Stop Making Women’s Equality a Political Question Mark
This article was originally published on Women’s eNews.
On Jan. 27, 2022, standing before the White House in below freezing temperatures—just as the suffragists had done in 1917—Americans marked the two-year anniversary of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): “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 3 also states that it takes effect two years after ratification of the final state’s vote, making it enforceable 11 months ago. Article V of the Constitution prescribes the amending procedure, a two-step process, but stays silent on time limits. An amendment “shall be valid to all intents and purposes” when two-thirds of both houses of Congress pass it, followed by three-fourths (38 out of 50) of the state legislatures.
Done, and done.
On March 22, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress. As seasons have come and gone, and Equal Pay Day and Women’s History Month came to a close, we moved through April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month… July’s Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention… August’s Women’s Equality Day… October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month… and, just last week, United Nations Human Rights Day.
Maybe one day, we won’t need all these special monikers (and painful reminders of just how unequal women are) for these months of the year.
Every time we move closer to achieving full constitutional gender equality—which all other industrialized nations in the world recognize in their own constitutions—the American government moves the goal posts and contradicts itself. It appears over half our nation’s population continues to be embarrassingly ruled by just a handful of white men. It can all change with the stroke of one official’s pen—and there is precedent for that.
Congress passed the ERA 50 years ago, in 1972. And in January 2020, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed for full ratification. All requirements have been met for the ERA to be enshrined as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
However, publication has since been prevented because of a flawed Trump administration legal opinion issued just days before the convening of the Virginia legislature, in a deliberate attempt to thwart its imminent ratification.