What is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)?
The Equal Rights Amendment is an amendment to the Constitution that would ensure equal rights for all Americans regardless of sex, providing a legal basis for preventing discrimination against sex. The basis of civil rights in the United States comes from the declaration that all men are created equal but that statement does not mention women, the trans community or nonbinary people and therefore excludes them from protection against discrimination. The ratification of this amendment with some word changes to fully include the trans community would mean that all Americans would be protected against discrimination.
(What does an amendment mean again?)
In the United States, amendments are when we can add or remove things from the constitution. Think of Women’s right to vote or the emancipation of slaves, neither of those pieces of legislation were present in the original constitution but were needed and added on later. To make an amendment official or to ratify it, two-thirds of the House and Senate need to approve of the amendment and then the amendment is sent to the states where three-fourths of the states must approve of the amendment for it to be officially added to the constitution.
Why is this important?
The Constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sex.
There are laws in place that prohibit discrimination against sex but usually pertain to certain workplace scenarios, educational institutes and vary across state lines. The ERA would be a blanket no one can be discriminated against based on their sex.
Still not convinced? Here’s a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to change your mind:
“If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment. I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature. I’d like them to see that is is a basic principle of our society.” -Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Legislation like Roe v. Wade, Violence Against Women Act and others that protect women’s rights are in danger and can be revoked so having an amendment would secure a powerful tool to fight back against further discrimination.
The Equal Rights Amendment was originally proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul a suffragist at the time. Despite backing by professional women reformers in the labor movement opposed the amendment as they feared it would be a threat to power structures in the workplace and the protective workplace laws they worked so hard to implement. For roughly 50 years the ERA and renewed drafts of it were proposed in front of every legislative session in Congress.
The tides did not turn for the Equal Rights Amendment until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s brought on the second wave of feminism and the ERA became the major demand of the protests. With the added pressure, the labor movement finally came on board with the ERA.
By March 22, 1972, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment by roughly 90% in both the House and the Senate and the Equal Rights Amendment was sent out to states to be ratified.
Yet Congress had put a seven-year deadline on the states to ratify the amendment. Within the first year, the ERA received 22 out of the 38 states needed for ratification. But soon anti-era organizers began to gain traction. Anti-Era activists like Phyllis Schafly argued that women would be taken from the home and put immediately into combat.
As the seven-year deadline approached, states were stalling out. The National Organization for Women organized a march to appeal to Congress for a deadline extension where 100,000 people were in attendance. Congress then granted an extension until June 30, 1982.
Unfortunately, as that deadline approached, the country became more conservative and the likelihood of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment dwindled. By the deadline of June 30, 1982, the ERA was three states shy of ratification and was reintroduced to Congress the following month where again the amendment is proposed to Congress every legislative session.
Why should I care now?
On March 22, 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and then in May 2018 Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. So the Equal Rights Amendment only needs one more state to ratify it before becoming an official amendment to the constitution.
What can I do?
1. Look to see if your state has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment by clicking this link here. If they haven’t call your state legislature (numbers are provided in the link) and tell them that they should ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
2. Tell everyone about this! It is a common misconception that the constitution provides us with equal rights and protections and that is wrong. But we can change that!! So tell your family, your friends, your neighbors, your dog, your mailman, tell everybody!!!!
3. Share this article or others explaining the ERA on social media and let’s get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified!!