South Carolinians: Tell SC Congressmen to support ERA Deadline Removal

South Carolinians: Tell SC Congressmen to support ERA Deadline Removal

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Emily Yi started this petition to Senator Tim Scott and

Despite being a country that claims to offer “liberty and justice for all”, there is no explicit guarantee of equal rights based on gender in our Constitution. In order to uphold this fundamental ideal, we must add the Equal Rights Amendment to our Constitution, and as such, we encourage Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to support the passage of SJ Res 6, and we encourage  SC Representatives Joe Cunningham, Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, William Timmons, Ralph Norman Jr, Jim Clyburn, and Tom Rice to support H.J Res 79— joint resolutions removing the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed amendment to the Constitution that was first introduced by Alice Paul at Seneca Falls in 1923. If added to the Constitution, it would guarantee gender equality in the United States and provide a universal judicial standard for sex discrimination cases. For the first time, sex would be considered a suspect classification, as race currently is. Governmental actions that treat males or females differently as a class would be subject to strict judicial scrutiny and would have to meet the highest level of justification – a necessary relation to a compelling state interest – to be upheld as constitutional. The ERA would send a strong message that the Constitution, and the United States as a whole, has no tolerance for gender discrimination.

Unfortunately, despite passing Congress in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment fell three states short of the 38 states needed for ratification before its deadline. Decades later, the movement to enshrine indisputable gender inequality in our Constitution has been gaining momentum once again. Virginia’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment marked the 38th and final state needed to approve a Constitutional amendment under Article V. A bill to extend the 1982 deadline of the Equal Rights Amendment, SJ Res 6, was introduced earlier this year by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin.

This would not be the first amendment added to the Constitution after its deadline— the the 27th amendment was ratified in 1992, 203 years after it was introduced. In fact, constitutional amendments often don’t have ratification deadlines. Furthermore, the deadline is largely unenforceable, as its present only in the preamble to the amendment, not the amendment itself.  Congressional legislative authority includes the ability to extend ratification deadlines and strike them all together. Ensuring that the Equal Rights Amendment doesn’t fail due to a legislative nuance is imperative to protecting equal rights for all citizens and truly representing the best interests of South Carolinians. 

However, even in the 21st century, guaranteeing gender equality in the Constitution has still been met with resistance. Many claim that gender discrimination is already banned under the 14th amendment; however, even though the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment prohibits states from denying any person equal protection under the law, women’s rights are not explicitly guaranteed. To quote the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011: “...whether it [the Constitution, in reference to the 14th amendment specifically] prohibits it [gender discrimination]. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant.” 

It is unthinkable that the sweeping question of whether our Constitution guarantees gender equality should be even slightly up for debate. Equality is not a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike have shown their support for this amendment. Until the Constitution is amended to explicitly state that rights may not be abridged on the basis of sex, the political and judicial victories women have won risk reversal. 

Many opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment also call into question the validity of adding the ERA to our Constitution, considering the five states that attempted to rescind their approval of the Equal Rights Amendment. However, it is questionable that states have the right to reverse their approval, and Congress has ignored reversals like these in the past (the 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments were all added to the Constitution despite state reversals.) 

It is without question that the Equal Rights Amendment has strong bipartisan support from the people of the United States— an Opinion Research Corporation poll commissioned in 2001 by the ERA Campaign Network of Princeton, NJ showed that nearly all U.S. adults – 96% – believed that male and female citizens should have equal rights. An overwhelming majority – 88% – also believed that the U.S. Constitution should make it clear that these rights are guaranteed. 

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the Harvard Women’s Law Journal: "With the Equal Rights Amendment, we may expect Congress and the state legislatures to undertake in earnest, systematically and pervasively, the law revision so long deferred. And in the event of legislative default, the courts will have an unassailable basis for applying the bedrock principle: All men and all women are created equal." 

The decisions made on this legislation will impact judicial hearings for the remainder of American history. As South Carolina legislators, we urge you to stand on the right side of history and support this resolution to guarantee that the Equal Rights Amendment is given equal treatment under the law. 

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