Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Are Women "Equal"? Of Course Not

The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed Congress, 22 March 1972)

First proposed as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment" by Alice Paul in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was so radical that its audacity terrorized all who considered it: "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

This shocking amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced in every Congress between 1923 and 1972. It finally passed the Senate and then the House of Representatives in 1972--on 22 March, the proposed 27th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification. 

Obviously, since the ERA is still not part of our Constitution, it was never ratified. Why not? Well, because it's still so horrifically scary and clearly unfair. Who could possibly accept these crazy three propositions:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification
The ERA has been reintroduced in every session of the U.S. Congress since 1982. It is still not part of the U.S. Constitution.

Update, January 2017: An Equal Rights Amendment was introduced into the 115th Congress shortly after it was convened in January. In the Senate, on 20 January 2017, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) once again introduced the amendment; in the House, on 24 January 2017, the bill was once again introduced by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In both houses, the resolution was sent to committee. Where, once again, it died.

For the text of the bill, a history of "all actions," and list of the resolution's co-sponsor's in the House of Representatives, click here.

Update, 20 April 2018: Could it be that there is some movement on passage of the Equal Rights Amendment? The New York Times Editorial Board suggests that there might be. To read "A Rebuke to Trump, A Century in the Making," click here. (Wish I could be as hopeful . . . )

Update, 2019: An Equal Rights Amendment was introduced into the 116th Congress shortly after it was convened. On 29 January 2019, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the amendment in the House, and on 27 March 2019, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 15 in the Senate. Both resolutions proposed a "fresh start," removing the 1972 deadlines for ratification of the amendment.

Update, January 2020: On 15 January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. As NPR reports,
Under the U.S. Constitution, amendments become law when they're ratified by at least three-fourths of U.S. state legislatures — or 38 out of 50. However, the ERA's original deadline for ratification expired in the 1980s, putting its future on uncertain legal ground. That didn't stop backers in Virginia from welcoming a long-awaited day.

In the 117th Congress, a renewed effort was made to pass the Equal Rights Amendment with the introduction of "Three-State Strategy" bills:

Current efforts are in support of Congress removing the deadline originally assigned to the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, and extended in 1979 by members of Congress. Legal scholars have stated that if Congress has the legal standing to instate a deadline for a constitutional amendment, they also have the legal standing to remove a deadline. Legislation has been proposed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to officially remove the deadline for the ERA. If passed by both houses, legal scholars state that the ERA could potentially be ratified when the 38th state votes to ratify the amendment.

The potential legislation to remove the deadline was debated on April 30, 2019, the first hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment on Capitol Hill in 36 years.

Update, March 2021: Could we finally be on the verge of passing the ERA? Perhaps--as Rebecca Wolf writes in the Washington Post, "2021 Could Finally Be the Moment for the Equal Rights Amendment": "The turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic could push the amendment across the finish line after a century of work." Could it be that all it took was a deadly plague? 

Senate Joint Resolution 1 was introduced by Senator Benjamin Cardozo (D-Maryland) on 17 March 2021. On 23 March, by a roll-call vote of 222-204, the House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 17, removing the deadline for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Astonishingly, four Republicans joined Democrats to approve the resolution that was introduced by Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier and Republican Rep. Tom Reed.  Oh, yay.

And then, nothing.

Update, 22 March 2023: Still waiting . . . 

Legislation for removing the deadline for ratification of the ERA was introduced in both houses of the 118th U.S. Congress in January 2023--Senate Joint Resolution 4 was introduced on 24 January 2023 by Senator Benjamin Cardozo (D-Maryland) and House Joint Resolution 25 on 31January by Representative Ayanna Presley (D-MA). The House bill was referred immediately to the House Judiciary Committee, which is now chaired by Gym Jordan. Need I say more?

Of course it is languishing in the U.S. Congress--it's only been 100 years since the ERA was first proposed and only 51 years since the ERA was passed by both Houses of Congress in 1972 . . . 

Update, 1 May 2023: Okay, just in case you thought you might not be living in a new hellscape, one in which women are no longer regarded as full human beings, judged to be incapable of reason and having no right to bodily autonomy, here's the bad news. The ERA is once again dead. On 27 April, "Senate Republicans blocked a procedural measure on a joint resolution to remove an expired deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which has never been added to the Constitution, a century after it was first introduced to Congress." The measure failed by a vote of 51-47--it needed a super-majority of 60 votes to pass. (All the no votes were by Republicans--two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, voted yes.)

Again, here's what is too scary for the ERA to pass: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Update, 13 July 2023: Okay, time for something new? Equally doomed, I'm sure, but here's a New York Times piece outlining a "novel tactic" that might "revive" the ERA (click here). 

Update, 22 March 2024: Just in case you were wondering, there are no updates . . .