The congresswomen, along with Dr. E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Feminist Majority president (and publisher of Ms.) Ellie Smeal, NOW president Terry O’Neill and other feminist leaders and activists, called on legislators to codify women’s equality in the constitution. As a reminder of the anti-woman rhetoric that has lately informed public policy, Rep. Speier quoted Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, “Certainly the constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex, the only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”
A justice of the Supreme Court has said publicly that the constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sex, and that is precisely why we need the ERA. Those words should haunt every woman in this country.
The good news, she said, is that “equality is only 24 words away,” referencing the text of the ERA:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
The congresswomen have each introduced ERA-related legislation. In March, Rep. Speier called on legislators to remove the deadline by which states must ratify the amendment (the last deadline was June 1982, and by that date the ERA was just three states shy of passing). If passed, her bill would give those last three states a chance to ratify the amendment.
In September 2013, Rep. Maloney re-introduced the ERA in Congress (it was first introduced by Alice Paul in 1923), asking legislators to pass the bill and send it to the states for ratification. Most feminists are supporting both strategies, because they ultimately lead to the same goal.
As Rep. Speier said Thursday, “The ERA is critically necessary because it would once and for all give women the remedies for justice when they face sex discrimination.”
Ninety years is long enough—it’s time to pass the ERA. To get involved, tweet your support with the hashtag #ERANow.
See more from the Thursday event:
Photo from the rally courtesy of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Stephanie Hallett is Ms. magazine’s research editor. She is a Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based journalist.