For Legislators and Interested Others, here are answers to most of your questions about ERA

The body of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) reads: “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 not about abortion or same-sex anything. The Equal Rights Amendment purely reflects the fundamental moral American value of equality for all regardless of gender.

National and Congressional legal teams, working with Equal Rights Alliance in Florida, have determined that effects of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would not upset the economic, legal, religious, moral or social balance of the nation. It would enhance human relations, improve the economy and simplify the work of the courts.

Generally, the ERA:

  • Is beneficial to the public and the economy, and was never declared “dead” (See 1921 Supreme Court decisions Dillon v. Gloss and its 1939 decision in Coleman v. Miller, and its Oct. 4, 1982 refusal to declare ERA dead). Many substantive legal arguments support opinion that ERA continues to be “viable and contemporaneous”. The ERA has already been vetted and voted for in nearly 75% of the United States. Several states, including Florida and Arkansas, have filed ratification bills. It is the responsibility of the legislatures to vote only on the words of the ERA as voted out by Congress in 1972.
  • Is not a special entitlement, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is not scandalous and outweighs any “unintended consequences” imagined by any special interest group. The fact is that the ERA is Win-Win for all.
  • Is still “viable and contemporaneous” based on past precedent and lack of rescissions.
  • Embodies the only secure guarantee of equal treatment for both sexes. Neither the 14th Amendment nor current laws reliably ensure that basic American precept.
  • Is a bill whose wording has never and can never be amended or changed in any way since Congress sent it to the states for ratification by their legislatures. You would co-sponsor and vote for the same wording that you see now at the top of this page.
  • Acts only to buttress laws, ordinances, statutes, and amendments in state constitutions that are overlooked, ignored, or misinterpreted now (Equal Pay Act, 1963). ERA does not make new law.
  • Costs the state of Virginia nothing, and would give Virginia an image of a progressive state, with justice for all, and full of business opportunities.
  • Positively impacts Virginia’s bottom line as tax revenues should increase while public assistance and court costs decrease, while requiring no funding—one of the few such bills.
  • Does not affect reasonable distinctions related to sex based or sensible concerns for hygiene, safety, or modesty in schools, prisons, hospitals, or private clubs, etc.
  • Despite special interest nay sayers, the ERA does not regulate: (1) same-sex anything, (2) abortion, nor payment for such services, (3) women in combat or in the draft, (4) unisex restrooms, (5) Social Security payments, nor (6) men’s sports. Despite claims by special interest groups, ERA language is purely neutral on any intent other than equality for all regardless of gender. The 22 states, which have existing ERA language in their constitutions, have not seen an explosion of abortions. In fact, these states report statistically fewer abortion procedures than those states that do not have a state ERA.
  • Has been codified in every other nation’s charter or constitution since WWII (Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). If our brave military women serve, they deserve to be named in the U.S. Constitution, as are men. Both men and women are deprived of sex discrimination protections in the U.S. Constitution. It is the nation’s contract with its people. If you are not named, you are not a party to that contract. Until ERA is passed, the only incontestable right of American women is the right to vote. They had to get that for themselves over decades.
  • Provides relief to women and men who have to pay to petition courts over and over again for rights to which the other sex is already entitled. No one should have to go to court repeatedly to claim what should be their birth right. Taxpayers and the courts are relieved of the burden of large numbers of court cases and repeated costs.
  • Promotes court reviews of sex discrimination cases using Strict Scrutiny, just as is now the case with race, religion and national origin, rather than the current Intermediate Scrutiny. This enhances the courts’ effectiveness as well as the dispensation of justice. Both sexes would be treated equally, as fully responsible human beings with self-determination.
  • Fulfills wishes by the courts for clarification and direction by a reliable basis of review for sex discrimination cases. (Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Ginsburg)
  • Has a markedly positive sociological effect wherever sexual equality is the standard. Studies show that: (1) rates of emotional depression decline, (2) divorce rates decline, families stabilize, (3) marital harmony increases, (4) communities gain cohesiveness, (5) economies grow (UN; Norway/ Sweden report).
  • ERA would equalize justice for both genders. Although females experience sex discrimination/harassment more often and more egregiously, men experience it, too. Men filed more cases with EEOC last year. Frequent unjust child custody and support awards before traditional courts, consensual teen sex adjudications, male name changing, the draft, child immigration and other inequities point to a male’s need for an ERA, too. As the ERA benefits men and women, it also promotes Family Values.
  • Had strong support in a public survey taken in the United States by the Opinion Research Corporation for the ERA Campaign Network. It found that 96% of all respondents said everyone should have equal rights in this country.

**And, unlike other bills to cross your desk, NO FUNDING IS REQUIRED for ratifying ERA. Needed more than ever, ERA just makes good sense, don’t you think?

Wouldn’t it be wise to embrace the benefits of a ratified Equal Rights Amendment, and cease holding nearly three-quarters of the States hostage? The previous thirty- five state ratifications are still constitutionally viable. In fact, the State of North Dakota has recently RE-ratified to show determination for equality. By ratifying the ERA, you could make history and gain the applause of voters. Besides, ISN’T IT PATRIOTIC TO VOTE FOR EQUALITY? ISN’T EQUALITY A DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLE?

Discrimination Against Women

Examples of unequal treatment of women

All American women do not now enjoy:

  • Full rights to make important decisions about their own lives
  • Fair Social Security pay outs
  • Equal representation in elected office (e.g., U.S. Senate: 84 men to 16 women)
  • Medical insurance coverage for reproductive healthcare
  • Fair salaries and career advancement opportunities
  • Necessary protection from violence
  • Equal treatment by America’s institutions of government, banking, insurance, education, medicine, commerce, religion, military, and the law.

Why this continues today, and why the ERA is still needed

The right to vote is the only constitutionally guaranteed right that American women have. All the rights that women have won through state and federal legislation can be lost. Legislation can be amended, repealed, inconsistently enforced, or ignored.

Continual Congressional battles over Title IX and the Violence against Women Act, and the failure of the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, otherwise known as the international women’s rights law) demonstrate that American women are still not seen as equal under the law.

The Supreme Court did not use the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) to strike down laws that treated men and women differently until 1971. The Court does not hold cases of sex discrimination to the same high level of “strict scrutiny”, or importance, as race, religion, or national origin. If an ERA were added to the U.S. Constitution, sex discrimination would likely also be accorded strict scrutiny by the courts. Thus, women are forced to persuade the courts, on a case by case basis, that statutory sex distinctions are discriminatory, and that discrimination does matter. A more conservative Supreme Court could overrule even these interpretations or refuse to apply them consistently to new cases. Including sex discrimination in the Constitution of the United States of America is a very basic Human Rights Issue. Adding the ERA to the Constitution would be a clarion statement of bedrock equality, affirming that women as well as men must be accorded all of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Continuing to allow more than half the American population to be left out of the Constitution goes against America’s fundamental democratic principles, and needs to be corrected.

What the Equal Rights Amendment can do

  • Grant legal equal rights to the sexes.
  • Declare unconstitutional pervasive sex discrimination in insurance, business contracts, housing, pensions, estate taxes, Social Security payments, credit, and so forth.
  • Guarantee females admission to publicly supported schools and state colleges, universities and vocational schools using the same standards as males.
  • Require equal employment opportunity for women in federal, state and local governments.
  • Assure that women in the military be accorded the same benefits as men as well as full equal treatment.
  • Require the same criminal penalties for men and women and the same rehabilitation opportunities.
  • Enhance the dignity of all humankind by proclaiming equality of women and men under the law in perpetuity.
  • Propel society forward by unleashing the talent and energies of ALL people, working together to forge a civilized society.

In summary, the Equal Rights Amendment would declare sex discrimination illegal by the government wherever it is now practiced in this country. Two years would be permitted for correction. Citizens would then be able to follow their chosen life’s trajectories according to their needs, desires, and capabilities, and not according simply to their sex. Finally.

Males Also Benefit From An ERA

Granted, it’s hard for some to admit that discrimination exists and often goes unchallenged. Males experience sex discrimination, too, — often goes unrecognized — though women experience it more egregiously and more routinely. Not everything would be “fixed” right away by the ERA. Equal treatment by the courts and in the military and fair equal wages are among the most notable. Defense against sex discrimination needs to be written in the US Constitution for both sexes because NOTHING else guarantees it. Laws and the 14th Amendment—each has quirks making them unreliable as guarantees.

Child custody: often traditionally goes to the mother in a divorce case just because she is typically assigned to be the better parent for a child, whether that is the case or not.
Males often have little or no choice in becoming a father if they rely on a woman’s word that she is “on the Pill”.

Women’s molestation of boys is sometimes not punished by the courts as rigorously. (e.g., Debra LeFevre case)

When a crime is described, the unknown perpetrator is always called ‘he’.

Working families’ accrual from their combined wages averages $4205 less per year than if both partners were paid equally and fairly for the work they do.

Men cannot automatically take the woman’s last name in marriage.

Children are considered citizens of the Mother’s country only.

American males filed an increased number of sex discrimination charges last year! Justice would be better served with an ERA to provide a higher level of review by the courts. As they say, strict scrutiny. Men as well as women who bring sex discrimination cases are currently deprived of court review by Strict Scrutiny since ERA guidelines are not yet in place in the Constitution. Intermediate Scrutiny is usually applied. This means that these plaintiffs’ cases have statistically only a 47% chance of positive outcome. Winning under Strict Scrutiny has a statistical chance of 73%. (Rutgers Law Journal, April 2006).
According to one large recent study, wherever equality of the sexes is the standard, divorce rates decline. (It may be that equality could bring about improved mutual understandings of the other sex, and more healthy negotiation of issues in the family and workplace.) Another study found that marital relations improve.

