40 Years Later, the ERA Still Has a Long Way to GoMarch 22, 2012
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
— Section One of the Equal Rights Amendment
On this day in 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment. In the 40 years since, it has been ratified by 35 states — it needs 38 to be added to the Constitution. Given that the ERA was first introduced in 1923, the process has been long, strenuous, and oftentimes disheartening. Undoubtedly, we should celebrate this 40th anniversary, but as we celebrate, we must also reflect on the work still left to be done.
Every time I study the ERA, I am always shocked both at how long it took to get through Congress and at how stagnant it has been since. What needs to be done to persuade the skeptics? What can we do to ensure that women in the United States will be permanently guaranteed equality? This last question deeply resonates with me. The past few months have brought one attack after another on women and women’s health — so many, in fact, that the term “war on women” is becoming commonplace. With such a battle being waged against women’s basic human rights, the passage and adoption of the ERA seems not only fundamental but urgent.
I am not so naive that I believe that the ratification of the ERA would completely eliminate gender-based discrimination, and it is indisputable that women have more rights now than when Congress passed the ERA 40 years ago. But how are we to successfully dismantle the discriminatory practices in our country if there is no mandate in our Constitution that says that we must? The ERA would build a solid foundation on which to continue — and to grow — the work of ending gender-based discrimination.
Only three more states must ratify the ERA to make it the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — only three more states are needed to make history for women.
Today, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a resolution in the Senate to extend the timeframe for ratification and to help move forward the three-state strategy, which would pick up where the previous ratification by 35 states left off. He joins Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who introduced a similar proposal in the House, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who have introduced resolutions to pass the ERA all over again. It is my hope that women focus their surge of advocacy in response to the war on women to ensure that we finally see the ERA ratified by 38 states and added to our Constitution.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Jordan Jones.