Get the Equal Rights Amendment Into the Presidential Debates

The first Democratic presidential debate is on Tuesday, and feminists across the nation want to know where all candidates stand on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

CNN has teamed up with Facebook to ask members of the public to submit questions they would like the debate moderators to ask the candidates. Please submit this question now:

“Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has asserted that the United States Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination. Do you support equal rights for women in the Constitution, and if elected, what would you do to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to prohibit discrimination based on sex and correct this outrageous injustice that women have suffered for too long?”

We are going to be asking this question repeatedly to both Democratic and Republican candidates until we know where everyone stands.

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The Equal Rights Amendment is just too important. The ERA would amend the U.S. Constitution to include an explicit ban on sex discrimination, something that is urgently needed given recent state rollbacks – and outright hostility by some political leaders at the state and federal level – to women’s rights.

For example, some Members of Congress have tried over and over again to single-out women’s health care for discriminatory treatment or create special barriers for women to access the health services they need. Without Constitutional protection from sex discrimination, women’s lives will continue to be pawns in a game of politics.

The courts offer only scant protection. Just last term, the Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that certain for-profit corporations could discriminate against women by refusing to provide insurance coverage for birth control – a key part of women’s preventive health care – in employee health plans. That means that no matter where they work, if they have health insurance, men are guaranteed coverage for all of their preventive health care needs (and Viagra too), but women are not.

Although women in the U.S. have made tremendous gains over the past four decades, most of the legislation guaranteeing women’s equality is plagued by loopholes, can be wiped out by a hostile Congress or Supreme Court, or chipped away slowly and insidiously, just like the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit.

That’s why voters need to know where every presidential candidate stands on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Women’s equality should not depend on shifting political winds. Not when 1 in 3 women experience physical violence by an intimate partner, with higher rates of violence for women of color. Not when women, on average, make only 79 cents for every dollar paid to a man. Not when African-American women make only 64 cents, and Latinas just 55 cents, for every dollar paid to a white man. Not when women continue to be underrepresented in business and politics. The ERA can’t wait.

Activists will be pushing for the inclusion of a question on the ERA in every debate this election season. Add your voice, using the hashtag #DemDebate, and ask for this question to be included in the debate:

“Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has asserted that the United States Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination. Do you support equal rights for women in the Constitution, and if elected, what would you do to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to prohibit discrimination based on sex and correct this outrageous injustice that women have suffered for too long?”

Don’t forget to tweet directly at debate moderator Anderson Cooper to ask him to include a question on the ERA!

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