ABOUT THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT & THE CENTURY-LONG STRUGGLE FOR FULL SEX EQUALITY UNDER OUR CONSTITUTION
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) protects all Americans and guarantees equal treatment of our laws, regardless of sex or gender. The ERA simply states:
“Equality of rights, under the law, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
In 1776, we as a nation declared that all men are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights, while women were deliberately excluded, left to fight for equal treatment. For more than 230 years, the discrimination of over half our country’s population has been a cultural and economic American cornerstone.
Nearly a century-and-a-half later, in 1923, American suffragist Alice Paul, wrote the EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT. Embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike, ERA was considered a commonsense resolution to the Constitution’s shortcomings. Yet still, even with broad-sweeping bipartisan backing, it was only voted on twice. For over fifty years, the ERA struggled to see the light of day.
Then in 1972, after years of hard-fought work by millions of American women and their allies, the ERA passed in both houses of Congress and was supported by Republican President Richard Nixon, who signed it and sent the amendment to the states. 35 states went on to pass the ERA by 1977; three states short of the 38-state requirement for full ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Most recently, after 40 years of inaction, the legislatures in three states voted on ERA:
- Nevada ratified on March 22nd 2017, becoming the 36th state;
- Illinois ratified on May 30th of 2018 (37th state);
- And Virginia became the final state needed on January 27th of 2020, completing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by bringing the number of legislatures that ratified the ERA to the required three-fourths of the states (38) as per Article V of the U.S. Constitution.
It is now the obligation of the U.S. Government to officially adopt and enforce the ERA as the 28th Amendment. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened.
In an unprecedented action that interfered with the clear letter of the law, the Trump administration directed the U.S. Archivist to not publish ERA. Even more disturbing, the Biden administration has perpetuated this illegal assault on our civil rights, refusing to publish ERA and arguing against its adoption in two court cases, the first one filed by EQUAL MEANS EQUAL in 2020. To date, the ERA remains in limbo, unpublished and unenforced despite clearly fulfilling all requirements for adoption as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
The reality is that now that three fourths (38) of the states have ratified the ERA and it is the legal 28th Amendment (Article V, U.S. Constitution), the United States President has a Constitutional duty to make sure all laws are faithfully executed (see Article II §3, U.S. Constitution) and the U.S. Archivist is legally bound to publish all new Amendments in the Constitution (see Article 1 §106b, U.S. Constitution).
Refusing to publish and adopt the Equal Rights Amendment despite its ratification is unconscionable and must be immediately corrected. Our elected leaders must act now. The people have spoken, and they want women to be equal under law. It is critical that elected officials keep their campaign promises.
WHY THE ERA IS IMPORTANT
The battles women fight everyday — for equal access to education, pay, and health care — would become obsolete if their rights were protected by the Constitution. The ERA is critical to addressing — and ending — the many inequities that affect women, from pay disparities to ending gender-based violence.
The Equal Rights Amendment would immediately address the following issues…
- WAGE DISCRIMINATION – For women workers, the ERA would have a powerful and profound impact in the workplace. Presently, American women earn only a fraction of what men are paid, even though 50% of the American workforce is female — under ERA, equal pay for equal work and work of equal value becomes law. Unequal pay would be illegal and enforcement would have teeth. In the area of pay equity women are presently losing nearly a trillion dollars per year in the US due to the gender pay gap.
- FEMALE POVERTY – Almost one in nine women, nearly 13.9 million, lived in poverty in 2019 The ERA would address inequities not only in income, but also in Social Security, pensions and other programs whose negative effects are compounded by sex discrimination in the workplace.
- CHILDCARE – The ERA would address the inequity in the way the U.S. Government views the issue of childrearing and childcare; where the major responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the mothers, and the failure to properly provide for children also falls unequally on mothers. Today, 75% of schoolchildren have working mothers but the government takes very little responsibility in making accommodations for that reality.
- PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION – Presently pregnancy is seen as an anomaly in the workforce, not a recurring norm and protections are presently poorly provided under the category of a disability. Pregnant women need specific accommodations and protections that now will be achievable and enforceable under the ERA
- REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE –The ERA will provide women with a Constitutional textual basis of equality (as opposed to privacy) to exercise their basic human rights of autonomy over their own bodies. In other words, nothing could be done to a woman, her body, her autonomy and freedom that cannot be shown to be also done to a man.
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE –The ERA would ensure that police departments could not discriminate against women in the level of protection and response provided, and would have to enforce restraining orders. Also, violations of equal housing and discrimination against women experiencing domestic violence would be less likely to occur and equal protection would be enforceable.
- RAPE & SEXUAL ASSAULT – According to a Reuters poll report of 193 U.N. member states, the United States ranked as the third most dangerous country in the world for sexual violence (tied with Syria, behind only India and Afghanistan). The ERA will increase women’s access to justice and accurate and substantial enforced penalties for crimes across the spectrum from violent sexual assault to sexual harassment and workplace issues.
- FOSTER CARE & CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING – ERA would mandate proper funding, oversight, investigation and prosecution of these under-enforced areas where our most vulnerable have fallen through the cracks. The state could no longer refuse to address the issue due to the fact that victims of trafficking are overwhelmingly female.
- THE LAW – There are presently hundreds of State and Local laws on the books that would violate the Equal Rights Amendment. Once adopted, our states will have to correct any and all laws and policies that violate Americans’ rights to equal protections and rights regardless of sex. Under the ERA, harm done to women will be seen as much more serious than ever before. With increasing penalties and repercussions, the substantive effects of sex discrimination for women on the ground throughout our society will begin to improve dramatically.
- GLOBAL LEADERSHIP – Justice for all — in many countries, extreme violence and rape are sanctioned but not criminalized — passing ERA sets the stage for the United States to finally sign the international agreement CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) adopted in 1979 by the United Nations and to work with international partners to end gender oppression worldwide.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
While the ERA has not yet been published, we are closer than at any time in American history to adopting and enforcing the ERA as the 28th amendment to our United States Constitution. Closer than ever before to lawfully protecting all American citizens from the perils of gender discrimination, at home and in the workplace.
It is now up to US to act — to demand the Biden Administration publish the ERA and enshrine our hard-fought equality into Federal law. It is long past time the Constitution acknowledged women as equal citizens of this country, deserving of full human and civil rights.
We need help to force government to do what is right and enforce our laws. Only when EQUAL MEANS EQUAL can we all have justice and meet our true potential.
The Equal Rights Amendment guarantees equality and respect for all people under the law. It encourages economic growth and paves the way for international leadership. Women, children, families, our communities, our future — when equality becomes law, everyone benefits.
And without the Equal Rights Amendment, real change for women is not possible either in the United States of America or the rest of the world.
Please take action now; click on the ACTION HUB on this website to learn how to get involved.