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What Is the Equal Rights Amendment? (ERA) 

To put it simply, the goal of the ERA is to truly outlaw discrimination and write gender equality into the United States Constitution. In its entirety, the amendment reads:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. 

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

History

While women have been fighting for equal rights for longer than we can imagine, the fight for the ERA got its start in 1848 at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. The women’s movement has made amazing strides towards equality such as getting the right to vote, passing Title IX for equality in schools, and leading the fight against sexual violence and sexism. However, even today inequality continues to be an obstacle for women everywhere. The ERA would do much to eradicate those continuing obstacles of equality.

While winning the right to vote in 1920 was a huge victory, members of the women’s movement knew that the work was not done. Alice Paul believed that an Equal Rights Amendment was required in order to ensure that all rights would be protected. In 1923 in Seneca Falls, Paul introduced her constitutional amendment which read: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” After being reworded and reintroduced, the amendment passed in the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives on March 22, 1972. In order for an amendment to take effect after passage in the House and Senate, three-fourths (38) of the states must ratify it. Since 1972, 35 states have ratified the ERA, so we have three to go.

The 15 states that have not yet ratified the Equal Rights Amendment are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. If the House and Senate decide to allow the so-called “three state strategy” to move forward, we would only need to convince three of those states to ratify the ERA, bringing our total to 38. The other option is the “start-over strategy” whereby 38 states would need to (re)ratify the amendment. Both strategies are discussed in detail below.

For a full timeline on the Equal Rights Amendment, and NOW’s involvement over the decades, click here.

 

Do We Really Need the Equal Rights Amendment?

We absolutely need the ERA today. Even in this day and age, women do not receive equal pay.  There are constant attacks on reproductive rights. There is still a constant threat of sexual violence (and victim blaming ideologies). And the U.S. Supreme Court apparently does not value women’s reproductive health choices and safety. Unfortunately, we have not achieved equality in this country, and at the very least, we need constitutional to explicitly prohibit sexism in the courtroom, workplace, and healthcare.

The dream of equality is within our reach as long as we continue to fight for the rights of women.   To truly fight for equality means recognizing where we fall short, and taking the steps to fix those problems.

 

The Three-State Strategy

To understand the three-state strategy, it is helpful to first understand the basic tenets of the argument.

  1. The ratification process of the Equal Rights Amendment, which began in 1972, might remain open because the time limit is in the resolving clause rather than in the text of the amendment.
  2. Ratification of the ERA over three or more decades can be considered sufficiently contemporaneous, since the 203-year time period for the 27th Amendment was considered so.
  3. The existing ratifications by 35 states remain viable if three more states vote to ratify the ERA.
  4. Congress retains authority to declare the ERA ratification process valid after the 38th state ratifies.

 

When Congress passed the 27th Amendment (varying the compensation for the services of the U.S. Senators and Representatives) after a ratification period of 203 years, the precedent was set against any objection to passing another amendment over time, including the ERA, which has been waiting for only three decades.

 

Want to Get involved?

There are plenty of ways to get involved in the process of making sure that equality is written into our Constitution. First, check this map to see if your state has already ratified the ERA. If you haven’t, call your Senators and U.S. Representative to encourage the to vote to ratify the ERA.

Check out these links for more information and other organizations doing great work to get the ERA passed: