Equal Rights Amendment (2015)
The Feminist Majority SUPPORTS this resolution.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It would enshrine in the U.S. Constitution the concept of women’s equality and create a national legal standard for the elimination of sex discrimination.
Originally authored by prominent suffragist and National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul, the ERA was first introduced in Congress is 1923, and then again in every Congressional session until it passed in 1972. Like every proposed amendment, after it passed by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, the ERA was sent to each state’s legislature for ratification. Congress, however, had imposed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process in the preamble of the ERA. Three-fourths of the states, or 38 states, must ratify a proposed amendment for it can become part of the U.S. Constitution. By January 1977, 35 states had ratified the ERA. With the seven-year deadline approaching, women’s rights activists, led by the National Organization for Women (NOW), took to the streets to demand removal of the timeline. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Washington, DC in 1978 as a result of NOW’s comprehensive campaign, and thousands more sent telegrams to Congress, shutting down Western Union. Congress eventually granted an extension of the deadline until June 30, 1982, but the ERA opposition managed to hold back ratification in the 15 remaining states.
Although the women’s movement has made impressive gains for women’s rights since the 1970s, the ERA is just as needed now as it was then. Laws prohibiting discrimination against women are subject to the whims of Congress and can be changed, gutted, or even eliminated with a simple majority vote and the signature of the President. A conservative majority of the Supreme Court has also limited or gutted federal statutes prohibiting sex discrimination. Most recently, the Court rolled back gains made through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which allows for-profit corporations to engage in sex discrimination by refusing to provide women with comprehensive preventive health insurance coverage.
The ERA has been re-introduced in both the House and the Senate.
- The Senate version, S.J. Res. 16, retains the ERA language that was approved by Congress in 1972 and ratified by 35 states.
- The House version, H.J. Res. 52, adds the following sentence to Section 1 of the amendment: “Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” If passed and ratified, this would be the first time the word “women” would be explicitly named and given rights in the Constitution. Not even the Nineteenth Amendment – prohibiting the denial of the right to vote based on sex – writes “women” into the Constitution. The House version also adds language to Section 2 specifying that the amendment should be enforced with both federal and state legislation.
Chief Sponsor: Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) plus 5 original cosponsors
Chief Sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) plus 171 original cosponsors