Yesterday, on the 29th anniversary of the 1972 congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Stephen Horn (R-CA) reintroduced ERA in the House, while Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) reintroduced it in the Senate. Rep. Maloney, who was the sole sponsor of the ERA last legislative session, is joined by over 160 co-sponsors. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) notes that now is the time for reintroduction, with a 50-50 split in the Senate along party lines and more women represented than ever before. “We must keep introducing the ERA until women win equality,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, who attended the reintroduction press conference yesterday.
While women have certainly made gains since the ERA was first introduced, women’s leaders and Congress members stress the importance of a constitutional guarantee of equality. We have already seen politicians attempt to gut Title IX (prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs) and successfully block the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Women earn just 73 cents on the man’s dollar, and are segregated into traditionally “female” occupations that pay less and carry less prestige. “Unless we put into the Constitution the bedrock principle that equality of rights cannot be denied or abridged on account of sex, the political and judicial victories that women have achieved are vulnerable to erosion or reversal,” says Martha Burk, Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
The ERA was written by women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul three years after the ratification of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, and was first introduced in Congress in 1923. The amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Sources: Media Kit, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) – March 22, 2001 and Statement, Martha Burk – March 22, 2001 and Press Release, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) – March 22, 2001 and Press Release, Representative Stephen Horn (D-CA) – March 22, 2001 and Press Release, Representative David Bonior (MI) – March 22, 2001 and Press Release, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) – March 22, 2001 and Feminist Majority Foundation