Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 6

Guaranteeing Equal Rights

Graphic by Al McLeroy

The House of Representatives and the state of Virginia are currently engaged in an effort to work towards enacting the Equal Rights Amendment after many years of stalled progress. This legislation has been in the works since 1923, when Alice Paul of the National Woman’s Party began the process of ratification. After passing the 19th amendment, guaranteeing a women’s right to vote, the National Woman’s Party believed the Equal Rights Amendment necessary to ensure equal rights for women across all aspects of American society.  After years of advocacy, the House of Representatives passed the Amendment in 1971, and the Senate did so in 1972, but an insufficient number of states ratified the Amendment. The deadline to pass the ERA was in 1979. This year the House of Representatives voted to extend the deadline. However, there is still more work to be done to move this process forward; the Senate must approve this legislation and the President must sign it.

Legislators supporting the ERA believe that it is time for the United States to codify into law equal rights to all citizens regardless of gender..  In supporting the amendment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently stressed that its passage would “unleash the full power of women in our economy and uphold the value of equality in our democracy.” Moreover, according to Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who represents Walnut Creek, “the ERA is consistent with our values today making sure that women have the same constitutional protection as men.” It surprises DeSaulnier that issues related to gender equality still exist in 2020, particularly regarding equal pay. In the United States, women only make $.79 for every dollar that men are paid. 

Advocates believe that passage of the ERA is necessary to ensure that women continue to maintain abortion rights. Across the country, states are attempting to restrict abortion access despite the Roe v. Wade decision that the Constitution protects a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion,  in place since 1973. The National Organization of Women believes that the Equal Rights Amendment will thwart these efforts. NOW asserts that “an ERA – properly interpreted – could negate the hundreds of laws that have been passed restricting access to abortion care and conception.” Also, Emily Marten, general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center agrees with NOW in that the ERA can block laws that limit or prevent abortion as they “perpetuate gender inequality.”

At this point, now that the House has approved  the ERA amendment theSenate and three-fourths of the states will need to ratify it in order for it to become a law. Many feel that passage of this amendment will ensure that once and for all women and men will enjoy equal rights.