“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 one) “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” (section two) “This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.” (section three)
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. The ERA failed to receive the requisite number of state ratifications (38) before the final deadline set by Congress of June 30, 1982, and so it was not adopted.
On this, the 42nd anniversary of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by Congress, I ask, “What happened to the Equal Rights Amendment? Why was it never ratified? Is it a needed amendment to our constitution?”
Those who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment did so on many issues. They stated the amendment would eliminate the men-only draft requirement. They felt that the amendment would repeal protective laws like sexual assault and alimony and change the tendency of courts to give mothers custody over their children in divorce cases. They suggested that single-sex bathrooms would be eliminated. Some argued that the amendment would guarantee universal abortion rights. Others argued that it would guarantee the right for homosexual couples to marry.
Those who support the amendment continue to do so for the following reasons. The most important reason is that they feel the United States needs the ERA because we do not have it yet and the United States Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all of the rights it protects are held equally by women. (The only right that the Constitution specifically affirms to be equal for women and men is the right to vote by the 19th Amendment of 1920.) The 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause has never been interpreted to guarantee equal rights for women as the Equal Rights Amendment would do. (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in September 2010 that he does not think the Constitution prohibits sex discrimination!) Many feel the United States needs the amendment because we need a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination and we need to protect the rollback of the significant advances in women’s rights achieved over the past half century. Another reason to reopen the debate and adopt an Equal Rights Amendment is the current discrimination between women and men’s wages. It has been shown that women are paid 77 cents to every dollar earned by men fifty years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.
The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
I think it is time this issue of equal rights for women in the form of passing an Equal Rights Amendment proceed forward so that our daughters and granddaughters, sons and grandsons might come to believe that WOMEN and men are created equal!
Let’s reopen the debate on this issue. Check out Kamala’s ERA Education Project website.
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Posted by Susan Batterton