Florida lawmakers could vote to protect equal rights this fall — but it will take all of us speaking up to demand action on the ERA first.
We built a coalition of women, African-Americans and other enlightened advocates for equal rights in 2019 in Virginia. We moved our headquarters to a brick house in Suffolk, VA, determined to flip the leadership of the state General Assembly to pro-ERA. We recruited a local cadre of supporters, but our Virginia HQ also became a bunkhouse for a steady flow of volunteers from as far away as California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts.
Our volunteers canvassed neighborhoods, businesses and churches; organized phone banks; utilized digital outreach; wrote and mailed postcards; addressed rallies; participated in panels; and posted poll watchers.
Our strategy worked. We helped flip six seats in the House and two in the Senate. Those lawmakers joined the new majority in the Virginia legislature that ratified ERA in January 2020.
Dear Equal Rights Supporters from Florida,
Ask your Atorney General to join Equal Means Equal in the historic fight to overturn the deadline.
Call them today or download the below draft and send it to them either by email or post.
The people of Florida have the opportunity to have their voices heard and play a part in the making of herstory to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As of today, Florida may be one of the best opportunities for supporters and advocates of the ERA to add one of the two states needed to ratify the Amendment, whether it be through connecting with their state legislators, participating in demonstrations, or raising awareness through social media.
The Florida Senate and House are next in session on January 14, 2020 – let’s get ERA voted on in THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION!
Call your representative now!
One of the most prominent supporters of the ERA in Florida was Roxcy O’Neal Bolton who founded the Miami chapter of National Organization for Women in 1966. She became the vice president of the NOW national organization in 1969, while her husband, Commander David Bolton in the U.S. Navy, would later lead the organization Men for ERA. During the 1970s, when the lion’s share of state legislatures ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, Florida remained one of the battlegrounds well into the end of the decade and the beginning of the 1980s. On various occasions, the ERA passed the Florida House of Representatives, but never passed the Senate. When the ERA was first put to vote in the Florida Senate in 1974, the only female state Senator in the chamber was Senator Lori Wilson, who became an outspoken proponent of the Amendment.
A Washington Post article from 1977 explained that many members of the State Senate during that era were conservative Democrats, and that the Sunshine State’s upper chamber was essentially controlled by three leaders, all male, and all opposed to the ERA. Senate President Lew Brantley, former Senate President and Dean of the Senate Dempsey Barron, and Rules Committee Chairman Tom Gallen were cited by the article as having utilized “arm-twisting” and “backroom deals” to prevent its passage despite the pro-ERA stance of then-Governor Reubin Askew. Senator Gallen even stated that the only reason the bill ever made it out of the Rules Committee was because, according to him, there were enough votes to defeat the Amendment in the Senate. Gallen was quoted as saying “we could kill it better on the floor”.
Anita Bryant, a singer who became the official spokesperson of the Florida Citrus Commission, helped lead the opposition to the ERA through her organization Save Our Children. Shirley Spellerberg, a radio host in Miami, also opposed the ERA and along with Bryant became the leaders of an anti-ERA movement in Florida. While support for the ERA was more likely to be found in Florida’s urban areas, the opposition to the Amendment gained traction in predominantly rural and conservative regions along with areas with a more significant elderly population. On June 21, 1982, the Florida House of Representatives approved the ERA with 60 Representatives voting in favor and 58 Representatives voting against. However, that same day, the Florida Senate voted 22-16 against ratifying the ERA.
Since 2000, legislators in both branches of the Florida legislature have introduced bills ratifying the ERA, and in most cases the bills either died in the committee process or were withdrawn prior to introduction. Most recently, Florida State Representative Daisy Baez introduced HCR 163 ratifying the ERA in the Florida House of Representatives on August 24, 2017, however, the bill was withdrawn on November 2, 2017 following Representative Baez’s resignation from the Florida House.
In the Florida Senate, Senator Audrey Gibson filed SCR 264 on September 7, 2017, and the bill was referred to three committees: Judiciary, Commerce and Tourism, and Rules. On January 9, 2018, the bill was introduced, however, on March 10, 2018 SCR 264 died in the Judiciary Committee, indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.
In the Florida House on January 3, 2018, State Representative Patricia H. Williams introduced HCR 1161, a bill identical to SCR 264 ratifying the ERA. On January 7, 2018, HCR 1161 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, and the Rules & Policy Committee. On March 10, 2018, HCR 1161 died in the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.
