Last week, high profile women’s rights advocates and feminists gathered in Washington, D.C. for the first Congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in over three decades. The ERA is a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would specifically ban discrimination on the basis of sex.
“Today marks an historic turning point in the fight to ratify the ERA,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority and Feminist Majority Foundation. “Our nation’s most fundamental rights are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, which should include equal rights for women.”
The hearing, which was held by the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, centered on H.J. Res. 38, the joint resolution to remove the arbitrary seven-year deadline in the preamble of the ERA. The deadline to achieve the required ratification by three-fourths of the states is believed by exerts to be a historical injustice that was never voted on by the states. Congress has extended the deadline once before, but it expired in 1982.
“We are pleased to see that the House is once again moving proactively to clear the way for full ratification of the ERA and give constitutional recognition to the rights of American women,” continued Smeal. “There can be no time limit on the pursuit of equality.”
“Nations around the world have looked to us to model their constitutions and have recognized the need for women’s equality, yet we fail to do the same. It is quite frankly an embarrassment,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), the sponsor of H.J. Res. 38. “Discrimination is not prevented against women in the U.S. Constitution.”
“State efforts to ratify the ERA are on a roll,” said Smeal. “Nevada ratified in 2017, becoming the 36th state, and Illinois became the 37th state in 2018. Then, just this year, Virginia came within one vote of advancing the ERA. By removing the deadline, Congress would reflect the growing American sentiment that the time for the ERA is now.”
“It’s time for Americans to show the global neighborhood that when it comes to equality, we lead for all,” said Senator Pat Spearman, a witness at the hearing who successfully championed the ERA in the Nevada State Senate in 2017. “Persistence, faith & hope fuel this movement. We got tired but we did not faint. We got weary but we did not stop…History demands we take this important step.”
Recently the ERA was introduced in Missouri and Louisiana, where the Feminist Majority has been working to organize college students in support of the Amendment. “I love Louisiana and I want the state to show that it loves and respects me back,” said Feminist Majority Louisiana organizer Ashley Sheffield. “That’s why it’s time for our state to take initiative to end discrimination against women and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
“The Feminist Majority and our partner organizations have been at the forefront of this effort for decades,” said Smeal. “We have now been joined in our efforts by the most empowered and energetic generation of American women who will not take ‘no’ for an answer. The time is now to permanently and constitutionally prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.”
Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 4/8/19; Feminist Majority 3/30/19