A new petition drive sends a message to Congress that the time is now to put the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution.
“The Constitution they wrote was designed to protect the rights of white, male citizens. As there were no Black Founding Fathers, there were no founding mothers—a great pity, on both counts. It is not too late to complete the work they left undone. Today, here, we should start to do so.”—The Honorable Shirley Chisholm—who ran for president in 1972 and served in Congress for 14 years—speaking in support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Aug. 10, 1970.
Shirley Chisholm would cast a vote for the ERA when it passed the House in 1971, and she fought for ratification her entire life. Now a new generation, including high school and college students, are organizing shoulder-to-shoulder with seasoned feminists demanding the ERA be recognized as ratified and immediately added to the Constitution.
The ERA has fulfilled all requirements of Article V of the Constitution. Both houses of Congress passed the ERA by a two-thirds vote 50 years ago, after which the required 38 states ratified the ERA when the Virginia legislature voted yes in 2020.
It is now up to Congress to recognize the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. Both the U.S. House and Senate have introduced joint resolutions to recognize the ERA as valid and ratified, and eliminate the arbitrary timeline for ratification inserted into the pre-amble of the ERA when it was originally passed.
Today, opinion polls consistently show public support for ERA at 75 to 90 percent, up substantially from the 55 to 65 percent support in the 1980s.
To demonstrate this support for the ERA, Grove fellowship students at Hunter College in New York City launched a petition drive to send a message to Congress that the time is now to put gender equality into the Constitution.
The text of the petition is as follows:
I strongly support the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution as the 28th Amendment which reads:
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 passed Congress with the needed 2/3rd vote of the United States House and Senate as well as the legislatures of the needed 38 states. Congress must immediately recognize the Equal Rights Amendment and pass the following United States House and Senate resolutions:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92nd Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution is valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution, having been ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.
On April 24, the ERA petition drive was launched by the four Grove fellows who authored the petition, other Hunter students and hundreds more, who were joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and long-time ERA advocates including former U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Hunter College president Jennifer Raab, Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal, Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem, NOW president Christian Nunes and ERA Coalition president and CEO Zakiya Thomas.
Supporters can sign the petition and get involved in the drive at www.sign4ERA.org.
At the event, Schumer announced a Senate vote later in the week but cautioned that a filibuster was likely and 60 votes would be needed to override it in order for a vote on the ERA resolution.
“As you know, things don’t come easy in Washington,” he told supporters, “but we are New Yorkers. We persist, persist and persist, and so that is why I stand with you, because we will hold this vote on the ERA. We will get the word out around the country that however long it takes, we will work to succeed, so that each of you have equal rights.”
A few days later on April 27, the Senate held a vote on ending the filibuster to begin debate on S.J. Res. 4, which would declare the ERA ratified and valid. As predicted, the resolution failed to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to bring it to the floor for debate and a vote. A majority of senators—51—voted yes. But while the congressional record holds the vote at 51, the true vote count is 53—since Schumer switched to the prevailing side in order to be able to bring the ERA back to the Senate floor later in the session, and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), a strong ERA supporter, was absent. Every Democrat voted for ending the filibuster and every Republican voted against, with the exception of co-sponsors Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine).
The filibuster test resulted in a solid vote count for the resolution, provided a target list for the future and showed majority support in the Senate for the ERA.
Ahead of the upcoming Senate vote, each of the four students who authored the petition explained why the amendment is needed more than ever and urged people to help send a message to Congress.
Each speaker, starting with Schumer, signed the petition, then urged the audience to get out their cell phones and go to www.Sign4ERA.org to sign up and be counted for ERA—and to ask their family and friends to do the same. (Head here to download a printable flyer to display in your community—think: schools, coffee shops, libraries and more.)
Asia Khan, the first Hunter student to address the crowd, is a public health major. She explained:
“One of the most important issues the ERA addresses is the persistent pay gap between men and women. As a first-generation immigrant woman, I can tell you that pay discrimination is all too real. Women in America earn only 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns and for women of color that gap is even wider. Over a woman’s lifetime, she loses between $500,000 to $1.2 million dollars. … This contributes to older women being the largest group of impoverished people in the country.”
