Urge the state governments to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution and to add an Equal Rights Amendment to their state constitution.
What is the Equal Rights Amendment?
The Equal Rights Amendment is an amendment that promotes gender equality in the United States constitution. It 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." (www.equalrightsamendment.org)
Since the United States has been a country, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has not become a part of the United States Constitution.
What is the history of the Equal Rights Amendment?
The ERA was first written in 1923 by suffragist leader and founder of the National Women's Party (NWP), Alice Paul. After the 19th Amendment, was passed and ratified to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote, Paul and the NWP thought the ERA was the next necessary step in guaranteeing constitutional equality for all citizens. From 1923 and to the present today, the ERA was introduced at every session of the United States Congress. In 1972 it was passed by the United States federal government, however when the ERA was sent to the states for ratification it only passed by 35 of the 38 states, leaving the ERA three votes short for ratification by the time the seven year time limit in proposing the ERA was over.
Why do women need the Equal Rights Amendment?
The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution grants citizens due process, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." (United States Constitution)
However, at the time this amendment was written, it was not meant to include women. The amendment was passed to ensure the rights of African-American men. The fourteenth amendment on occasion has been interpreted to include women of any race or ethnic background; and it still does not give women any guarantee for gender equality. While the nineteenth amendment of the constitution protects women's right to vote, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex," there is nowhere in the United States Constitution enforcing women's rights to due process.
Throughout United States history, women have faced sexist discrimination. For years women could not vote, hold property, work outside the home, and were considered the property of their husbands and fathers. Eventually protective laws were established that gave women more rights which enabled them to vote, work outside the home, hold property, and not be considered property of men. However, even with protective laws, women in the twenty-first century, still face discrimination from men and society; in the work place they face a glass ceiling, women are often subjected to violence, women face sexism in classrooms, women face disparities in health care, women with disabilities get ignored and stigmatized even more than men with disabilities, and women are still not paid equally to men.
While there are laws on the books protecting women's rights, the truth of the matter is that the laws of women's rights in the United States are not enough to promote gender equality. The reason is because the laws do not rest upon a strong constitutional foundation, leaving them vulnerable to be repealed by the courts and the legislature. There are many loopholes to federal and state laws and regulations when it comes to gender equality which have been inconsistently interpreted and ignored.
The bottom line is without the ERA giving a constitutional backbone to gender equality the political and judicial victories that women have achieved over the past two hundred years remain vulnerable to be reversed. Women's rights laws could be easily weaken by a legal amendment or even repealed by lawmakers. As a result, women would no longer have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, Title VII and Title IX could be reversed, along with other reversals.
At the state level, with the exception of the fourteenth's amendment Equal Protection Clause, the protections of women's rights could be wiped away by Congress with a simple majority vote. In addition women's rights the protections can be wiped by totally undemocratic administrative actions taken by the executive branch, and courts can rule in ways that would overturn long-standing tradition and precedent regarding women's rights laws.
The Problems Women Face Without The Equal Rights Amendment
While women in the United States have come a long way over the past two hundred years, even in the twenty first century they still continue to face gender discrimination. According to the National Organization of Women, women still continue to face barriers and discrimination in the following ways;
· In education, women and girls with disabilities get ignored and do not receive as much help as boys with disabilities. While Title IX has reduced gender discrimination in educational programs, women and girls still face disadvantages. For instance a girl's high school track team may be disqualified because of the shorts they wore like at Gulliver Academy in Florida, or being kept out of military academics like the Virginia Military Institute.
· In employment, women face gender discrimination and a glass ceiling. Women have been kept out of male dominated professions and only receive women only make seventy-five cents for every dollar men make. Women face poverty much more than men do.
· In health care, women face higher premiums than men for the same health care benefits, or they have to pay the same amount as men for less health care protections and benefits, reducing their take home pay.
· For Pensions, women are half as likely as men to receive a pension and the women who do receive a pension receive only half as much.
· For social security benefits, married men will receive 100% of lifetime benefits. However, since homemakers' contributions to marriage partnerships are not fully valued, wives are then considered to be dependents and as a result receive lower payments. A widow will only receive 72% of their deceased husband's benefits, while divorced women only receive half.
To deny women their civil rights in this way is wrong and immoral. The fact that women and girls are still even facing sexual discrimination in this way shows that the female gender in the U.S. has not come as far as they've needed to. It shows that the laws we have regarding women's rights need to be stronger and given a constitutional backbone.
The Solution: What will the Equal Rights Amendment do?
At the moment, the United States has the chance to enforce gender equality including it in the U.S. Constitution and to improve the lives of women and girls in the U.S. by adding the ERA to the constitution. Women and girls would be guaranteed full equal opportunity and privileges and discrimination towards women and girls would decrease. Even if gender discrimination occurs under the ERA, the courts would have a strong foundation that enforces gender equality and lawmakers wouldn't be able to repeal women's rights laws.
In court practices, the constitutionality of the ERA would clarify the law for the lower courts when it comes to sexual discrimination cases and would influence legal cases for women in a positive way. Also in gender discrimination cases the burden would be shifted away from the ones fighting discrimination and place it on the people who discriminate, forcing the discriminators to justify why discrimination should be allowed rather than having a woman explain why women deserve equality. In addition lawmakers would be unable to repeal the existing laws that give women their civil rights.
The ERA by any means would not discriminate women over men. Instead, it promotes equality for both genders. In fact, with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing gender equality men would also be protected in cases of reverse gender discrimination.
Overall, the ERA would give women full constitutional protection to their rights so women's rights laws couldn't be repealed in the courts and in the legislature, it would give women full equality and would make it harder for society to discriminate against women. Also ERA would give women, not only constitutional equality, but would enforce and protect women's rights laws.
What you can do to help pass the Equal Rights Amendment?
First, write to and/or call your state Representatives and Senators and ask them to vote yes for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constition when it comes before committee and the floor and write to and/or call your state governor and ask them to sign it.
Second,write to and/or call your state Representatives and Senators and state governor and ask them enact an Equal Rights Amendment to their state constitution.
Also please sign the petition below.