say in establishing the education, business, government, military, and religious institutions that govern society today. Women's progress remains precarious without a constitutional amendment to protect their interests.
The 19th Amendment for suffrage lasted 72 years and was passed by one vote. It encompassed a lifetime of struggle and sacrifice that included the imprisonment and torture of women ordered by President Woodrow Wilson. Many suffrage leaders died before seeing their dream realized including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
HISTORY OF ERA
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written in 1923 by Dr. Alice Paul, a suffrage leader and Doctor of Law. It was introduced in every session of Congress for nearly 50 years before passage. A group of 20 women from Pittsburgh NOW (National Organization for Women) protested a Senate hearing on the age of majority. Their act of courage ultimately rescued the ERA, and it finally passed the House and Senate with an overwhelming majority.
In 1972, Congress insisted that the ERA measure be ratified by the necessary number of states (38) within 7 years. Their deadline was later extended by three 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 victory.
In 1992, the 27 "Madison Amendment" concerning congressional pay raises was ratified after 203 years. The ERA Summit commissioned a legal analysis by the TC Williams Law School, Richmond VA, that concluded it had significant implications for the ERA remaining viable for ratification by three more states. A three-state strategy was introduced in 1994 but did not specifically address Congress's time limit. States such as Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois sought to become #36, 37, and 38 in 2009. Unfortunately, without media coverage, every resolution was 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 women who protect and defend our constitution that does not protect and defend them as equals?
Without a federal blanket of protection across all 50 states, laws for women are arbitrarily and inconsistently applied. Courts lack a clear benchmark for ruling on sex discrimination cases, so outcomes are unpredictable. Legislation that can take years to enact can be reversed overnight by a single vote or denied necessary appropriations.
The omission of women today from the U.S. Constitution is evident as:
Verbal, sexual, and physical assaults on women and girls are commonplace;
Advertisers exploit female sexuality and submissiveness with impunity;
Women do not earn equal pay for equal work;
Insufficient family-friendly policies limit career choices and progression;
Care-giving is still not eligible to earn social security benefits outside of marriage;
Servicewomen are still treated differently although they serve and are killed in combat alongside men.
There is no public system of affordable healthcare, childcare, or eldercare.
Women small business owners are awarded 4.85% out of the minimum of 5% of the federal contracts set aside for them.
Until an Equal Rights Amendment is written into our Constitution, government cannot be held accountable for improving these circumstances or undermining women's progress. 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 revise structures, laws, and policies to benefit both sexes equally. It is a win-win-win for all Americans.