Today, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a federal Constitutional amendment that would prohibit sex discrimination and guarantee equal rights for women and girls. Nevada’s ratification will be finalized exactly 45 years after the United States Senate approved and sent the ERA to the states. As Senator Pat Spearman, the chief sponsor in the ERA in the Nevada Senate, said, “It is never too late to bring equality to all. Never.”
“The dream of women’s Constitutional equality lives. At last the ERA is moving forward again,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority/Foundation who has worked for the passage of the ERA for over 45 years. “We congratulate the feminists of Nevada who worked so hard to pass the ERA, especially the coordinator of the campaign, Janette Dean.”
“The ERA is far from symbolic; it will help women in cases of discrimination in education, employment, wages, insurance benefits, scholarships, military service, social security, violence against women, and so much more,” continued Smeal.
Smeal concluded, “Without the passage of the ERA, women have been forced to try to gain equality law by law. If the ERA was ratified by 38 states and became the law of the land, there would be a Constitutional provision against the Supreme Court, Congress or state legislatures gutting equality on the basis of sex. For an originalist like Neil Gorsuch, whose hearing to become a Supreme Court Justice began today, the ERA would mean he could no longer deny that banning sex discrimination is part of the Constitution. We would at last have a bedrock principle of equality in the highest law of the land that no one could deny, and that would benefit all people and families.”
For example, Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs, could not be gutted as it was by the Supreme Court in 1984, requiring the feminist movement to restore it through subsequent legislation. The ERA would give far more weight in court to claims of sex discrimination in employment under Title VII, which was gutted by the Roberts Court and had to be restored by President Obama’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In other words, because of the lack of an ERA, the women’s movement has frequently had to go two steps forward and one step back.
“Women have waited long enough for equality. Let’s do this,” said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority/Foundation.
The efforts to ratify the ERA are part of a grassroots three-state campaign strategy that rejects the time-limit on the fight for equality.
The formalities of the Nevada ratification procedure will successfully conclude on Wednesday, March 22nd, the 45th anniversary of when the U.S. Senate approved the ERA and forwarded it to the states for ratification in 1972.