Beliefs about men and their roles will not be directly rectified by ERA, but may change as a result: “Real men deny their feelings, cannot cry. Masculinity has to be proven constantly. Men’s jobs are more important to them than anything else. Men are identified by their jobs. Real men don’t get sick. Men are tough and can take it. Men must be perfect in bed. Old: Providing for his family is completely the man’s responsibility. Men must be all things to all people. Men must be the Rescuer; women the Victim. Strong, strong: Men must act the Predator role no matter what; not even Family matters. Men must meet society’s demand to be: the capable provider, aggressive competitor, the wise father, the solver of all problems, the sensitive and gentle lover, the fearless protector, the cool and controlled one under pressure (this is in 1978). Sounds unrealistically demanding to us. From Goldberg’s, The Hazards of Being Male.

You may be thinking, we already have laws against sex discrimination, and the 14th Amendment. THEY DON’T WORK RELIABLY. Unfortunately, none of them defend reliably against sex discrimination. Laws can be ignored, distorted, overturned, or made worse. Women, on average of all states, earn only 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. In Virginia, women make 68 cents according to an AAUW study. Working families lose an average of $4205 per year for that reason. Why aren’t men marching in the street about that? The 14th Amendment focuses solely on racial discrimination, speaks only of males’ rights, and does not address women’s problems because it was not intended to do so. The only incontestable right in the US Constitution for women is what they went and got for themselves 50 years after all men had it – the right to vote, in 1920.

Bottom line is that there is much historical precedent of women being discriminated against. The first ever case of sex discrimination that found it illegal was only in 1971. Before that it had no legal standing. History does influence the court’s judgments. Until there is an ERA, there is NO guarantee of equality of the sexes. The Constitution is a contract with the people that is still missing this piece. And everyone knows that if you don’t have a contract, you don’t have a substantive legal claim. Both sexes should get Honorable Mention in the Constitution representing citizens’ contract with America.
Who could be against Equality for ALL in America?

Who The Revolution Left Behind

From: On The Issues Magazine – Winter 2009

I get a lot of questions and statements when I explain that I am campaigning for the Virginia ratification of the ERA, one of several states where campaigns are active. “What’’s the ERA? Why do we need that? I thought that passed years ago.”

From men, I often hear: “The ERA is dead! You’re already covered by a lot of laws, so you don’t need it.” But, sometimes, if it’s a woman making the comment, I am screaming inside.

The ERA is the Equal Rights Amendment which passed the U.S. House and Senate in 1972. It simply says: “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Thirty-five states ratified it before it stalled in the 1980s. We now need three states to ratify before it is written into the Constitution. There is no actual time period in the Constitution by which an amendment must be passed by the required number of states. A national strategy in support of the Equal Rights Amendment is attempting to gather ratification in the final three states, based on the Constitutional process for passing the ERA.

Fifteen states did not ratify in the 1980s: Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Notice that both presidential candidates came from unratified states, and that Nevada has legalized prostitution, but has not ratified the ERA. Women who lived in ratifying states in the 1980s, assume the other states did the same and are astounded to learn that 15 states hold the others hostage.

Why the ERA? Some people say that the 14th Amendment covers everyone, but it specifically refers to “male citizens” in one section, and the Supreme Court does not always accept the 14th Amendment as covering women. Most young women have grown up living under hard-won laws like Title IX, banning sex discrimination in education and Title VII, prohibiting job discrimination, so some refer to them as “growing up with fluoride in the water.” These protections have always been there for them, and they do not know feminist history. One 30-something told me that the ERA was an “old woman’s cause” and we had too many problems to work on to worry about that. What she did not realize is that if we had the ERA, many of those problems would disappear since they would be covered by the amendment. All the laws that cover women can disappear tomorrow if the Congress or the president passes new laws to nullify them or writes an executive order to undermine them. Women need this amendment as protection for all those hard- won laws or to establish more rights in court. Title IX was struck down by the Supreme Court, and it took four years for Congress to rewrite and pass it again. The new Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act can be rescinded at any time without the protection of an Equal Rights Amendment, and equal enforcement in every state has yet to be demonstrated.

Five years ago, I realized that the Equal Rights Amendment had just disappeared, and everyone was working on issues created when it failed in the past. I knew someone had to get busy, so I was it.

“Why do this?” I want to be written into the Constitution before I die. I want my full rights as a citizen. Not a half-citizen or three-quarters of a citizen, but a 100-percent citizen.

I find ignorance to be what I have to fight. Whether it’s young women who do not know history, older women who think the ERA passed or men who do not know how important the ERA is for the women in their families, the job is to educate and form coalitions of organizations to work for passage. Since the 1980s, we women have done a poor job of telling our story, and informing younger women and men about the need to progress on our rights. Now is the time to rectify that.