In the 2019 session, three ratification bills were introduced in the current session of the Florida legislature: two in the Florida House of Representatives (HCR 209 and HCR 255) and one bill in the Florida Senate (SCR 266). SCR 266 was introduced by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) and co-sponsored by Senator Lori Berman (D-Lantana) on January 9, 2019. On January 22, 2019, SCR 266 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Committee on Commerce and Tourism, and the Rules Committee. HCR 209 ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced on January 9, 2019 by Representative Doti Joseph (D-North Miami). On January 16, 2019 it was referred to the Florida House of Representatives’ Civil Justice Subcommittee, the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee. HCR 255 ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced on January 11. 2019 by Representative Patricia Williams (D-Lauderdale Lakes). On January 23, 2019, it was referred to the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, and the Judiciary Committee. On May 3, 2019, both HCR 209 and HCR 255 died in the Civil Justice Committee, indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration. On the same day, SCR 266 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration.
In the Florida House on September 27, 2019, Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and Representative Joseph filed HCR 239 ratifying the ERA and is currently in the Civil Justice Subcommittee. A December 2019 article in the Florida Phoenix suggested that some female Republican lawmakers could be open to supporting the ERA including Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Representative Amber Mariano (R-Hudson). Representative Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) is described in the article as already being supportive of the Amendment’s ratification. In December of 2019, both a majority of Manatee County Commissioners and the entire Venice City Council voted in favor of measures advocating for the Amendment to be ratified.
In the Florida Senate on January 14, 2020, Senator Gibson introduced SCR 392 ratifying the ERA. SCR 392 was referred to the Judiciary Committee, the Commerce and Tourism Committee, and the Rules Committee. A February 12, 2020 article by Florida Politics indicated that HCR 239 was co-sponsored by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers) and that SCR 392 was co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), illustrating that the measure has bipartisan support in the Florida legislature.
List of Sponsors/Co-Introducers for SCR 392:
Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville)
Senator Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), Co-Introducer
Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa), Co-Introducer
Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), Co-Introducer
Senator Kevin J. Rader (D-Boca Raton), Co-Introducer
Senator Gary M. Farmer, Jr. (D-Fort Lauderdale), Co-Introducer
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Co-Introducer
List of Sponsors for HCR 239:
Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa)
Representative Doti Joseph (D-North Miami)
Representative Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee)
Representative Loranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee)
Representative Melony Bell (R-Fort Meade)
Representative Kamia L. Brown (D-Ocoee)
Representative Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg)
Representative Nicholas X. Duran (D-Miami)
Representative Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando)
Representative Joy Goff-Marcil (D-Maitland)
Representative Margaret Good (D-Sarasota) (Deputy Democratic Leader)
Representative Michael “Mike” Grieco (D-Miami Beach)
Representative Adam Roger Hattersley (D-Riverview)
Representative Amber Mariano (R-Hudson)
Representative Amy Mercado (D-Orlando)
Representative Cindy Polo (D-Miramar)
Representative Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton)
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando)
Representative Richard Stark (D-Weston) (Deputy Democratic Leader)
Representative Susan Valdés (D-Tampa)
Representative Clovis Watson, Jr. (D-Alachua)
Representative Jennifer Necole Webb (D-Gulfport)
If your State Senator or Representative is not on this list, please call them and encourage them to support the ratification of the ERA.
Be sure to stay informed on news and events regarding the progress of the ERA through the Equal Means Equal website at www.equalmeansequal.org.
72% of Americans won’t join the fight for equal rights because they think the Constitution already guarantees them. We need your help to actually achieve that goal by adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, starting with ratifying the ERA in Florida. Join our movement.
Equal Means Equal will keep you informed of the status of ratification in Florida and what actions you can take locally to pass the ERA.
Let’s do this.
Want to do more? Let us know how else you can help.
Join the dozens of women’s organizations and thousands of women using the EQUAL MEANS EQUAL documentary film to reinvigorate the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment!
Host a screening in your neighborhood and help get the conversation going about the importance of the ERA. Click the button below to organize a screening in your community.
Democracy is a team sport. Let your ladies know our time is now.
38 wins! Thanks to these states for protecting the rights of Americans and fighting to usher in a new ERA.