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Florida Senate Committee Supports Ratification of ERA

Despite offensive remarks from Florida Governor Jeb Bush condemning the renewed movement for an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Florida’s Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to endorse ratification of the ERA. “It’s like going back and wearing bell bottoms,” Bush said of the proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee equality under the law for women, according to the Miami Herald.

Along with Illinois, Arizona, and Missouri, Florida is one of four targeted states in a renewed drive to pass an amendment to the US Constitution that reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United Stares or by any State on account of sex.” In 1982, Florida was one of several states that narrowly rejected ratification of the ERA.

Beginning in 1923, the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress until it was approved in 1972. It was then sent to the states for ratification with a seven-year deadline and fell just three states short of the 38 needed for ratification when the 1982 deadline expired. If ratified, the ERA could become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, was one of the leaders of the drive to ratify the ERA from 1972-1982. “We must keep introducing the ERA until women win equality,” Smeal said. “As the Bush administration continues to turn back the clock on women’s rights, the ERA is needed now more than ever. Without a constitutional guarantee, the progress women have made over the past 30 years is endangered.”

The renewed movement for passage of the ERA has also made headway in Illinois, where a House committee has approved a bill for ERA ratification. In addition, the Illinois Senate president has expressed support for the legislation, Jennifer Macleod, national coordinator of the ERA Campaign Network told United Press International.

While women have made considerable gains since the ERA was first introduced, women still do not have equality in the United States. Women earn just 73 cents on the man’s dollar. Women make up 14 percent of the seats in the U.S. Congress. Slightly less than 50 percent of women nationwide have more than a high school education. The proportion of women aged 16 and over in poverty is 12 percent, compared to 8.3 percent of men.

Critics of the ERA claim that it would nullify laws that ban homosexual marriages and would lead to the legal recognition of transgender people. “I think that going back and selecting slices of Americana and saying you’re entitled to special rights, that we can slice and dice it all you want,” Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd told the Herald.

Sources:

Miami Herald 4/7/03, 4/2/03, 3/27/03; UPI 3/27/03; Orlando Sentinel 4/2/03; Tallahassee Democrat 3/27/03; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/12/03

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