Lyle Reed is a political science and economics major returning student, at what Reed called, “the tender age of 31”:
“Back in 2008, I was growing up in New Hampshire where access to an abortion was something I never had to question. When I ended up needing one, I went to my local Planned Parenthood and without judgment received safe medical treatment. I’m heartbroken and furious that young people, not only in my home state, but in large swaths of our nation, now have less rights today than I did when I was in high school.
“I’m a very queer person…. I’m worried that trans people won’t be able to adopt children, I’m worried that I won’t be able to marry if I want to. It’s real, it’s real. The attack is real. And it’s getting stronger every day. And that’s why I am urging you to please, please sign the petition today.”
Maya Mouldi, a political science major, opened by saying:
“Today, I stand before you to share my story as a woman who has experienced life in two different countries: Tunisia and the United States. These two countries are worlds apart in terms of geography, culture, and history and when it comes to the status of women’s rights, the differences are also striking. While women in Tunisia are protected under the constitution and are provided legal protections for domestic violence, the United States has yet to pass the Equal Rights Amendment….
“While it is true that progress has been made in recent years to address domestic violence in the U.S, there are still significant gaps in the protection offered to those who experience this all-too-common reality.”
Andrew Loka, a junior studying political science, said he hopes one day to operate in a legal system that includes women in the Constitution.
“Today, we’re starting a petition that’s going to push our country one step closer to holding true to its founding ideals. Our civil rights leaders paved the way with the Nineteenth Amendment, and it’s our generation’s turned to continue on that path … [for] the 28th. The ERA is needed more than ever. It is 100 years overdue, and for every year that women are not mentioned in our Constitution, we, as a nation, failed our millions of hardworking mothers, our ambitious siblings and our aspiring children.”
The national policy director of Generation Ratify, Aarush Santoshi, is a high school junior working with a movement of over 12,000 young people who are organizing for the publication of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Young people have always been at the forefront of the ERA movement, and amidst nationwide attempts to circumscribe the boundaries of our existence, one thing is clear: we have the most to gain and the most to lose in the fight for constitutional gender equality. We are unified by a collective understanding that the Equal Rights Amendment is a necessary first step in ensuring gender justice, the historic denial of which marks an egregious error that is Congress’ duty to correct.”
The origins of the petition began in Hunter College classes taught by the Honorable Carolyn Maloney, where she has been working since leaving Congress. She inspired students to learn more about the ERA and urged them to develop projects to help reach others. Maloney told supporters at the event:
“The Supreme Court is NOT listening to the American people. This student-led petition will be a deafening roar. Let me be clear – it is up to the Congress and the states to amend the Constitution, the Courts interpret it and the President’s office has the job of enforcement. Congress can recognize that 38 states have ratified, and that the arbitrary time limit is no longer valid. That is what our legislation does.
“These Grove Fellows attended the recent Senate Judiciary hearings and heard first-hand how meaningful the ERA would be for all of our lives, especially young women. They drafted a petition to support the resolutions – and now want people across the country to join in demanding equality.”
By the end of the first week, over 10,000 people signed the petition with thousands added each day. The students are mobilizing first on campuses across New York City then New York State and across the country. For more information and to sign the ERA petition, go to www.sign4ERA.org.
Update July 13, 2023, at 8:35 a.m. PT: Former Rep. Carolyn Maloney, board chair of the ERA Coalition, and ERA Coalition CEO Zakiya Thomas will spotlight the ERA during the closing bell of NASDAQ this Friday. Students from Hunter College will join Maloney and Thomas on stage to promote the Sign 4 ERA petition drive and the fight for equality.
The closing bell ceremony will stream at Times Square at 3:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Supporters can sign the petition and get involved in the drive at www.sign4ERA.org.
The day before, on Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) will introduce a joint resolution to compel the national archivist to immediately publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.
“In light of Dobbs, we’re seeing vast discrimination across the country,” Gillibrand told the New York Times. “Women are being treated as second-class citizens. This is more timely than ever.”
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.