After 50 years of debate, overwhelming demonstrations of support and successful removal of the required legal hurdles, it is time to finally affirm gender equality in the Constitution.
On January 27, the United States Constitution should have been lengthened by 24 words and the principle of gender equality – for the first time in history – be enshrined in our nation’s highest law.
Two years ago this month, Virginia has become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which means the amendment – which ensures that “equal rights under the law shall not be denied or restricted…by reason of sex” – has met formal requirements for approval by both thirds of both houses of Congress and three – quarters of state legislatures or conventions for inclusion in the Constitution. Because the amendment says it would come into effect two years after ratification, this month is meant to mark when it officially takes effect.
The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, responsible for updating the Constitution when new amendments are ratified, said refuse to add the ERA, citing a Trump-era legal memo from the then-Attorney General’s office William BarrBill BarrThe Hill’s Morning Report – US Warns Kremlin, Sends More Troops to Europe January 6 Committee Chairman Says Panel Has Spoken to William Barr William Barr memoir set for release in early March MORE, claiming it is invalid due to a Congressional deadline for ratification that some say expired in 1982. Yet Ferriero himself issued a letter in 2012 stating that he would publish the ERA in the Constitution, regardless of the delay, if 38 states ratified it. Many scholars believe that Congress does not have the power under Article V of the Constitution to impose such a deadline on the states.
The formal guarantee of legal equality between the sexes is not just a symbolic process. This is a fundamental change in law and policy. Under the ERA, women would finally, after more than two centuries, fully realize the promise of “equal justice before the law”. The amendment would require that all laws and government policies apply equally and be enforced equally with respect to gender. Ratification of the ERA would mean that cases alleging gender discrimination would be subject to the highest level of constitutional review, as is the case with race discrimination. For example, while the Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits differences in pay based on sex, the act’s “affirmative defense framework” allows an employer to invoke a very wide variety of defenses to justify a discriminatory practice. . Ratification of the ERA would help close this loophole and, in turn, help close the gender pay gap. This would have similar implications for the defense against sex discrimination in areas ranging from education to health care.
Next year will mark 100 years since suffragists including Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman first proposed an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women. Over a century, there has been a steady progression of progress in gender equity. But progress has largely stalled and full legal equality will always be elusive without the ERA.
In recent years, the #MeToo movement has revealed the depth of injustice and abuse women endure in this country and beyond. The Trump administration regulatory developments– including ending the collection of pay data by gender, weakening Title IX rules that prohibit gender discrimination in federally funded education programs, and limiting a threshold increase overtime – revealed the fragility of the political apparatus that supports gender equity.
In his campaign platform, Biden, then candidate promised to “work with advocates across the country to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) so that women’s rights are once and for all explicitly enshrined in our Constitution.” He vowed to “proudly advocate for Congress to recognize that 3/4 of the states have ratified the amendment and take action to ensure that our Constitution makes it clear that any government-related discrimination against women is unconstitutional.”
HWe have a golden opportunity to keep his promise. Reversing the Trump-era legal memo that rejected the ERA is necessary but not sufficient. President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts 6th potential missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court nominee J. Michelle Childs will win GOP votes overnight Defense and National Security – U.S. Provides Response written to Russia MORE should instruct the Archivist, an employee of the executive, to publish the amendment in the Constitution. Additionally, President Biden should use the bully pulpit to let Americans know that gender equality as a fundamental tenet of American democracy is now enshrined in our Constitution.
The late judge Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgProgressives See Breyer’s Retirement as Cold Comfort Upcoming Documentary About Gabby Giffords’ Recovery After Filming The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Breaking: Justice Breyer to Retire MORE once described the issue with elegant simplicity: “I would like my granddaughters, when they come to see the Constitution, to see this notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I would like that they see that it is a basic principle of our society. RBG was in good company. In a recent survey, 75% of respondents said they would support an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for men and women. President Biden should do everything in his power to ensure that this just and popular principle is enshrined in law.
Speier sponsored a joint resolution to facilitate ratification of the ERA. Jennifer McClellan (D) is a state senator from Virginia and was the lead sponsor of the resolution that ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, making Virginia the 38th and final state needed to add the ERA to our Constitution. Steve Andersson (R) is a retired state representative from Illinois and was the lead co-sponsor of the resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and making Illinois the 37th state to ratify the ERA. Patricia Spearman (D) is a Nevada state senator who introduced the resolution to ratify the ERA in the Nevada State Senate after decades of inaction, helping to spur Virginia and Illinois to ratify the ‘ERA.