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Women Still Waiting for Equal Rights: We Need The ERA

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By Rachel L. West

Forty-two years ago this month, the United States Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and it still isn’t law. Women’s History Month is drawing to a close here in the United States. It is a time when we reflect on and celebrate the accomplishments of woman from our past and present. As Women’s History Month 2014 ends it is important to remember women in this country are still denied equal rights.

Back in 1972, more than 40 years after first being introduced, the ERA was passed by the United States Congress and was sent out to be ratified by each state. The Constitution of the United States calls for three-fourths of the states to ratify an amendment before in can be written into the Constitution. The deadline for the ERA was set for June 30, 1982. When that day came only 35 of the needed 38 states had voted in favor of the amendment.

Since that time, the United States Congress has passed the ERA repeatedly and advocacy groups continue to work to get three more states to ratify the amendment. The 15 states who have failed to ratify the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia ~Equal Rights Amendment.

The current ERA bill reads as follows:

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 article shall take effect 2 years after the date 

of ratification.

S.J. Res. 10 Is currently sitting in committee as is the two proposed resolutions pertaining to the ratification deadline.

In 2013 both houses of Congress introduced resolutions that would eliminate the deadline for ratification. S.J. Res. 15 and H.J. Res. 43 read as follows:

Eliminates the time limit for ratification of the equal rights amendment (prohibits discrimination on account of sex) proposed to the states in House Joint Resolution 208 of the 92nd Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972. Declares that such amendment shall be part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.

Many people may be surprised to learn that the ERA is not yet law and others may question the necessity of such an amendment in today’s world. As Martha Burk pointed out in a recent piece she wrote for Huffington Post, the only rights women have according to the United States Constitution is the right to vote.

All the other rights women have under the law are merely statutory. That means there’s no guarantee that we can’t lose the right to equal credit, equal shots at jobs and promotions, protection from being fired for being pregnant, and equal access to school and university programs including sports, law, and medicine. All of these forms of discrimination were once legal, and are now outlawed by statutes — laws that can be overturned by hostile legislators. (Read Full Article)

The fragility of the women’s rights in the United States should be obvious to anyone who has been keeping up with the recent role back in reproductive rights. Pregnancy discrimination and equal pay are all still very real issues women are dealing with today.

Photo Credit: Courtsey of Wikimedia Commons

Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

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