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On her most recent album, feminist/activist/folksinger Ani Difranco sings, "Wouldn't it be nice if / We had an amendment / To give civil rights to / Women?" Her song, titled simply "Amendment," is a call for the Equal Rights Amendment (or ERA) which has been under consideration in the United States since 1923. Though it passed through Congress in 1972, we are still three states away from being able to ratify it and add it to the Constitution.
Why Do We Need the ERA?
- The right to vote is currently the only right protected by the Constitution for both men and women.
- The ERA will clarify the judicial standard for cases of sex discrimination.
- Ratifying the ERA will improve America's standing with the rest of the developed world; many other nations have equal rights provisions in their governing documents.
- Women (and men) will no longer have to fight costly legal battles to prove that their rights are equal.
- Perhaps most importantly, the ERA will "provide a strong legal defense against a rollback of the significant advances in women's rights made in the past 50 years."
As of right now, 35 out of the necessary 38 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Three more states are needed in order for it to become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. The following states have yet to sign off: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Several key states, including Florida, have groups ambitiously lobbying for the ERA in every legislative session. Sandy Oestreich, 12-year founder and president of the group National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance, reports that some legislators have refused the amendment on the grounds that it constitutes a "political ploy." This is absurd. The United States was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all; if the amendment is a ploy, it's a ploy to ensure that both male and female citizens can enjoy the same fundamental rights. What's more, the majority of Americans support the ERA. A 2001 survey found that 88% of the population are in favor of the amendment, with a startling 72% believing that it had already been codified. It hasn't, but it is within reach.
What Can You Do?
Two new ERA bills were recently filed with the United States Congress: HJRes47 and SJRes39. They need co-sponsors. Please call or email your representatives and ask them to support these important bills.
Postcard lobbying is another way to get involved, especially in the battleground state of Florida. Legislators need to know that their constituents care about the ERA. Learn more about how to send a postcard here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the amendment and other ways to get involved.
Now more than ever, we need to solidify equal rights for women as the law of the land. Conservative lawmakers are doing everything in their power to take away the liberties we've worked so hard to secure over the past 50 years, and the War on Women is only going to get worse before it gets better. For the sake of our daughters and grand-daughters, and their descendants too, we must guarantee women equal protection under the Constitution. Visit National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance to join the fight in Florida and around the nation.