“We know that our Constitution was not drafted with all the people in mind. What day will be the day that we right this wrong?”
As the end of the year and the end of Congress’s lame duck session approaches, congressional leaders and women’s rights advocates are calling on the Senate to vote to list the time limit in the preamble of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), thus officially recognizing the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. The ERA has met the only two requirements set out in the Constitution for Amendments: adoption by two-thirds of Congress (in 1972), and ratification by three-quarters (or 38) of the states.
Along with Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), women’s rights leaders and other members of Congress gathered at the House Triangle in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning to call on the Senate to vote on S.J. Res 1. If passed, the resolution would remove the deadline to ratify the ERA, and clear the way for its final inclusion in the Constitution.
Maloney emphasized President Biden’s support for the ERA, and his request that Congress act on it. “[The ERA] would empower Congress to better enforce laws protecting women,” Maloney said. “And as we see the constant effort to whittle away at rights for women, everything from choice, they are bulldozing our rights into the ground. [The ERA] would place gender equality in the Constitution, like [many other] countries of the world.”
The House had previously passed H.J. Res. 17 to remove the arbitrary time limit on the amendment’s ratification in March of last year, with bipartisan support. The Senate resolution also has support on both sides of the aisle, though a vote on the floor has yet to be scheduled.
Speakers noted the increasing urgency of the ERA in the face of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and other rising threats to women’s equality:
“I’m pissed off that we have to be convened for this. Because the question is… I think about Sojourner Truth: ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ She said, even if we even go a little bit further, ain’t I a human? If I’m human, where are my rights in the Constitution? Why is it that I, as a Black woman—and I’m speaking as a Black woman—why am I not granted the same rights as a white man under our Constitution?
Look, we fly planes, we unclog drains, we teach our children and debate in Congress. We build automobiles, we preach sermons, and we walk with precision in high yields. Nowhere in our Constitution are women ever mentioned. Nowhere in what is considered our nation’s guidebook for our courts and our laws, our women and men affirmed the same, affirmed as having equal rights aside from our right to vote. Even though we make up half of the population of this country, we are half of the people under the law, we are not even guaranteed as equal. We know that our Constitution was not drafted with all the people in mind. What day will be the day that we right this wrong? I’ll tell you – when we vote today.
There has been a long line of women, including and often led by Black women activists, who have been fighting for the passage of the ERA. So I’m bringing their names up right now. Like Pauli Murray and Barbara Jordan, Flo Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm. And it is my great honor, my greatest wish to be among that list. We are for the Equal Rights Amendment. We’re for it now. So before we reach that 100th year, and mark a century without delivering equal rights for all men and all women and those who identify as they so please, we demand that the Senate pass the resolution to eliminate the deadline on the ERA. We must pass the Equal Rights Amendment now. It’s past time.”—Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)
“It was no accident that women were left out of the Constitution. The founders viewed us as second-class citizens. And we were denied basic rights like voting, owning property, or even holding most jobs. Even today, we’re still not equal. And that’s why we must enshrine in our Constitution, equal rights for women and all people regardless of gender. That is why the Senate must take action and lift the time limit on ratification, as we’ve done in the house and make the ERA the law of the land. The founders were wrong about women, but they built a system into our Constitution to right the wrongs of the past, this is our chance to do it. We must finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution affirming once and for all, women’s equality under the law.”
—Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)
“We all know there’s no time limit on equality. The ERA has already fulfilled all requirements to be added to the Constitution. The House of Representatives has done their job to remove any potential obstacles in the way by twice voting to remove the time limit. It’s time for the Senate to do their job and follow suit this session. This is our opportunity to get all senators on the record to show where they stand on sex equality. Women, the LGBTQ+ community and allies have been fighting for nearly 100 years to have the equal rights amendment recognized as part of the Constitution. And now we’re seeing our rights being actively rolled back. The recent Dobbs decision amplifies why the Equal Rights Amendment is more imperative than ever to protect our hard-won rights and pave the way for new solutions to end inequalities. Women showed up in the midterm elections to use their voice to say loud and clear that issues like the Equal Rights Amendment are crucial to our democracy.”—Zakia Thomas, president and CEO of the ERA Coalition
“We are again here today because the reality for many women is that we continue to fall between the cracks in legal protections, between the cracks in receiving equal treatment in our education, in our schools, [and] with our employment and with our wages. And we need to make sure that we finally hold the Senate and our Congress accountable to make sure that they’re finally providing protections for women, this year. We know we have seen firsthand in the midterm elections, and with the Dobbs decision how important and crucial it is that women are protected or equal under the law. So today, I want to call for a vote to remove the time limit. And we urge the Senate to act quickly and swiftly, so women are finally protected.”—Christian Nunes, president National Organization for Women
“ This movement is not stopping. We are going to ratify the ERA. Let’s set the record straight: It has met all the requirements, and it should be enshrined in the Constitution. The ERA is needed more than ever after the Dobbs decision. The Dobbs decision not only takes away abortion rights, but we believe one by one, they’re going to come after other rights. One of the things that our polling shows is that women, especially young women, are angry about this. They are going to condition their vote on it, because they want a future. And they deserve it. All, all rights for women are always debatable except for the right to vote. So we’re going to use that right to vote. Don’t make us keep going through hoops. This is discouraging. I want to say disgusting, really. But there are so many things that we can be doing together. And women deserve that full equality now, not to have to beg like this.”—Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority
“It is unconscionable that in 2022, we still have not achieved equal rights under the law as women. It is even more unconscionable that there is a Republican party that wants to send women further back by decades. They are working at every turn, to make sure that they strip women of their freedoms, their rights and their opportunities. I can tell you that the Democratic Party will continue to fight for women and families. And we will be relentless until we achieve those very important equal rights and protections. But the days of opportunity in this year and this calendar year are limited. And so we need the Senate to act, we need the Senate to help us send a strong message that the fight for women is ongoing, and the fight to ensure that we achieve those equal rights and protections under the law are a priority.”—Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas)
“The Senate must provide this next crucial step and vote on the resolution removing the deadline to ratify the ERA. Now that women’s long recognized right to abortion has been obliterated by the Supreme Court, other rights that provide for greater equality for women specifically may unfortunately soon follow. The time for the Senate to act is now. It is long past time for women to be constitutionally guaranteed equal rights.”—Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
“I’m here, because the movement is still continuing. We must be, for all of the little girls that are out there waiting to see how we’re going to change this Constitution so that we are fully reflected. And so I’ve come here in solidarity, to say to Senator Schumer, and in the Senate to give us a holiday present, and take care of business—because that’s where we are. And as a Black woman in this country, who knows what it means to deal with inequality in various different ways, now is the time. There’s no reason to wait to go ahead. Just take the vote. Just get it done. You have time.”—Melanie Campbell, president of the Black Women’s Roundtable
“I still remember going to the Texas legislature. I was a young college student, and I knew there was going to be an ERA hearing in Texas. It was when all the states were beginning to ratify, and I managed to get a ticket for the floor, and I remember then thinking even as a young college student, that it just was just not damn fair, that we had to even be fighting to get an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. It’s just a darn shame that we’re still having to go through all the hurdles, because we’re still fighting the same fight. I know, as a lawyer, as a former judge, that you cannot say that, “Yes, you have equality under law,” if it’s not in the United States Constitution.
The Senate has a very unique opportunity now to do away with this arbitrary deadline, this arbitrary scheme, because [a time limit] is not required. So I urge Senator Schumer to get with it. I would love to see him do it in a huge New York minute, and get it done—because it would be a lovely present, whether it’s Hanukkah or Christmas or New Years. Just do it before the time has gone. Thank you and I yield back!”—Rep. Sylvia Garcia (R-TX)
Pressure on the Senate to pass the Resolution has been growing in recent weeks, with Virginia lawmakers including U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner calling for a vote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week. Virginia became the 38th and final state necessary to ratify the Amendment in 2020.
In addition to potentially providing an avenue to secure reproductive rights in the wake of Dobbs, advocates say the ERA will help pave the way for stronger legal recourse in cases of sex discrimination, and ensure that discrimination on the basis of sex is finally prohibited in the U.S. Constitution.
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