Women can vote, so why do they need the Equal Rights Amendment? 

What is The 19th Amendment? 

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified. The 19th amendment granted women the right to vote, the specific language is as follows:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

“U.S. Constitution – Nineteenth Amendment – Congress.” Constitution Annotated, https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-19/.

What is The Equal Rights Amendment?

The ERA’s official website, equalrightsamendment.org, establishes that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

“The Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.” 

Equal Rights Amendment, https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/

This Amendment was introduced in 1923 by Alice Paul, three years after the Nineteenth Amendment was Ratified. Alice Paul and many other women who fought for the right to vote believed that the Equal Rights Amendment was a necessary addition and worked for the rest of their lives to see it ratified.

The Alice Paul Institute: “The Equal Rights Amendment: Unfinished Business for the Constitution” is a 17-minute educational video that traces the changing status of women’s rights in the United States from the writing of the Constitution to the 72-year struggle for woman suffrage to the ongoing campaign for the ERA. This is a 5-minute excerpt.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?

The right to vote is the first, and only, right that the U.S. Constitution specifically declares equality for both men and women. This means that all other aspects of the Constitution are up for interpretation when it comes to gender equality. This leaves women’s constitutional rights subject to the political pendulum, swinging between waves of political progress and regression. Alice Paul saw this threat to women’s rights and argued that,

“We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”

-Alice Paul
“Why We Need the Equal Rights Amendment.”
Equal Rights Amendment, https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/why

The ERA’s Why webpage argues that,

“The Equal Rights Amendment is needed to constitutionally affirm that the bedrock principles of our democracy — “all men are created equal,” “liberty and justice for all,” “equal justice under law,” “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” — apply equally to women and men in the United States of America.”

“Why We Need the Equal Rights Amendment.” Equal Rights Amendment, https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/why.

These clarifications are different from the Nineteenth Amendment, which gives women the right to vote rather than equal protection from discrimination. In addition, the proposed role of the Equal Rights Amendment is not satisfied by the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because the Equal protection cause was,

“first applied to sex discrimination only in 1971, and it has never been interpreted to grant equal rights on the basis of sex in the uniform and inclusive way that the ERA would.”

“Why We Need the Equal Rights Amendment.” Equal Rights Amendment, https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/why

The ERA’s official website argues that the ERA would also “serve to provide a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination” as well keep many American women and men from having to wage long legal battles in efforts to prove that their specific rights are equal in their given situation, regardless of their sex.

The Battle to ratify the ERA:

Although Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, the ERA was not passed by congress until 1972. The legislation passed in 1972, but it was given a seven-year deadline for ratification by the individual states. When the original deadline wasn’t met, advocates for the ERA managed to convince Congress to extend the deadline to 1982. Unfortunately, ant-ERA activists and groups successfully mobilized against the ERA and managed to keep the ERA from meeting its second deadline as well. This was a huge setback as the ERA only needed three more states to satisfy the thirty-eight states needed for ratification.

Alice Paul from the Alice Paul Institute
https://www.alicepaul.org/about-alice-paul/

Controversy over the ERA’s Ratification: 

Since this time, the Equal Rights Amendment has been able to meet the requirement of thirty-eight states and many argue that it should now be ratified, regardless of the time limit. Recently, in 2017, Nevada became the first state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in 45 years, followed by Illinois passing the ERA in 2018 and Virginia passing the ERA in 2020. The next step in the ratification would be for Congress to eliminate the original deadline and a joint resolution introduced in Congress has the power to do this. This resolution will eliminate one of the current procedural barriers preventing the ERA from being seen as legitimate and it is as follows:

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92nd Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.”

“Era Explainer.” Equality Now, 31 Oct. 2021, https://www.equalitynow.org/era_explainer/

Many argue that the ERA can never be fully recognized because it did not meet or extend its second deadline. Also, because of the backlash it faced and its negative historical connotations, some who may ideologically align with the ERA look to propose a new amendment or find an entirely new route to ensure constitutional gender equality. It does appear that the Equal Rights Amendment may finally be actualized under the Biden Administration given the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion issued on January 26th, as well as Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jackie Speier’s press conference responses that the ERA has already been ratified as should be recognized.

Personally, I agree that the Equal Right Amendment has met all of its requirements and should now be fully recognized by congress. I hope that in the coming years, the Equal Rights Amendment will serve as a protection for all US Citizens on the basis of gender and allow gender politics to become as progressive and protective as that of our current culture and future generations.

If you’d like to help the Equal Rights Amendment finally come into effect please consider reaching out to your representatives or spreading awareness about the ERA on social media. The Equal Rights Amendment’s official toolkit, linked below, provides free, pre-made infographics and posts for anyone to use.

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