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Why the Fight Over the Equal Rights Amendment Has Lasted Nearly a Century

Why the Fight Over the Equal Rights Amendment Has Lasted Nearly a Century


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Should men and women have equal rights under the law in the United States? It’s a simple question with a seemingly simple solution—a Constitutional amendment that guarantees that equal rights shall not be abridged on the basis of sex. But as the thorny history of the Equal Rights Amendment shows, getting the nation to agree on whether to adopt such an amendment has proven endlessly complex.

It has taken nearly a century of fighting to come close to passing and ratifying the amendment. And though its adoption seems tantalizingly close, it could still be prevented by a quagmire of legal issues. Here’s why the Equal Rights Amendment has never been adopted—and how it became a controversial issue during the height of the feminist revolution of the 1970s thanks to an enormously influential political activist named Phyllis Schlafly.

The Equal Rights Amendment originated with suffragist Alice Paul.

Though the amendment is a modern-day buzzword, its passage has been a goal of women’s rights advocates since even before the Nineteenth Amendment, which affirmed women’s right to vote, was passed in 1920. Suffragist Alice Paul proposed the first version of the amendment in 1923. She called it the Mott Amendment in honor of Lucretia Mott, one of the founding mothers of the American suffrage movement. Its wording was simple: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

The wording may have been simple, but passing a constitutional amendment that guaranteed equal rights to women was anything but. Paul’s supporters proposed the amendment in every Congressional session between 1923 and the 1943, but it was never passed.

The proposed amendment underwent a change in wording in 1943.

Then, in 1943, she proposed a new amendment that used wording similar to the verbiage used in the Fourteenth Amendment. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” it read. Now known as the Alice Paul Amendment, it was introduced in every session of congress between 1943 and 1972.

In an effort to appease working-class opponents who feared the amendment would undo their years of attempts to protect women from discrimination under labor law, advocates of the amendment tried to add additional language that ensured the new amendment wouldn’t remove any existing protections specifically for women. But the core of the proposed amendment remained the same through the 1970s.

Many presidents supported the ERA.

When second-wave feminism took hold in America, it ushered in a tidal wave of new support for the concept of constitutional equality between women and men. United States law increasingly called for equality of the sexes—the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, banned sex-based employment discrimination. But advocates wanted to take equality a step further, and their goal looked to be within reach.

By 1970, notes the Congressional Research Service, “Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Nixon were all on record as having endorsed an equal rights amendment.”

Suddenly, it seemed, the ERA was having its moment. The National Organization of Women vigorously promoted the amendment. Women organized huge demonstrations in its favor. It worked: In 1972, both houses of Congress passed the amendment. It sailed through the House, picking up a 93.4 percent majority, and won a 91.3 percent majority in the Senate. Now it was up to the states to ratify it. It would need three fourths of the 50 states—38 in all—to become law. And it would need to be ratified within seven years thanks to an agreement by both parties.

Phyllis Schlafly led an energetic—and effective—opposition to the ERA.

But as the proposed amendment finally broke through, a potent anti-ERA movement was brewing. In the fall of 1972, Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative political activist, began to organize a resistance to the amendment. Schlafly had first heard of the amendment a year earlier when she was asked to participate in a debate held by a conservative group in Connecticut. But the founder of the Eagle Forum group sensed a much bigger movement in the making.

“Sensing a burgeoning conservative backlash to the social and cultural changes of the 1960s, Schlafly rightly recognized that the rumbling discontentment of religious conservatives could grow into a powerful political movement,” writes historian Neil J. Young. “Schlafly intended to lead the charge.”

Schlafly formed a group called STOP ERA, or “Stop Taking Our Privileges, Equal Rights Amendment.” She warned women that if equal rights were enshrined in the Constitution, the heterosexual world order would collapse. Morality would fall by the wayside and women would be at risk of losing their femininity and the opportunities presented by marriage, Schlafly said.

“Suddenly, everywhere we are afflicted with aggressive females on television talk shows yapping about how mistreated American women are, suggesting that marriage has put us in some kind of “slavery,” that housework is menial and degrading, and—perish the thought—that women are discriminated against,” she said in a 1972 speech that she published in her newsletter, The Phyllis Schlafly Report.

If the amendment passed, she wrote, women would be forced to go to war, would lose their right to child support and alimony, and society would fall apart. “The women’s libbers are radicals who are waging a total assault on the family, on marriage, and on children,” she said.

Schlafly had an uncanny knack for bringing together women of diverse religious and social backgrounds—and making them seem more numerous than they really were. She insisted on equal airtime to rebut the amendment and taught her followers to remind everyone they spoke to that they represented a “silent majority.” She also painted feminists and ERA advocates as foreign, unappealing and dangerous.

“Everywhere, ERA opponents took care to present themselves as feminine rather than feminist,” writes historian Marjorie J. Spruill. They adopted pink as their trademark color, aggressively distributed anti-ERA literature, and charmed legislators with baked goods and earnest pleas to the gender status quo.

Legislators began to turn their backs on the amendment.

