September 24, 2022
Leader Charles Schumer
United States Senate
Dear Leader Schumer,
We write to urge you to schedule a vote on S.J. Res 1, the bill to remove the time limit from the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As you are aware, the resolution is cosponsored by more than the majority of the United States Senate, including the entire Democratic Caucus and Senators Murkowski and Collins. The House of Representatives voted to pass its companion bill, H.J. Res 17, on March 17, 2021, with bipartisan support. The fate of the ERA now lies in the hands of this Chamber.
With Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA on January 27, 2020, all requirements for it to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have been satisfied. However, the Archivist has yet to publish the ERA as part of the Constitution, citing the expiration of the time limit placed in the Amendment’s preamble. This, to us, is an unacceptable way to decide what should be in our supreme governing document.
The Senate has the opportunity to bring the country’s foundational governing document into the 21st century. On January 27, 2022, President Biden called on Congress to pass legislation affirming the ERA’s validity, which was the two-year anniversary of Virginia’s ratification of the ERA, and the date the ERA went into effect. The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s released a memo confirming that Congress can act to remove the time limit as well as any ambiguity around the validity of the Equal Rights Amendment’s status as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.
The simple principle of constitutional equality on the basis of sex is overwhelmingly popular with the American public. A poll conducted by Pew Research Center in the spring of 2020 found 78% support for the ERA being added to the Constitution. A separate poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in January of 2020 similarly found that three quarters of Americans support the ERA and, importantly, that 90% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans were in favor.
In addition to being popular, decisions made by the Supreme Court this term underscore the ERA’s modern relevance and potential significance. The ERA would serve as a new tool – for Congress, for federal agencies, and in the courts – to advance equality in the fields of workforce and pay, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and violence, reproductive rights, and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Recognition of the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution will confirm the rightful place of sex equality in all aspects of life and is fundamental to achieving equality in America. It has been nearly 100 years since this fight began to enshrine, into the Constitution, that equality of rights cannot be denied or abridged on account of sex. We urge the Senate to bring SJ Res 1/HJ Res 17 to the Senate floor for a vote and move our democracy forward.
June 24, 2022
June 24, 2022
Maryland’s Abortion Rights Coalition is planning three community gatherings in our state at locations in Frederick, Baltimore, and Annapolis. Another gathering might be planned for Silver Spring. These will take place between 5 -7 pm and will be a chance for women to gather to talk about what this will mean to them and their families. Please check back to this site for more information which we will post as it becomes available.
Coalition and community groups will have materials for their proposed next steps, and local activists will be able to lead the groups in chats. We will post contacts for each location as soon as they are confirmed.
May 15, 2022
Thirty Years of Abortion History in Maryland
In 1992, Maryland voters approved – by a 2-1 margin – a ballot question on abortion in our state. It read:
“Revises Maryland’s abortion law to prohibit state interference with woman’s abortion decision before fetus is viable, or, under certain conditions, at any time and to provide certain exceptions to the requirement that a physician notify an unmarried minor’s parent or guardian prior to minor’s abortion; repeals pre-abortion information requirements about abortion alternatives; repeals some, and clarifies other, provisions related to abortion referral; requires that abortions be performed by licensed physicians; provides good-faith immunity under certain conditions to physicians performing abortions; authorizes State to adopt abortion regulations; repeals certain penalty and disciplinary provisions related to the performance of abortions.”
In almost every way, this ballot question codified Roe v. Wade in our state, the exception being that it specified parental notification requirements, which Roe did not. But, in addition to the fact that attempts to repeal this ballot measure, known as Question 6 have failed, we are one of the few states in the country where third-trimester abortions are legal. And, our legislature in 2022 actually expanded this law to fund training for certain health care professionals, lifting the requirement that only licensed physicians could perform abortions.
The Maryland House passed language for a constitutional amendment here which would have added this right to abortion care to our state constitution. The session ended before the Maryland Senate could take up the amendment. However, the Abortion Care Access Act passed both chambers comfortably, and Gov. Hogan’s veto of the measure was easily overridden.
