A press conference was held today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Congress’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). A panel discussion, sponsored by the National council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, and the Alice Paul Institute, followed the press conference and featured Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Representatives, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Susan Scanlan, Chair of the NCWO, Roberta Francis, Chair of the ERA Task Force, and Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Executive Director of the National Council of Negro Women. The Equal Rights Amendment passed in 35 of the 38 states necessary for its ratification. It failed in the remaining three states by less than five votes in each of the states and was opposed by only a handful of male legislators. When the ERA was voted on in 1982, there was only one woman in the Florida Senate and virtually no African American representation in state Senates nationwide. At the time, there were no African Americans serving in the state legislatures in Florida or North Carolina. Ratification of the ERA is imperative to ensure that men and women are guaranteed equal rights by the US Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment would “guarantee equal footing for women in the legal systems of all 50 states, particularly in areas where women have historically been treated as second-class citizens, including public education, divorce, domestic violence, child custody, and sexual assault law.” It would also ensure women are not discriminated against in the armed services, education, or employment and that government programs, for instance social security, have an equal impact on men and women.