Schlafly single handedly turned the ERA from a widely accepted concept into a culture war…and spooked legislators in the process. Though the amendment had been ratified by 22 states in its first year, the pace of ratification slowed. Then, states that had ratified the amendment began dropping out. Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, and Kentucky, and South Dakota all voted to rescind their prior support of the amendment.

After a court battle, a federal district court ruled that Idaho could rescind its support and that the lack of support in the state should be recognized, indicating that if other legal challenges were brought, they would likely fall in favor of the states that rescinded their adoptions of the amendment.

In 1978, recognizing that the adoption pace was slow, legislators extended the ratification period to 1982. But the amendment only had the support of 35 states. The amendment wasn’t dead, though.

Nearly 50 years later: the amendment still has legs, but its future is unclear.

In 2017, Nevada ratified the ERA. In May 2018, Illinois followed. Now, some advocates are pinning their hopes on Virginia to become the final state to ratify the amendment. But it’s unclear what might happen if a 38th state ratifies the ERA. Since it expired decades ago, someone in Congress could give it a fresh start as a new bill, but it would then have to pass the House and the Senate and be re-ratified by all 38 states. If the additional states that ratified since 1982 are to be recognized, Congress would have to pass legislation that re-extends the deadline.

It’s unclear if the amendment could survive either attempt, or whether the ERA will eventually become law. Lawsuits would almost certainly accompany any concerted effort to make the ERA law by adopting the newer ratifications, and introducing the amendment anew risks having states that once supported the ERA fall off the “yes” list.

What is certain is that a simple sentence declaring equality of the sexes is, for now, a dream deferred. Its supporters have waited nearly a century for the amendment to pass, and even longer for equal rights. If the long afterlife of the Equal Rights Amendment is any indication, they’re willing to wait even longer.


All of Phyllis Schlafly’s Nightmares Came True: Why Schlafly’s Anti-ERA Arguments are Out-Dated and Illogical

Phyllis Schlafly speaking to reporters at Stop ERA protest.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has been getting major political buzz lately as we are one state away from ratification. The renaissance of the ERA has reignited one of its largest opponents, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was a constitutional lawyer, conservative, and famously anti-feminist advocate. So, it’s no surprise Schlafly was in extreme opposition to the ERA. In fact, many would call her the opposition. Schlafly relied on her massive audience, conservative ideals, and a healthy dose of fear-mongering to stop the ERA’s passage. She started an organization called STOP ERA, with STOP being an acronym for “Stop Taking Our Privileges.”[1] Schafly did exactly that by preventing the ERA from gaining its requisite 38 state threshold for ratification, however in the time since, many of Schlafly’s concerns about the ERA have since become realized. The question remains as to how legitimate her fears actually were — and should people continue to parrot her thoughts and ideas as legitimate arguments against the ERA? This article examines three reasons Schlafly opposed the ERA and why they no longer hold water in 2019.

#Myth 1 – Schlafly Argued the ERA Would Take Away Separate Restrooms for Men and Women

Bathroom panic has been a longstanding way to establish both racist and homophobic mentalities amongst Americans.[2] Schlafly preyed on this fear by arguing that the ERA would no longer allow for gendered restrooms, as men and women would be the same under the law.[3] Schlafly, and other activists, claimed that this would allow a breeding ground for rapists and pedophiles to attack women in public restrooms.[4]

While effective, this argument was patently illogical and remains false. First, public unisex bathrooms already existed in the 1970’s. Most forms of public transportation, such as trains and planes, utilized unisex bathrooms for the convenience of passengers. However, these facts were either overlooked or proved inconvenient for the STOP ERA crowd to address. Second, unisex bathrooms are now becoming the societal norm — the thing that Schlafly and others feared is already happening without the passage of the ERA. Similarly, several states and localities have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity related to restrooms and locker rooms.[5]

#Myth 2 – Schlafly Said the ERA Would Lead to Gay Marriage

According to Schlafly’s non-profit organization, Eagle Forum, the ERA would put “gay rights into the United States Constitution because the word in the amendment is “sex,” not women.”[6] In a nutshell, Schlafly argued the ERA would grant equal privileges under the law based on sex, meaning same-sex couples would be granted the same rights as opposite-sex couples. She worried this would lead to same-sex marriage and generally would promote a “lesbian agenda.”[7] (Personally, I’m curious to see what a lesbian agenda entails but I digress.)

