Letter from Dr. Deborah Ann Turner Board President, LWVUS March 1, 2021
As we turn the calendar to March, I find myself reflecting on the role of women in our democracy from the beginning.
Despite Abigail Adams’s famous advice to her husband to “remember the ladies,” he and the rest of the founders left any mention of women out of the founding documents. As a result, the U.S. Constitution does not mention women at all. This is ironic, to say the least, in our current day and age, when women fill the halls of Congress and hold leadership positions, from Speaker of the House to Vice President of the United States.
* It’s been 101 years since the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.
* It’s been 98 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress.
* It’s been 49 years since the ERA was passed by Congress.
* And it’s been one year since the ERA was ratified by the required 38 states.
But the Equal Rights Amendment still needs to be added to the Constitution. This year, after a century in the making, the ERA is closer than ever to taking its rightful place in the supreme law of our nation. What stands in our way is an arbitrary, ambiguous and legally questionable deadline for enactment imposed on the ERA at its passage.
Learn more about the history of the ERA and why we need it on our blog.
In a nutshell, the Equal Rights Amendment states that “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 is important to recognize that, while women’s rights are inextricably linked to the ERA, inequality hurts everyone. The ERA represents a promise that our government will not pass laws or take any official action that discriminates against its people on the basis of sex.
We need the ERA because we need equal pay, fair healthcare coverage that addresses maternal mortality and coverage for caregivers, protection against gender testing laws, prevention of discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, protections for men in occupations and roles traditionally held by women, and protection against rollbacks in women’s rights.
We need the ERA because, just as many women of color faced added barriers for voting until the Voting Rights Act, today women of color are more likely to be under-paid and discriminated against than white women. The ERA would make the Constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of race AND sex.
But more than that, we need the ERA because our nation must close the book once and for all on the idea that equality of rights is a debatable issue. Because a constitution is not only a set of legal protections: it is a proclamation of a nation’s values. And little girls should not grow up in a country where they question their rights simply because they are a girl.
This Women’s History Month, tell Congress to remove the ERA ratification deadline, and let’s establish gender equality in our Constitution, once and for all.