Reflections on the Equal Rights Amendment


We here at SheHeroes couldn't be happier regarding the recent Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality. We have said all along that more women on the bench will bring more equality to the masses. And the ruling is long, long overdue.

But we still have much more work to ahead of us. The Constitution is supposed to be a blanket of democracy and equality draped over our nation. But so many of us still remain just outside its reach.

As a young girl I remember thinking that the Constitution was the most amazing thing in the entire world. To me it was not only sacred but also magical. All that I cared about in my young life I truly felt could be attributed to that one document. I could never hear enough stories about the drafting of the constitution and always imagined that if ever there was one moment in history I could go back and witness that would be it. I truly thought that the constitution was almost like a cloak of invincibility for our country. All of us safely protected within its words.

Then I got a little older. I learned that when the constitution was written it didn’t exactly mean “everybody.” It certainly didn’t mean me, at least not until 1920. And even then it wasn’t like U.S. leaders were reading the constitution and saw that women were blatantly omitted from the document, women had to fight for years to get the right to simply walk in to a voting booth.

But what about everything else? What about being able to work the same job as a man, and get paid the same for it? How about being able to support a household, compete in school or in sports? The fact that we still have to fight for these things makes the right to vote almost a hollow victory.

It almost makes me feel a little betrayed by the very document that I thought was supposed to protect me. It’s why the Equal Right’s Amendment (ERA) should have been passed and added to the constitution decades ago.

On my mother’s side I am 4th generation American, descendent of Irish immigrants. I am a woman and I am an American.  I deserve, along with every other woman, to be recognized in the constitution. To have my contributions to this country, my passion for this democracy, and my basic human dignity put in writing for future generations to see. And so does my daughter.

I want to be included in the document that I so passionately respected and revered when I was young.

Originally introduced in 1923, the ERA still remains three states short of ratification. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia have all yet to ratify. In February 2011, the Virginia Senate passed a resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, but the House of Delegates twice tabled its companion bill in committee.

In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that female employees could not bring a class-action sex discrimination suit against Walmart, which resulted in Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) reintroducing the 88-year-old amendment, again.

In a press release following the ruling Maloney had this to say,

“The Equal Rights Amendment is still needed because the only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the U.S. is to write it into the constitution ... Making women’s equality a constitutional right—after Congress passes and 38 states ratify the ERA—would place the United States on record, albeit more than 200 years late, that women are fully equal in the eyes of the law.”

Recently actress Meryl Steep sent a letter to every single member of Congress, urging them to revive a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women.

“I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality – for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself – by actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment,” Streep wrote in the message.

Have you ever discussed the ERA with your daughter or son? Now would be a good time to tell your children the history of the ERA and why we need it. Then maybe take a lesson from Meryl Streep's book, and write a letter to two...

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