Once again, Schlafly’s fears became realized without the help of the ERA. In 2015, the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry based on the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[8] Additionally, through a series of Supreme Court and federal court decisions, same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt in all 50 states,.[9] Furthermore, this fall, the Supreme Court will hear three cases related to employment discrimination of LGBTQ individuals.[10] While there is no guarantee what the Court will decide, many states have already built protections for LGBTQ workers into their state laws.[11]

# Myth 3 – The ERA Would Force Women to Serve in Combat and Be Drafted

Schlafly was incredibly effective at tying any potential consequence of the ERA to a real-world outcome. One of her best efforts was arguing that women would be forced to serve in combat roles and that the ERA would eliminated the exemption for women to be drafted into military service.[12] The Selective Service states that all men between the ages of 18 to 25 must register for the draft.[13] Schlafly argued if the ERA passed, women would also be required to register. In 1981, the Supreme Court agreed that a male only draft was allowable as women were ineligible to serve in combat roles.[14]

Fast forward to February 2019 when federal Judge Gray Miller held it unconstitutional to require only men to register for the draft.[15] While his ruling is considered mostly symbolic, it has the potential to force the Selective Service to add women to the draft or eliminate it all together. This comes after the Department of Defense lifted all gender-based restrictions for women in the military, including the ability to serve in combat positions.[16] While Schlafly’s fears are not fully realized, women are now allowed to serve in combat position.

Of course, Schlafly had other concerns about the ERA including its impact on abortion, alimony, and child custody, and even the elimination of gender separate sports and activities. It can be said that those arguments also seem irrelevant now as alimony and child custody have become increasingly gender-neutral and organizations such as The Boy Scouts are openly accepting female members.[17] As shown above, opposition to the ERA will be overcome, whether it is by the Supreme Court, the Constitution, or shifting public opinion. The thing about progress is, it can always be halted, but it can never be stopped.


The Early Women’s Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage

At the time of the American Revolution, women had few rights. Although single women were allowed to own property, married women were not. When women married, their separate legal identities were erased under the legal principle of coverture. Not only did women adopt their husbands’ names, but all personal property they owned legally became their husbands’ property. Husbands could not sell their wives’ real property—such as land or in some states slaves—without their permission, but they were allowed to manage it and retain the profits. If women worked outside the home, their husbands were entitled to their wages. [1]

So long as a man provided food, clothing, and shelter for his wife, she was not legally allowed to leave him. Divorce was difficult and in some places impossible to obtain. [2]

Higher education for women was not available, and women were barred from professional positions in medicine, law, and ministry.

Following the Revolution, women’s conditions did not improve. Women were not granted the right to vote by any of the states except New Jersey, which at first allowed all taxpaying property owners to vote. However, in 1807, the law changed to limit the vote to men. [3]

Changes in property laws actually hurt women by making it easier for their husbands to sell their real property without their consent.

Although women had few rights, they nevertheless played an important role in transforming American society. This was especially true in the 1830s and 1840s, a time when numerous social reform movements swept across the United States. Many women were active in these causes, especially the abolition movement and the temperance movement, which tried to end the excessive consumption of liquor. They often found they were hindered in their efforts, however, either by the law or by widely held beliefs that they were weak, silly creatures who should leave important issues to men. [4]

One of the leaders of the early women’s movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was shocked and angered when she sought to attend an 1840 antislavery meeting in London, only to learn that women would not be allowed to participate and had to sit apart from the men. At this convention, she made the acquaintance of another American female abolitionist, Lucretia Mott, who was also appalled by the male reformers’ treatment of women. [5]

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (a) and Lucretia Mott (b) both emerged from the abolitionist movement as strong advocates of women’s rights.

In 1848, Stanton and Mott called for a women’s rights convention, the first ever held specifically to address the subject, at Seneca Falls, New York. At the Seneca Falls Convention, Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed women were equal to men and deserved the same rights. Among the rights Stanton wished to see granted to women was suffrage, the right to vote. When called upon to sign the Declaration, many of the delegates feared that if women demanded the right to vote, the movement would be considered too radical and its members would become a laughingstock. The Declaration passed, but the resolution demanding suffrage was the only one that did not pass unanimously. [6]

Along with other feminists (advocates of women’s equality), such as her friend and colleague Susan B. Anthony, Stanton fought for rights for women besides suffrage, including the right to seek higher education. As a result of their efforts, several states passed laws that allowed married women to retain control of their property and let divorced women keep custody of their children. [7]

Amelia Bloomer, another activist, also campaigned for dress reform, believing women could lead better lives and be more useful to society if they were not restricted by voluminous heavy skirts and tight corsets.

The women’s rights movement attracted many women who, like Stanton and Anthony, were active in either the temperance movement, the abolition movement, or both movements. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, the daughters of a wealthy slaveholding family in South Carolina, became first abolitionists and then women’s rights activists. [8]

Many of these women realized that their effectiveness as reformers was limited by laws that prohibited married women from signing contracts and by social proscriptions against women addressing male audiences. Without such rights, women found it difficult to rent halls in which to deliver lectures or to hire printers to produce antislavery literature.

Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the women’s rights movement fragmented. Stanton and Anthony denounced the Fifteenth Amendment because it granted voting rights only to black men and not to women of any race. [9]

The fight for women’s rights did not die, however. In 1869, Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which demanded that the Constitution be amended to grant the right to vote to all women. It also called for more lenient divorce laws and an end to sex discrimination in employment. The less radical Lucy Stone formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in the same year AWSA hoped to win the suffrage for women by working on a state-by-state basis instead of seeking to amend the Constitution. [10]

Four western states—Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho—did extend the right to vote to women in the late nineteenth century, but no other states did.