So, no problem – right?
Actually, it would be incredibly important not to rest comfortably here with all this legislative support for abortion care access in our state.
The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) approved in their preliminary internal process following their hearing of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A draft opinion written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito was recently leaked to the press confirming their intent to do this. The news sent shock waves throughout the country, although quite a few legal observers saw this coming with the conservative Supreme Court appointments by Trump rammed through the U.S. Senate. But usually, the elimination of a 50-year legal precedent of a right affecting half the U.S. population follows a more gradual process.
Not so, with this conservative Supreme Court majority. The Mississippi law at issue in Dobbs established a fetal viability standard of 15 weeks, which is medically impossible. Just upholding this law, and allowing a Texas law establishing viability of 8 weeks to stand would have most certainly started many states down that path. Almost weekly we read of other states that are passing similar restrictions.
Overturning Roe allows states to simply outlaw all abortions (the Dobbs law that the Court upholds in their decision allows no exception for rape or incest). Period. Thirteen states have what are known as “trigger laws” which provide that immediately upon the Court’s overturning of Roe abortion will be illegal in their state, and at least 10 states are currently in the process of passing similar laws.
If the U.S. House and Senate gain Republican majorities in 2022, both will most certainly pass laws outlawing abortion nationwide. This law would most certainly be vetoed by President Biden. But in two years, with the White House again up for grabs, if the Republicans can take over the Executive Branch of our government and repeat their Legislative Branch wins, Maryland’s law will disappear along with any other state laws that allow for abortion anywhere in the U.S. If you think this can’t happen, please don’t be too sure.
We are in a period in our history where representation of the population in the U.S. Senate, as well as the U.S. House, is wildly out of proportion. For example, California has a population of 39 million people. Wyoming has a population of 500,000. Both states each have two U.S. Senators. But consider this: California’s population totals the same number as we find in 22 other states. So California’s 39 million people have two senators and 22 other states in the country with a total population of 38 million have a total of 44 senators.
Additionally, four of the members of the Supreme Court were appointed by the Electoral College. That is to say, neither George Bush nor Donald Trump became president by winning the popular vote but were in fact elected by the Electoral College. During Bush’s second term he elevated John Roberts to be Chief Justice, and appointed Samuel Alito. Trump only served one term, but appointed Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett who were confirmed by the Senate.
Representatives of the Electoral College reflect the same imbalance as in the above example of California whose populations voted for Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, but were outvoted in the Electoral College by states whose populations elected George Bush and Donald Trump.
So, it won’t matter if Maryland voters codified Roe v. Wade and support a woman’s right to her choice of abortion care. There are clearly many things wrong with our so-called “representative democracy” at this point, but all we – and those who share our views and values – can do is vote.
The 2022 Election Cycle
Many political pundits and pollsters claim that a Republican take-over of Capitol Hill is likely. It’s also widely believed that the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe will not actually change very many voters from Republicans to Democrats. But what it will do, and what we have to do everything we can to bring about, is increase turnout. Given the Republicans’ relentless attack on voting rights across the country, that will not be even a little bit easy.
Stay tuned as if the reproductive health care of every person in the U.S. depended on it! It will!
May 3, 2022
The news last night, as Rachel Maddow so aptly described it, left us “gobsmacked.”.
Since it has never happened before (a leak from the SCOTUS of an entire draft of an opinion), we can probably assume that it was not by accident that the initial draft of the Mississippi abortion decision that will be handed down in June was leaked to a news organization. It signals that a majority of the justices have voted to completely overturn Roe v. Wade.
When a case is heard before the Court, an initial vote is taken by the justices who have heard the oral arguments, and the Chief Justice assigns a member of the court to draft an opinion reflecting the views of the majority of those justices. While there is admittedly some room for small changes, it is quite likely — especially given the conservative justices who now hold a majority on the Court – that the basic move to completely overturn Roe will hold.
