When I was a child the Equal Rights Amendment was a big deal.
This is the complete text of the ERA:
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.
When the Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, I was 8 years old. The first time it was proposed was 1923. It was introduced as a proposed amendment every year until it was passed. It would have been the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution but the required 38 states failed to ratify the amendment so it failed as an amendment.
There were so many things I didn't understand about the ERA in 1972.
I couldn't understand why it wasn't a part of the original U.S. Constitution and I couldn't understand why there were so many women against it. I couldn't understand why some "women" insisted that we were not equal to men. I thought I was. In fact, when I was 8, I thought that I was more than equal to a lot of boys . . .
Phyllis Schlafly was the most vocal and effective opponent of the ERA. She led the movement against the amendment, it really might have passed if she hadn't stood up against the equality of her own sex. Back then, I thought she was the stupidest woman I had ever seen or heard. I couldn't understand why she was so insistent on being subservient to her husband and defining herself as less than equal. This Harvard educated woman showed how strong and effective one woman could be in creating a powerful grassroots movement, as she explains herself. It is too bad that such a powerful force elected to wage such a backward campaign. (And she's still fighting the ERA even now.)
Schlafly defeated the ERA by arguing that women would be subject to the draft and find themselves in combat roles in Vietnam if the amendment was passed. She also argued that social security benefits for wives, widows and children would be eliminated by the ERA.
This wasn't the truth, but once she said it, the truth could not be heard over the fighting that she incited. In 1972, there was so much fighting .
The ERA would come up for ratification state by state and all of the attention in my house would be focused on the news. We'd cheer or we'd yell. My childhood up's and down's were tied to the ratification of the ERA, Vietnam, civil rights, feminism and Richard Nixon. Well, we're all tied to history. Were we more tied to history back then because there were only 4 channels on TV? I wonder. . .
This map from the ERA website shows where the amendment was and was not ratified.
The fight for the ratification of the ERA has not ceased.
Alice Paul, one of the greatest feminists of all time (and most illustrious New Jersey Housewife) demonstrated her Quaker simplicity in her draft of the ERA amendment:
Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.
Representative Maloney's proposed amendment states:
'Section 1. Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. 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. Congress and the several States 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 will it take to get this amendment ratified at last?
Do we have to start all over, or could it be passed if ratified by three states - preserving the prior 35 state votes? That's been studied by the Library of Congress as discussed at the ERA's website. It will probably take a two step process to ratify the ERA now. First Congress must remove the deadline for ratifying the amendment, second, the legislatures of three states must ratify the ERA.
But we cannot change the language of the amendment it was ratified by 35 states already as previously written.
Passing the ERA does matter. It really does, and it's not too late. It's never too late to do the right thing.
According to the Feminist Majority,
The ERA would change the burden of proof in sex discrimination cases to a higher level of scrutiny under the law. A level of strict scrutiny in all sex discrimination cases would mean that those fighting sex discrimination would no longer have to prove discrimination, but instead those who discriminate would have to prove that they did not violate the Constitution. This would have major impact on a wide range of sex discrimination cases.
We women matter enough to have our equal rights included in the U.S. Constitution. Our voices need to be heard.
Contact your US Representative and Senators, tell them you support the ERA and you want them to as well.
- You must also ask your US Representative to support @P" target="_blank">H.J. RES 43 which will remove the ratification deadline and permit passage of the ERA by the vote of three states.
- Ask your Senator to support @P">S.J.RES.15 which is the Senate version of the legislation to remove the ratification deadline.
I blog at shewalksandtalks.com
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