Women were also granted the right to vote on matters involving liquor licenses, in school board elections, and in municipal elections in several states. However, this was often done because of stereotyped beliefs that associated women with moral reform and concern for children, not as a result of a belief in women’s equality. Furthermore, voting in municipal elections was restricted to women who owned property. [11]

In 1890, the two suffragist groups united to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). To call attention to their cause, members circulated petitions, lobbied politicians, and held parades in which hundreds of women and girls marched through the streets.

In October 1917, suffragists marched down Fifth Avenue in New York demanding the right to vote. They carried a petition that had been signed by one million women.

The more radical National Woman’s Party (NWP), led by Alice Paul, advocated the use of stronger tactics. The NWP held public protests and picketed outside the White House. [12]

Demonstrators were often beaten and arrested, and suffragists were subjected to cruel treatment in jail. When some, like Paul, began hunger strikes to call attention to their cause, their jailers force-fed them, an incredibly painful and invasive experience for the women. [13]

Finally, in 1920, the triumphant passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granted all women the right to vote.

Members of the National Woman’s Party picketed outside the White House six days a week from January 10, 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson took office, until June 4, 1919, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed by Congress. The protesters wore banners proclaiming the name of the institution of higher learning they attended.


57c. The Equal Rights Amendment


As founder of the National Women's Party, Alice Paul first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment to Congress in 1923. Paul would work for the passage of the ERA until her death in 1977.

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

This simple sentence comprised Section 1 of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was first proposed in Congress by the National Women's Party in 1923. Feminists of the late 1960s and early 1970s saw ratification of the amendment as the only clear-cut way to eliminate all legal gender-based discrimination in the United States.

Amending the Constitution is a two-step process. First, the Congress must propose the amendment by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. After proposal, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. Organizations like the National Organization of Women (NOW) began a hard push for the ERA in 1970.


Phyllis Schlafly was perhaps the most visible opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her "Stop ERA" campaign hinged on the belief that the ERA would eliminate laws designed to protect women and led to the eventual defeat of the amendment.

Leaders such as Gloria Steinem addressed the legislature and provided argument after argument in support of the ERA. The House approved the measure in 1970, and the Senate did likewise in 1972. The fight was then taken to the states. ERA-supporters had the early momentum. Public opinion polls showed strong favorable support. Thirty of the necessary thirty-eight states ratified the amendment by 1973.

But then the tide turned. From nowhere came a highly organized, determined opposition that suggested that ratification of the ERA would lead to the complete unraveling of traditional American society.

The leader of the Stop-ERA campaign was a career woman named Phyllis Schlafly . Despite her law degree, Schlafly glorified the traditional roles of American women. She heckled feminists by opening her speaking engagements with quips like "I'd like to thank my husband for letting me be here tonight." Schlafly argued that the ERA would bring many undesirable changes to American women.


The fight over the Equal Rights Amendment did not pit women against men &mdash it pitted two ideologies against eachother.

Protective laws like sexual assault and alimony would be swept away. The tendency for the mother to receive child custody in a divorce case would be eliminated. The all-male military draft would become immediately unconstitutional. Those opposed to the ERA even suggested that single-sex restrooms would be banished by future courts.

Stop-ERA advocates baked apple pies for the Illinois legislature while they debated the amendment. They hung "Don't draft me" signs on baby girls. The strategy worked. After 1973, the number of ratifying states slowed to a trickle. By 1982, the year of expiration, only 35 states had voted in favor of the ERA &mdash three states shy of the necessary total.

Feminist groups maintained that a serious blow was struck toward the idea of gender equity in the United States. They also saw women divided against other women. Despite early gains by the feminist movement, the rise in social conservatism led Americans of both genders to draw limits on a constitutionally mandated equality between the sexes.


House reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act, passes bill to repeal ERA deadline

WASHINGTON — With a nod to Women’s History Month, the Democratic-led House passed two measures Wednesday, one designed to protect women from domestic violence, the other to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed 244-172 with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation.

The resolution to repeal the ERA’s ratification deadline passed 222-204. Both measures face a more difficult path in an evenly divided Senate.

The White House announced its support earlier Wednesday for reauthorizing VAWA, which aims to reduce domestic and sexual violence and improve the response to it through a variety of grant programs. Many of the Democratic congresswomen wore all-white outfits to commemorate the day, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement when marchers would wear white dresses to symbolized the femininity and purity of their cause.

President Joe Biden introduced the original Violence Against Women Act in June 1990 when serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A subsequent version was eventually included in a sweeping crime bill that President Bill Clinton would sign into law four years later. Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act three times since.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called VAWA “one of the president’s proudest accomplishments” and said he is urging the Senate to work in a bipartisan manner so that he can sign the reauthorization bill into law soon.

The original bill created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department, which has awarded more than $9 billion in grants to state and local governments, nonprofits and universities over the years. The grants fund crisis intervention programs, transitional housing and legal assistance to victims, among other programs. Supporters said the reauthorization would also boost spending for training law enforcement and the courts.

