Activism On the Hill

House Oversight and Reform Committee Holds Historic Hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing about the Equal Rights Amendment. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the Oversight Committee, started the hearing by stating that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has met all requirements for the adoption of a United States Constitutional Amendment. It was ratified by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and by 3/4 of the states (or 38 states). All that is left is certification by the National Archivist and publication as the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney originally ran for office on the platform of passing the ERA and has pushed for its passage throughout her career. The ERA has the steadfast support of the House Women’s Caucus. The hearing introduction by Congresswoman Maloney was followed by Women’s Caucus co-chair Brenda Lawrence and Congresswoman Jackie Speier emphasizing the urgent need for the ERA.

Eleanor Smeal, President of Feminist Majority and Feminist Majority Foundation, testified in favor of the ERA, along with actress and activist Alyssa Milano, Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition Carol Jenkins, founder of the TransLatin@ Coalition Bamby Salcedo, and legal scholar Victoria Nourse.

“I’m frequently asked what makes you continue to fight for so many years,” Smeal stated in her testimony. “I am not a lawyer. But I have lived most of my adult life fighting against blatant sex discrimination and I know that far too often sex discrimination prevails. Far too many suffer with no recourse for justice… we have weak constitutional rights to fight sex discrimination at the national level and in most states.”

“We have no national legislation that will serve as a protection for all people,” Salcedo said in her testimony. She explained that as a trans Latina woman, the Equality Act and other legislative protections are not enough. “The truth is that the Equality Act does not look at all the intersections across my life, and will not provide constitutional equality.”

Jenkins said in her testimony, “women of color and Black women in particular have always been at the forefront of this movement. Shirley Chisholm gave a fiery testimony right here on the House floor in support of the Equal Rights Amendment– her support for the amendment led the way for passage of the ERA in the House of Representatives the following year, fifty years ago.”

During her allotted time, Congresswoman Cori Bush emphasized that the ERA is critically needed to end discrimination against Black women and girls. Black women are “more likely to be evicted, be underpaid, die during childbirth, lack access to abortion, and be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and police brutality… racial inequality is a crisis in this country, and it’s crucial that we recognize and acknowledge the impact the ERA would have on our communities,” she stated.

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley also stated that the narrative that the ERA is a white women’s issue is “a false narrative, we’ve seen this throughout history– in an effort to erase the women of color who have served as trailblazers, table shakers, and justice seekers in the fight for gender equality.”

In her remarks, Milano made clear: “while I will speak briefly on the importance of the ERA, this hearing is not a debate on that amendment. That debate is over. We won.”

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