ERA amendment text
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Just one more state is needed to reach the magic number (3/4 of states) in order for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to become an amendment. Currently, thirty seven states have ratified the ERA. While women have made progress, we still do not have gender equality guaranteed in the Constitution. Virginia could become the tipping point.
Interestingly, many of the states that have refused to ratify the amendment fall below the Mason Dixon Line, which provided a symbolic border in the 19th century separating the North from the South. Does the reluctance about ERA stem from a lingering residue of who is worthy of equality?
According to rankings published by the World Economic Forum, the United States is 49th out of 144 countries with regard to opportunities and access for women, lagging behind countries such as Cuba, Botswana, Bangladesh, and Peru. That is not exactly a ranking to brag about. While the gender pay gap is a worldwide problem, some US women have it worse than others. Women in the South, which correlates to states that have not ratified ERA, suffer some of the harshest workforce inequalities; they are paid less and treated worse.
Virginia earns a C- in those rankings, but now has an opportunity to raise its grade by becoming the 38th state to ratify the amendment. Most recently Nevada (2017) and Illinois (2018) ratified. We are trying to gather signatures on a petition to be submitted while the VA General Assembly is in session (9 Jan to 22 Feb 2019). Over 15,000 have indicated their support, but we’re aiming for 20,000.
Generations of suffragettes marched, lobbied, were jailed, and force fed (in nearby Lorton, VA) in order to gain the vote for women, which many Americans considered a radical act. The 19th Amendment finally passed in 1920 granting US women the right to vote. Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. In the ensuring years, only 37 states have ratified. As the centennial of women’s voting privilege approaches, it’s time to recognize that supporting gender equality goes beyond politics; inequality has economic implications.
What kind of country do we want to raise our children in? In these challenging times, amending the U.S. Constitution to ensure gender equality would provide a bright spot. What do all of us really want? A country that supports the equal rights of all people, including equal pay and equal protection under the law.
The time to act is now. Make 2019 the year that the Equal Rights Amendment becomes law. Ensure that men and women have equal rights under the Constitution and protection from discrimination on the basis of gender.
You don’t need to be a Virginia resident to show your support. Please spread the word and sign the petition at: varatifyera.org
© Joan S Grey, 8 JAN 19
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