It used to be called the Equal Rights Amendment. Now some are calling it the Women’s Equality Amendment. First passed by Congress in 1971, it fell 3 states short of being added to the US Constitution. Thirty five state legislatures passed it, including Washington State in 1973. Three quarters of the states or 38 are needed for passage.
The 15 states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Notice the association of states not passing the amendment with our current list of Presidential candidates. John McCain – Arizona, Barack Obama – Illinois and Hillary Clinton who lived in Arkansas when her husband was Governor.
To date some 23 states have added equal rights amendments to their state constitutions. Washington State voters did so in 1972.
Action to pass the equal right amendment is proceeding on several fronts. The Equal Rights Amendment was re-introduced last year in Congress as the Women’s Equality Amendment. The proposed Constitutional Amendment “prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The Women’s Equality Amendment has unfortunately languished in committee. It’s been 37 years and its time for the Democrats to use their majority to move the issue forward. As Eleanor Smeal noted in a talk on public radio “We’re the only industrial country in the world right now that has not ratified the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Sex Discrimination.”
In the US Senate the Women’s Equality Amendment is S.J. Res 10 and has 24 sponsors including Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barrack Obama, one of whom will be the Democratic nominee for President. The Republican’s most likely nominee, Senator John McCain is not listed as a sponsor.
Washington State Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are also sponsors.
The House bill, H.J. Res 40 has 202 sponsors. All of Washington’s Democratic Congressmen (Brian Baird, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee and Norman Dicks) are sponsors of the House Resolution but Washington State Republicans Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rogers and Doc Hastings are absent as sponsors. If Dave Reichert is defeated by Democrat Darcy Burner this November you will see another co-sponsor for sure.
As EqualRightsAmendment.org notes, the issue is still very much alive even without further Congressional action:
“A three-state strategy for ERA ratification was developed after 1992, when the so-called Madison Amendment to the Constitution was ratified 203 years after its passage by Congress. Acceptance of this ratification period as “sufficiently contemporaneous” led ERA supporters to argue that Congress has the power to
maintain the legal viability of the ERA’s existing 35 state ratifications. The ERA’s time limit is open to change, as Congress demonstrated in extending its original deadline. Precedent holds that rescission votes are not valid. Therefore, Congress could accept state ratifications that occur after 1982 and keep the existing 35 ratifications alive.”
It seems appropriate and timely to ask McCain, Clinton and Obama to use their campaigns to bring this issue to the forefront again and urge action by both the remaining states and Congress to pass the Women’s Equality Amendment. Let’s see some leadership in action. Let’s move America forward.
If McCain isn’t willing to support the amendment, the public has a right to know that. To date he appears not to, by his not signing on as a co-sponsor of S.J. Res 10. But if he is for it, he should let the public know.