“This bill leaves no victim behind,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

The legislation also would prohibit persons previously convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms, a provision that generated opposition from the NRA and resulted in most Republicans voting against the measure in the last Congress.

The other measure the House took up Wednesday would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to expressly prohibit discrimination based on sex. Congress initially required the states to ratify it by 1979, a deadline it later extended to 1982.

The Justice Department under President Donald Trump said that Congress cannot revive a proposed constitutional amendment after the deadline for its ratification has expired. Supporters would have to start over and follow Article V of the Constitution, which requires support from two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and ratification from three-quarters of the states before an amendment is added to the Constitution.

The fight over the Equal Rights Amendment began almost a century ago. The amendment finally passed with the requisite majority in each chamber when President Richard Nixon was serving his first term.

Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment last year, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment’s adoption, citing the Justice Department opinion.

Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s vote last year.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., noted that a champion of the amendment, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had said it was time to start anew.

“This measure is brazenly unconstitutional,” McClintock said. “If the majority were serious, they would reintroduce the ERA and debate it openly and constitutionally as Ginsburg suggests.”

The ERA faced bitter opposition from some conservatives, who say it could be used as a legal tool to fight state efforts to curb abortion.

“If ratified, the ERA would be used to codify the right to abortion, undoing pro-life protections and forcing taxpayers to fund abortions,” warned Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.

Supporters argued that the Constitution does not guarantee that all the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex.

Rep. Jackie Speier, R-Calif., the sponsor of the resolution to repeal the ratification deadline, said there is no expiration date on equality.

“We demand that we be put into the Constitution,” Speier said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Constitution places no deadlines on the process of ratifying constitutional amendments and that Congress clearly has the authority to extend or remove any deadlines it chose to set previously.

“We are on the brink of making history and no deadline should stand in the way,” Nadler said.

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Why We're Still Fighting Over the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019

Anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly demonstrates with other women against the Equal Rights Amendment in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 4th, 1977.

(Photo: Warren K. Leffler/Wikimedia Commons)

The amendment is brief𠅊 mere 52 words𠅊nd its core sentiment appears utterly innocuous: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." But the Equal Rights Amendment has been anything but anodyne since its original defeat in the late 1970s. Today&aposs reignited movement has much in common with the earlier fight—including the vehement and powerful opposition of the religious right.

Amid the Women&aposs March and #MeToo movements, the presidency of Donald Trump and the wave of women elected to public office, the ERA has become a renewed rallying cry for 21st century feminism. Celebrities such as Alyssa Milano and America Ferrera, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Democratic politicians across the country, and a plethora of pro-ERA groups at the state and federal levels have taken up the cause, with special enthusiasm from media brands serving Millennial women (Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, and Refinery29).

A number of key legislatures are fielding ratification efforts—in Georgia, Florida, and Arizona (a bill recently failed in Virginia). These states are among the 15 holdouts that never passed the ERA during the major push in the 1970s. After Nevada&aposs surprise ratification in 2017 and Illinois&apos in 2018, ERA activists now believe they need just one more state to reach the needed 38-state threshold. (Opponents argue the math is off, given that five states that originally passed the amendment subsequently rescinded, and even ERA supporters admit the road to ratification is winding, including the need for Congress to vote to override an original series of deadlines, something that would undoubtedly require Democratic control of both houses.) Many say they believe 2019 will bring a long-awaited victory, and while a single state may seem like a laughably low bar, it&aposs not. Those left on the map remain under Republican control, making the proposition challenging at a minimum.

That hasn&apost deterred activists like Arizona&aposs Dianne Post. "Nothing is dead until the session adjourns," she says. Like in other states, GOP lawmakers there have been stalling ERA bills in committees, refusing to allow a vote on the state&aposs senate or house floor. If they did, she says, it would pass, thanks to the support of a handful of Republicans, "and they know that."

"If these people think we&aposre going to give up—&aposWell let&aposs just not hear [the bill] and they&aposll go home, and bake cookies&apos—well, no we won&apost," Post says. "Because we&aposre never going to give up, and we&aposre going to make your lives miserable as long as you continue to make our lives miserable."

"I started fighting for the ERA at 20, when we tried to get Congress to pass it, and I am 72 years old and sick to death of it," she adds.

ERA opponents during the early years of Post&aposs activism argued it would upend gender norms and family life, put women in the military, enshrine gay rights, and lead to unfettered abortion access. Since then, opposition to women&aposs equal participation in society—including the military—has dramatically waned, leaving both sides keen to argue that the other has little left to gain or lose. (In recent interviews, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ERA would not have a monumental impact on current law, but that she&aposd "like to be able to take out my pocket Constitution and say that the equal citizenship stature of men and women is a fundamental tenet of our society, like free speech.")

But an argument the anti-feminist firebrand Phyllis Schlafly—the woman who shaped the modern GOP𠅊rticulated on Good Morning America in 1976 has endured: Equality is actually bad for women. "When you make the laws apply equally to men and women, you end up taking away many of the rights that women now have," Schlafly said.

