Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
At the beginning of the next session Senator Ted Kennedy will again introduce a 'start over' Equal Rights Amendment. He has reintroduced the bill every year. We can make it unnecessary for him to do it sooner than most Americans could believe. While there are many points on which I have disagreed with Ted Kennedy on this we are of one mind.
Now that the 109th Congress is fated to fade into a distant nightmare and the 110th Congress will bring to Washington more women than have ever before served it is time to get serious about ratifying the ERA. Make no mistake, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been more essential not just to women but to the entire fabric of our society. Now, we all know the value of freedom because we came so close to losing it.
You may think that women and men are equal under the law. You are wrong; although the American people from both genders, every age group and part of the country overwhelmingly believe in equal rights for male and female citizens, still, the Constitution, the highest law in the land, contains no wording that extends fully equal citizens' rights to women. It should never have been necessary to specify that women are members of humanity, but it is because all past generations have failed to do the right thing. They left that to us.
Equality is nothing more than a provisional privilege conferred by legislation until the ERA, amending to the existing Constitution, is ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures.
A newly passed ERA was sent to the states from Congress in 1972 and everyone believed that it would be ratified by the required 38 states quickly but instead it became a political football linked to issues that have nothing to do with simple equality. Women like Phyllis Schlafly have made careers of opposing the equality that was promised to all Americans in 1776.
What happened instead was a series of laws that assert 'fairness', many passed on the state level. Women had struggled just to get the vote for 150 years and they compromised. That was a mistake.
Today women hang their trust that their rights are protected on privileges conferred by legislators – but each of these laws can be overturned through the actions of the Supreme Court; Without the clear and specific backing of the federal Constitution all laws improving women's rights and opportunities can be overturned. If you ever doubted the need for ratification the crew just booted from Congress should have demonstrated to you just how fragile these rights can be.
Consider the present make up of the Supreme Court; taking over the institutions of America was far too easy for the Bush NeoCon Administration. Who is to say it cannot happen again? We need to take action now to ensure the rights of women.
A few women continued to work tirelessly.
In 2000 a retired research psychologist in Central New Jersey, was asked to speak to a group of Girl Scouts on equality for women. Jennifer Macleod, the speaker, was still active in the local chapter of NOW she cofounded in 1969. She spoke to the troop and, enthused and ready for more, the girls asked for a project they could undertake related to the ERA. Jennifer, an expert in survey research, made up a short questionnaire and showed the girls how polling must be done to accurately reflect the opinions of those polled.
There were three questions. Jennifer expected the Girl Scouts, polling their classmates, teachers, and parents, to find a range of opinions on equality for women. Instead, they found close to unanimous support for the idea that all of us are born possessed of inherent rights, as recognized in the Declaration of Independence.
Buoyed by this knowledge, Jennifer and a group of associates raised the money to have a national survey professionally conducted in July 2001, among American adults all across the country. The findings? 96% answered "yes" to the question, "In your opinion, should male and female citizens of the United States have equal rights?"; 88% answered "yes" to the question, "In your opinion, should the Constitution make it clear that male and female citizens are supposed to have equal rights?"; and, demonstrating a public lack of knowledge, 72% mistakenly answered "yes" to the question, "As far as you know, does the Constitution of the United States make it clear that male and female citizens are supposed to have equal rights?" The results were similar for both men and women, and in all age groups, educational levels, regions of the country, racial categories, and household composition.
The overwhelming majority of Americans believe the ERA has already been ratified. Let's make that a reality now.
Three State Strategy
The Constitution, in setting forth how amendments can be made, said NOTHING about any time limits -- although, as was the case for several amendments, a time limit can if desired be included in the body of a proposed amendment. The 1972 Congress, in passing the ERA -- which, fully intentionally, contains no mention of any time limit -- chose to attach a 7-year ratification time limit separate from the amendment itself. Then, when the 1979 Congress extended the time limit by 3 years, that set the precedent such that any Congress can legitimately vote to change such a time limit.
How could equality ever fail to be relevant? In an era when women are serving in the military in roles that expose them to combat the arguments that they are frail and must be protected fail to persuade Americans. It was not women's weaknesses that moved men to deny them their inherent rights, it was the habit of control.
In 1999 the ERA Campaign Network went to work to help obtain ratification in at least three more not-yet-ratified states.
Vigorous ratification drives are well underway in Illinois (which came very close to ratification in 2004), Florida and Missouri, with many of the other not-yet-ratified states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, and Georgia are building support for their own ratification
drives. Perhaps the legislators in three of these states now understand ust how important our rights are. Now that we have seen a Congress and President commit the treason of negating the 4th Amendment the time to be patient is over. Now we can demand action from Democrats and the Republicans who are now distancing themselves from the corrupt Bush Administration.
The states that are not yet ratified are:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Contact the ERA Campaign Coordinators in the unratified states. They need help lobbying their legislators and money for building media campaigns. They are all veterans who have poured their lives into this issue. Help them so they can ensure the inherent rights of ALL Americans.
In this way we will have cleared the way for rescinding all legislation that works to limit our individual rights and our daughters and grand-daughters will be able to take their freedom for granted, and that is the best legacy anyone can have.