Justice Alito wrote the document that was leaked, but words like “abortionist,” a favorite term of Justice Clarence Thomas, and phrases used by Justice Barrett in her arguments that women can just give birth and put a baby up for adoption are very much a part of the language and reasoning in the opinion. Most observers of the court over our country’s history believed that this kind of outcome was unlikely. The justices are usually much more cognizant of what is actually going on in the country and don’t overturn standing precedent that will alter the lives of over half the population.
Alito also wrote that abortion wasn’t the economic issue it was 29 years ago. Quite to the contrary, 70% of the population has never known an economic climate in which abortion and birth control weren’t legal.
Even more frightening is the fact that, given their willingness to overturn Roe, we cannot ignore that many decisions like gay marriage, and even birth control, are now in their crosshairs. In fact, since every prospective Republican-appointed justice in his or her confirmation hearing, has essentially lied about their attitude toward established precedent, we can be justifiably afraid. Almost every long-standing opinion of the Court opposed by conservatives could be up for review.
There is no shortage of news and opinion that has already been posted and will continue to come out about this, and we encourage everyone to become as familiar as they can with what is at stake. There are 13 states that have what are called “trigger laws” that simply say that the instant a decision overturning Roe is handed down by the Court, abortion will be illegal in that state. However at least 10 more are currently considering such laws – the number of states with “trigger laws” rises weekly.
While Maryland has codified Roe v. Wade in our state law and even strengthened our laws during the last legislative session, we cannot be numb to the conditions faced by women nationwide. And as safe as our codification of Roe may make us feel here, we need to be very aware that all it will take for that to change for us would be for the Republicans to win control of the House and the Senate in the fall elections and the White House in 2024. There’s no question that the instant that happens, abortion would no longer be legal anywhere in the U.S.
As Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) said on Maddow’s program last night, we have to turn out a vote like never before in the fall elections.
Please make a commitment now to help in any way you can with that effort.
September 23, 2022
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June 14, 2022
Urvashi Vaid was a champion of many social issues, and as her obituary in the Washington Post observed, she connected the dots on issues of gender, class, race, and sexuality long before the idea of intersectionality was a “thing.” Those of us in Maryland and the Washington DC area may have first heard of her when she served as the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force here in Washington from 1989 to1992.
She devoted much of her energy to AIDS funding and research and was known as the sort of person you always want leading your cause – able to see what was happening and what was needed. Her book, “Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation” (1995), pointing out that the gay rights movement should be working for fundamental change, not mere tolerance.
It’s hard to imagine, reading tributes that have been published since her death on May 14, that one person could have accomplished everything she did. Many have written about how her activism and example changed their lives.
She was a graduate of Vassar College, earning her bachelor’s degree in 1979, and earned her law degree from Northeastern University in 1983, She worked as an attorney at the ACLU. wrote, taught, and spoke out at marches and conferences. She is survived by her wife, Kate Clinton on Manhattan, two sisters, and extended family.
We are richer that she was one of our early leaders, and poorer now that she is gone.
April 8, 2022
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th. Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated dramatically since then, with the US aligned with Ukraine and our allies in NATO/Europe. Additionally, this action by Russia is overtly a war of aggression, not provocated in any way by Ukraine. It is in this context that something really unconscionable is happening to one of America’s best female athletes and the silence is – oddly — deafening.
Imagine, for a moment, that on February 17th, any one of the top men’s NBA stars had been detained in Russia. We have no doubt that Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durantt, or LeBron James’ names would have been somewhere in the headline of every major newspaper in the United States almost every day since they had been arrested. Imagine, additionally, that the charges being brought against any one of these starts were that they had drugs in their luggage which for any of them would have been really not believable.
One of the WNBA’s top star, Brittany Griner, was arrested in Russia and charged by their law enforcement with smuggling drugs – specifically vape cartridges containing hashish oil – into Russia.
There are a lot of questions, and few clear answers.