Modern ERA opponents agree. Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson and media strategist for the pro-life group Students for Life, says many of the ERA&aposs goals—largely protection from discrimination on the basis of sex—have been achieved by other means. "Women do need protection from unique harms," she adds, and the ERA could undo some of those protections (a view rejected by ERA supporters who argue it could have an especially broad impact on women&aposs employment and access to birth control). But that&aposs not the reason Hamrick&aposs organization is getting into the fight.

"It would create an actual foothold for abortion in the Constitution," she says. "The sense that Roe v. Wade could be reversed is part of the impetus for [the] ERA coming back right now. This really is a Trojan horse for abortion."

Anti-abortion groups have swung into high gear against the amendment. The National Right to Life Committee is fighting the ERA in every state (including via a recent letter sent to Florida lawmakers). Phyllis Schlafly&aposs descendant organizations—Phyllis Schlafly Eagles and the Eagle Forum𠅊re warning of codifying government-funded abortions in the Constitution and furthering the "interests of the abortion industry." Last year, a lawyer with Americans United for Life, a powerful architect of state-level anti-abortion laws, said the ERA was "anti-woman." When a Georgia Republican pulled his support of the ERA last month, he said it was because "many believe this legislation could be used to remove the protections for the unborn," and he&aposs "not willing to risk any living breathing humans&apos lives to find out."

Whether or not the ERA would de facto enshrine abortion rights (some ERA activists argue that it remains unclear and other have argued it would, in part based on a New Mexico Supreme Court decision), Marjorie J. Spruill sees something perhaps even more fundamental than abortion at the heart of it: the very foundation of hyper-partisan politics. As Spruill, a history professor at the University of South Carolina, documents in her book Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women&aposs Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics, the 1970s ERA was a casualty of the right-wing religious women&aposs movement that arose to fight what its supporters saw as feminism&aposs destruction of traditional gender roles𠅊nd polarized the nation&aposs politics in the process. Under the influence of women like Schlafly, the GOP went from broadly supporting the ERA under a series of presidencies to handing it a chain of crushing defeats.


Amid Women’s History Month, House passes domestic violence bill

With a nod to Women’s History Month, the Democratic-led House passed two measures Wednesday, one designed to protect women from domestic violence, the other to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed 244-172 with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation.

The resolution to repeal the ERA’s ratification deadline passed 222-204. Both measures face a more difficult path in an evenly divided Senate.

The White House announced its support earlier Wednesday for reauthorizing VAWA, which aims to reduce domestic and sexual violence and improve the response to it through a variety of grant programs. Many Democratic congresswomen wore all-white outfits to commemorate the day, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement, when marchers would wear white dresses to symbolize the femininity and purity of their cause.

If Biden really wants to support gender equality, he should use his political capital to help enshrine gender equality in the U.S. Constitution.

President Biden introduced the original Violence Against Women Act in June 1990 when serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A subsequent version was eventually included in a sweeping crime bill that President Clinton would sign into law four years later. Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act three times since.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called VAWA “one of the president’s proudest accomplishments” and said he is urging the Senate to work in a bipartisan manner so that he can sign the reauthorization bill into law soon.

The original bill created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department, which has awarded more than $9 billion in grants to state and local governments, nonprofits and universities over the years. The grants fund crisis intervention programs, transitional housing and legal assistance to victims, among other programs. Supporters said the reauthorization would also boost spending for training law enforcement and the courts.

“This bill leaves no victim behind,” said Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

The legislation also would prohibit people previously convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms, a provision that generated opposition from the NRA and resulted in most Republicans voting against the measure in the last Congress.

The other measure the House took up Wednesday would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to expressly prohibit discrimination based on sex. Congress initially required the states to ratify it by 1979, a deadline it later extended to 1982.

The Justice Department under President Trump said that Congress cannot revive a proposed constitutional amendment after the deadline for its ratification has expired. Supporters would have to start over and follow Article V of the Constitution, which requires support from two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and ratification from three-quarters of the states before an amendment is added to the Constitution.

The fight over the Equal Rights Amendment began almost a century ago. The amendment finally passed with the requisite majority in each chamber when President Nixon was serving his first term.

Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment last year, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment’s adoption, citing the Justice Department opinion.

Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s vote last year.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) noted that a champion of the amendment, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had said it was time to start anew.

“This measure is brazenly unconstitutional,” McClintock said. “If the majority were serious, they would reintroduce the ERA and debate it openly and constitutionally as Ginsburg suggests.”

The ERA faced bitter opposition from some conservatives, who say it could be used as a legal tool to fight state efforts to curb abortion.

“If ratified, the ERA would be used to codify the right to abortion, undoing pro-life protections and forcing taxpayers to fund abortions,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz).

Supporters argued that the Constitution does not guarantee that all the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), the sponsor of the resolution to repeal the ratification deadline, said there is no expiration date on equality.

“We demand that we be put into the Constitution,” Speier said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Constitution places no deadlines on the process of ratifying constitutional amendments and that Congress clearly has the authority to extend or remove any deadlines it chose to set previously.

“We are on the brink of making history,” Nadler said, “and no deadline should stand in the way.”

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"Mrs. America" and the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment

The battle for the ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment, has been waged for nearly a century. And in January, before COVID-19 brought the country to a halt, many saw signs the battle was finally coming to end, as Virginia became the 38th state to pass the ERA .

But the country has been here before.

"Mrs. America," a limited TV series, takes a look back at the 1970s when the ERA almost became a reality.

"I think the only reason to delve back into history is to understand where we are today," said actress Cate Blanchett, who produces and is one of the stars of "Mrs. America." "It was literally like 'Groundhog Day.' Same-sex bathrooms and women in the military and the draft and all of these things are all coming up now, even the Equal Rights Amendment itself."

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly and Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem in "Mrs. America," a new series about the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment. FX Networks

The ERA was passed by Congress in 1972. But three-quarters of the states had to ratify it to make it law. That seemed all but certain, with feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm behind it &ndash until they ran into another woman just as passionately opposed to it: Phyllis Schlafly, who said, "The women's liberation movement is basically a very negative attitude toward life."

"The series really does break apart this notion that all women think the same," said Blanchett, who plays Schlafly, a conservative Illinois lawyer who founded the STOP ERA campaign. "She felt that the virtuous woman was the cornerstone of society. So, if we start leaving the family, then the whole fabric of America is going to collapse."

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"This is a complicated thing," said Rose Byrne, who plays Steinem, one of the most recognizable leaders of the pro-ERA movement. Both Steinem and Schlafly grew up in the Midwest, and Byrne said they had more in common than Schlafly would admit.

"She would travel all over the country, leaving her family with help, leaving her children, fighting for this thing," said Byrne. "That's the dirty secret about Phyllis Schlafly, is that she's the biggest feminist of all of them, really."

Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schlafly. CBS News

Margo Martindale (who plays the formidable Congresswoman Bella Abzug) says Schlafly was shrewd she referred to herself as 'feminine' rather than 'feminist,' and played the game as well as her opponents: "She was a politician. And she knew what she could get done. I found that fascinating about her &ndash smart as a whip. But every one of these women are smart as a whip."

Of Abzug, Martindale said, "She was loud, she was outspoken, she was an activist from the moment she came out of her momma's womb."

Tracy Ullman plays Betty Friedan, the bestselling author of "The Feminine Mystique" and co-founder of the National Organization for Women. She said, "She had a fantastic education, and then she felt stifled by being a mother with three small children and no opportunity to be in the workplace."

Elizabeth Banks co-stars as the lesser-known but powerful Republican feminist, Jill Ruckelshaus. "The movement was bipartisan back then," Banks said. "And equal rights and human rights should be bipartisan, of course that's the goal of it."

The cast of "Mrs. America": (front) Sarah Paulson, Margo Martindale, Cate Blanchett and Uzo Aduba (rear) Elizabeth Banks, John Slattery and Tracy Ullman. CBS News

Uzo Aduba plays Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for President. "I knew her as an African American hero, Africa American female hero," Aduba said.

The battle lines were drawn between those who welcomed the ERA as an opportunity, and others who saw it as a threat.

Sarah Paulson plays a composite character called Alice who was a follower of Schlafly's and a member of STOP/ERA. "She couldn't look around and see anyone, any woman that sort of confirmed that she had value, based on what she wanted, which was not to be in the working environment, but to be working in her home and taking care of her children," Paulson said.

The series includes some of the memorable skirmishes in the battle, as in an uncomfortable TV appearance with Betty Friedan.

Byrne said Steinem herself seemed determined to avoid these spectacles: "And that was smart, you know? She didn't wanna give [Schlafly] any more air time than she was already having."

But in the end, Schlafly and her STOP ERA did exactly that. In the early '80s, after activists failed to get enough states to ratify the amendment, the movement stalled and disappeared from headlines, until recently, when women's marches and #MeToo seemed to breathe new life into it.

Carol Jenkins, co-founder and CEO of the ERA Coalition, said, "America wants this. Over 90% of everyone says, 'Women should have constitutional equality.' it's just a matter of time before women and girls have equality in the playbook that we all live by in this country: our Constitution."

But in fact, the issue is as unsettled as ever. Opponents argue that the January vote in Virginia to ratify the ERA came too late, well after a deadline set by Congress.

And so, the fight continues, now in the courts. Aduba hopes that a series like "Mrs. America," which provides a look back, can help Americans find a way forward. "I think we have the unique opportunity now to correct as we progress towards hopefully a resolution of some kind, a bringing together of some kind," she said.

To watch a trailer for "Mrs. America" click on the video player below:


For more info:


Story produced by Mary Raffalli and Robbyn McFadden. Editor: Steven Tyler.


Published March 17. 2021 10:19PM

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — With a nod to Women’s History Month, the Democratic-led House passed two measures Wednesday, one designed to protect women from domestic violence, the other to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed 244-172 with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the legislation.

The resolution to repeal the ERA's ratification deadline passed 222-204. Both measures face a more difficult path in an evenly divided Senate.

The White House announced its support earlier Wednesday for reauthorizing VAWA, which aims to reduce domestic and sexual violence and improve the response to it through a variety of grant programs. Many of the Democratic congresswomen wore all-white outfits to commemorate the day, a nod to the women’s suffrage movement when marchers would wear white dresses to symbolized the femininity and purity of their cause.

President Joe Biden introduced the original Violence Against Women Act in June 1990 when serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A subsequent version was eventually included in a sweeping crime bill that President Bill Clinton would sign into law four years later. Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act three times since.

Biden applauded the House action and urged the Senate to follow suit. "This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s about standing up against the abuse of power and preventing violence," the president said in a statement Wednesday evening.

The original bill created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department, which has awarded more than $9 billion in grants to state and local governments, nonprofits and universities over the years. The grants fund crisis intervention programs, transitional housing and legal assistance to victims, among other programs. Supporters said the reauthorization would also boost spending for training law enforcement and the courts.

“This bill leaves no victim behind," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

The legislation also would prohibit persons previously convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms, a provision that generated opposition from the NRA and resulted in most Republicans voting against the measure in the last Congress.

The other measure the House took up Wednesday would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, a decades-long effort to amend the Constitution to expressly prohibit discrimination based on sex. Congress initially required the states to ratify it by 1979, a deadline it later extended to 1982.

The Justice Department under President Donald Trump said Congress cannot revive a proposed constitutional amendment after the deadline for its ratification has expired. Supporters would have to start over and follow Article V of the Constitution, which requires support from two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and ratification from three-quarters of the states before an amendment is added to the Constitution.

The fight over the Equal Rights Amendment began almost a century ago. The amendment finally passed with the requisite majority in each chamber when President Richard Nixon was serving his first term.

Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment last year, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment’s adoption, citing the Justice Department opinion.

Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia’s vote.

In a separate statement Wednesday, Biden pointed out that he supported the ERA when he was a young senator, adding, “Nearly 50 years later, it is long past time that we enshrine the principle of gender equality in our Constitution.”

A White House official said Biden remains committed to the ERA, but he won't direct the Office of Legal Counsel to rescind its opinion or to reach a particular conclusion out of respect for the Justice Department's independence. The official said Biden considered the House vote the appropriate next step. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., noted that a champion of the amendment, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had said it was time to start anew.

“This measure is brazenly unconstitutional,” McClintock said. “If the majority were serious, they would reintroduce the ERA and debate it openly and constitutionally as Ginsburg suggests.”

The ERA faced bitter opposition from some conservatives, who say it could be used as a legal tool to fight state efforts to curb abortion.

“If ratified, the ERA would be used to codify the right to abortion, undoing pro-life protections and forcing taxpayers to fund abortions," warned Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.

Supporters argued that the Constitution does not guarantee that all the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., the sponsor of the resolution to repeal the ratification deadline, said there is no expiration date on equality.

“We demand that we be put into the Constitution," Speier said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Constitution places no deadlines on the process of ratifying constitutional amendments and that Congress clearly has the authority to extend or remove any deadlines it chose to set previously.

“We are on the brink of making history and no deadline should stand in the way," Nadler said.

Associated Press staff writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.


CALL TO ACTION:

VALENTINE'S DAY CAMPAIGN!

We are taking a page from Alice Paul’s playbook and sending “I (Heart) the ERA” Valentine’s postcards to elected officials.

Send a "Thank You!" to congresspeople who have signed on in support, or send a "ERA Valentine" to encourage representatives who have not yet signed on in support.

In their fight for women's suffrage, Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party sent "Valentine's" to the men elected to Congress. The tactic helped keep the issue at the forefront of conversation, and was one of many that Alice Paul employed to advance the 19th Amendment. Join us for a night of fun social activism in the fight for gender equality.

We're inviting ERA advocates across the country to join the campaign! Here are a few ways that you can join the fun:

1) Host a “I (Heart) the ERA” Valentine’s postcard writing party!

Order some pre-printed postcards from the ERA Toolkit, and invite your friends and send a Valentine to the list of officials we've selected and/or your local and state officials.

2) Download the "I (Heart) the ERA" social media squares and banner and share, share, share!

3) Download the postcard designs (front and back) and print your own to send to your elected officials.

The social media hashtags we're using are:

#ilovetheera

If you are in the Philadelphia region, please join us for a FREE public post-card writing party at the Alice Paul Institute on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 from 6pm-8pm. More information can be found HERE . Hosted by API's Advocacy Committee, refreshments will be served.

The ERA Coalition is asking for our support to increase pressure on U.S. Senators to advance SJ Res 6 , the legislation that will remove the original deadline from the ERA. Introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), more co-sponsors are needed to advance the bill.

The following Senators have been selected for focused attention. If you are in these states, please call and email the office contacts (info below). Please also share with your friends, family, and colleagues who live in these states so they can also advocate for their Senators to sign onto the bill as co-sponsors.


Watch the video: The Internet is Fighting Over a Streamers Face. (July 2022).


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