These are charges brought by Russia and it is unclear what proof has been provided. It should immediately be noted that Griner plays on a women’s basketball team in Russia during the WNBA off-season and has done this for a number of years. One could easily wonder if she had done this for years, wouldn’t she have been very familiar with Russia’s very strict drug laws? And for her to have taken such a chance – especially during February when the crisis between Russia and Ukraine had been building dramatically seems very odd indeed. Conviction in a Russian court on these charges could put Griner in prison there for up to 10 years. So for starters, the charges are very suspect.
It should be noted that none of this has fazed far too many racist and sexist American sports fans in ridiculing her, assuming her guilt for smuggling drugs with all the usual stereotypical slurs expected when whites are judging blacks.
Why was Griner in Russia in the first place? To women’s rights advocates here, the reason is nothing less than infuriating. The US public drastically undervalues professional women’s basketball. Per the WNBA’s current collective bargaining agreement, the average cash compensation for women players is around $130,000. Top players can earn in excess of $500,000. But by comparison, the amount even rookie men’s NBA players in the US can make is easily in the multi-million dollar range. Griner, and many other women’s basketball stars, can earn $1 million playing on a Russian team during the off-season for the WNBA. That disparity between what men and women earn in professional sports speaks to an attitude here that sports are for men. Basketball is no exception.
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Jemele Hill wrote, “Russia wouldn’t be a tantalizing option for America’s best women’s basketball players if they could earn more at home and be treated with the same professional respect as NBA players. It is damning that teams in oppressive countries such as Russia and China place a higher value on players such as Griner than the teams in her own country do.”
Brittany Griner is a lesbian, and a very vocal advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. Here in the U.S., she plays for the Phoenix Mercury WNBA team. She’s known for being very supportive of a youth center in Phoenix and has been the grand marshal of Phoenix’s Pride Parade. This also puts her on yet another list with the Russian government, which discriminates against LGBTQIA+ people in numerous ways, restricting public advocacy, and legislatively by passing what has been tagged as “gay propaganda” laws targeting minors.
Several people who have wanted to advocate more openly for Griner’s release have said privately that they have been discouraged from doing so, to attempt to keep her from becoming a political pawn in the rapidly escalating international tensions surrounding the Russian-Ukraine war. However, at the same time, we all know where a lack of focus on this case can also lead us.
U.S. officials have recently visited Griner in her Russian prison and reported that she is in good spirits and in a facility where she receives decent treatment. But her hearing or trial on these charges has been pushed to May 19, and the WNBA season here starts on May 6. This means Griner is out for the season, at best.
It’s important for women’s rights advocates and fans of women’s sports to follow this case closely and to speak out when they can for our government to continue to pressure the Russians for her release, sooner rather than later. It doesn’t seem very likely, however, that this can happen without a great deal of diplomacy and work internationally to bring her home.
Please watch for any opportunities to register your support e Russians to release Brittany Griner.
Progress has been made in this country with Biden administration officials pushing much more openly and vigorously for her release in recent weeks. The Russian government keeps postponing her “trial” date which must be very discouraging for all involved, since the charges and any evidence remain unknown.
It was recently reported that Griner was able to text and email with family and her WNBA family and friends here. More and more professional athletes, including male athletes, are speaking out for her release. Locally, the Washington Mystics have been quite outspoken, advocating for support for getting her home.
Public pressure must continue – please speak out on behalf of bringing Brittany home.
And, by the way, support women’s sports!
February 28, 2022
(The following information is excerpted from Jan’s Board Report in February. Many thanks to her for sharing it with us.)
To: National Board Members
From: Jan Erickson, Government Relations Director
Date: February 28, 2022
The Equal Rights Amendment is NOW in Effect!
Are you surprised? It turns out that the 1972 resolution proposing that the Equal Rights Amendment be considered and passed by 38 ratifying also stipulated that the amendment would become effective two-years after the date of ratification by the final needed state. Virginia – that final state — ratified the ERA on January 27th, 2020. However, there is a court case still pending that may determine whether the ERA can become part of the Constitution.
Advocates, organized by the ERA Coalition, held a zoom press conference on that date this year, with an impressive array of speakers from a half dozen women’s organizations, plus key lawmakers sponsoring legislation to remove the deadline from the 1972 ERA bill. Among the latter group were Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Sponsor of the deadline removal bill in the Senate (S.J. Res. 1), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), House sponsor of the deadline removal bill (H.J. Res. 17 which passed the House in March 2021, 222- 204) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), longtime leader in the effort to pass the ERA. Also, former Virginia Solicitor General Michelle Kallen who wrote the lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Virginia, Illinois and Nevada. Linda Coberly, chair of the ERA Coalition Task Force, gave a concise summary of where things stand with the three A.G.’s lawsuit, currently before the D.C. District appellate court. Former NOW president Ellie Smeal, currently president and CEO of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and NOW president Christian F. Nunes also spoke.
The press conference was followed by a breezy rally near the White House, with additional speakers, and concluded with a march to the Department of Justice to deliver more than 60,000 signatures on a petition urging the Department of Justice to take action to support the Equal Rights Amendment’s inclusion in the U.S. Constitution.
(From the ERA Coalition Report/Update March 5, 2022)
The Equal Rights Amendment is valid as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The Equal Rights Amendment has satisfied all requirements set forth in Article V of the Constitution to be added as the 28th Amendment. The ERA was passed through Congress with well over the required 2/3 majority vote and sent to the states in 1972. On January 27, 2020, Virginia voted to become the 38th and last needed- state to meet the 3/4 state ratification requirement. According to Section 3 of the Equal Rights Amendment, which stipulates a two-year waiting period from the date of ratification, the ERA is now officially in effect.
Enforcing the Equal Rights Amendment
The 28th Amendment will immediately be used to:
Continued Clarification Efforts
Although the efforts to clarify the 28th Amendment’s validity are not necessary, they are being pursued to remove any ambiguity as to the status of its ratification.
Concerns about the Amendment’s ratification are being raised because of the 7-year time limit in its preamble and the fact that 5 states have attempted to rescind their prior ratifications. As a result of an OLC memo issued under the previous Trump Administration in anticipation of Virginia’s ratification, the Amendment has yet to be published by the Archivist.
Advocates will continue to pursue the following campaigns:
ERA Coalition – 1 Thomas Circle, Suite 700 ● Washington, DC 20005 ● 202-459-9939 ● www.eracoalition.org
The Equal Rights Amendment deadline removal bill, H.J. Res. 17, passed the House on March 17 (222-204) and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. It could be voted on at any time. However, there is the problem with the filibuster and steadfast Republican opposition. While it is likely that all 50 Democrats would vote for the legislation, plus the two Republicans that have signed on (Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Susan Collins), we would still need eight more Republicans to overcome a threatened filibuster.
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who is the lead sponsor of S. J. Res. 1, identical to the House version, has advised grassroots activists that if they recruit any co-sponsors, they must match a Democrat with a Republican co-sponsor. Currently, there are only four co-sponsors, in addition to Murkowski and Collins, Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, and Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey. Without the 60 votes necessary, the ERA deadline removal legislation will languish and perhaps die at the end of the 117th Congress – as happened in the 116th Congress. Should a miracle occur and the filibuster disappears, the bill could be passed very quickly with all Democrats and the two Republicans voting.
On the more hopeful news front, a letter signed by member organizations of the ERA Coalition, Including NOW, asks Attorney General Merrick Garland to withdraw a memorandum that was issued by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Department of Justice during the Trump administration. The memorandum concluded that the deadline had expired and that the Equal Rights Amendment was no longer pending before the states. Withdrawal of that memorandum could help pave the way for the eventual enshrinement of the ERA in the U.S. Constitution. The letter to Attorney General Garland is attached here, and National NOW is already a signer.
Thanks to Jan Erickson, Director of Government Relations, National NOW.
January 29, 2022