Comments made at LWV Charleston Connects Event ... 01.20.2022
First off … let’s make something absolutely clear.
With the exception of the right to vote, women are not in the U.S. Constitution. Women do not have the same legal protections in our founding document as men. And even though we’ve made considerable progress over the years through legislation — or through judicial interpretation of rights others have been given — as recently as 2011, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia confirmed that nothing has changed. Women still do not have the same legal protections in the United States Constitution — the foundational document where all our laws originate from — as men. We just don’t.
Our Constitution was written over 230 years ago by wealthy, white, men. They wrote the document to protect themselves. Those not like them — poor white men, women, African Americans and native people — were all left out. In fact, at the time, women, like slaves, were considered property, owned by either their fathers or husbands; their masters.
And unfortunately, our attempt to gain equal rights through the years has become political, and depending upon who is in power, has bounced between political parties for nearly a hundred years. A Republican woman wrote the Equal Rights Amendment; and the Republican Party was the first to include it in its political platform — where it remained for 40 years! The Democratic Party was the hold-out, and really did not embrace the ERA until the late 1960’s. But for the most part, Democrats continue to support it to this day.
You know … when you talk about the ERA, what it would and would not do, and you push through all the “what if’s” and “how ‘bouts” — the scare tactics and the wishful thinking — it really comes down to only one thing we know for sure. Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment would elevate “sex” to the highest level of judicial review as “race” and “religion” currently have, when cases of discrimination are heard. One universal standard, not open to interpretation, regardless of state or jurisdiction.
That’s a BIG deal, because neither race nor religion were originally in the Constitution. They are but 2 of the 27 amendments that have been ratified and added to the document over time. The ERA will be the 28th.
It wasn’t until after the Constitution was written that the founders realized while the document defined the workings of the new form of government — it said nothing about the individual liberties and freedoms that the Declaration of Independence had so eloquently espoused. So the fellas sat down and began enumerating those individual rights — as amendments to the Constitution — to make them legally enforceable. The first ten amendments became the Bill of Rights. First among them was the right of citizens to practice the religion of their choice.
But it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the Declaration of Independence concept of “all men are created equal” actually became law. Three amendments were made at that time to 1) abolish slavery (13th); 2) make African American “males” citizens (14th); and 3) to not deny those new citizens the right to vote on account of their “race.” (15th)
It’s important to note, that the 14th Amendment's “equal protection clause” has been challenged multiple times in court in an attempt to give women constitutional protection. But the amendment’s original intent was to exclude women. And to make that crystal clear, the word “male” was inserted three times into the text, to assure there was no confusion as to just “who” those new citizens were. It wasn’t until the 19th Amendment was ratified, 70 years later, that discrimination on account of “sex” was finally introduced, but only to allow women the right to vote. That’s it. The vote — as specified within the Constitution — is the only right women have.
Now bear with me on this … When race and religion were amended to the Constitution, they became a “suspect classification,” which entitled them to the highest level of judicial review when cases of discrimination are heard. That level is called “strict scrutiny.”
Suspect classification and strict scrutiny are legal terms that for the non-lawyer, are difficult to grasp. But you should think of them as the gold standard of legal review. It’s where you want to be when seeking judicial relief.
To qualify as a suspect class, the court has determined that an individual group needs to meet certain criteria:
#1) The group has an inherent trait that is highly visible.
Sex — fairly easy to ascertain.
#2) The group is part of a class which has been historically disadvantaged.
Not a stretch by any means. We started out as property, owned by the men in our lives; and then it took us 120 years to get the vote! And finally,
#3) The group has historically lacked effective representation in the political process.
Fun Fact: In 1917, the state of Montana elected the first woman to serve in Congress. Since then a total of 395 women have served in the House and the Senate combined. So in just a little over a century, the number of women who have served in both chambers, is less than one session of the House of Representatives, which has 435 members. Not what I would call effective representation.
So women clearly meet the criteria of a suspect classification, and are therefore entitled to the highest level of judicial review — strict scrutiny. The ERA would give us that protection, thus clarifying the legal status of sex discrimination for every court, throughout the land. No longer would women’s rights be held hostage to interpretation as well as revocation by whichever legislative body, court or administration is currently in power.
At this point, 38 states have ratified the ERA, which satisfies the number required for an amendment to become law. However, several states have attempted to rescind their ratifications, which while technically not feasible, needs to be resolved. Should that not go our way, it’s important that every state ratifies. Every state should stand up and recognize that women deserve equal justice under law.
Here in South Carolina, we’ve been given the opportunity to do just that, through bipartisan legislation. The women of the Senate have filed a joint resolution — supported by a constitutional law scholar — for ratification of the ERA. The House has an identical resolution that last session had wide bipartisan support. They’ve done their part. Thank you Representative Cobb-Hunter and Senator Senn.
Now it’s time for us to act. This is the last year of a two-year session, so we have to move fast. Come April, we better be done. It’s up to each one of us, to contact our legislators NOW, and ask them to support their chambers’ resolution. And tonight, we will give you the tools and all the support you need to do just that.
Together, we can get this done.
Equal Means ERA (SC)
SC Senator Tom Davis Testimony
Why the 14th Amendment isn’t enough
14th Amendment and ERA
Connects Event Recording
To the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform,
Chairperson, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney:
I offer the following for the record from South Carolina Equal Means ERA:
Enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States Constitution is of great importance in South Carolina especially because we remain an unratified state. History details South Carolina’s often bloody and brutal struggle with equality. Today we are a state with one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the nation and, here, women of color are paid about half as much as white men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Our record on the status of women will forever be tarnished by South Carolina’s failure to ratify the 19th Amendment until 1969 and again delaying by failure to certify until 1973. Among other things.
In March of 2020, our four women state senators stood together – two Democrats and two Republicans – to insist that the South Carolina Senate ratify the ERA. Although that voice was heard clearly, it was lost just a few days later in COVID chaos. The longest serving member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Gilda Cobb-Hunter has worked for years to see the ERA ratified.
Of course, you will not hear support from South Carolina’s Congressional Delegation. It refuses to honor Senator Strom Thurmond and his support of the ERA. From time to time, you must also deal with the extremely imaginative thoughts of Senator Lindsey Graham concerning the ERA and his complete lack of understanding on the scope of the 14th Amendment.
Please know, that many people in South Carolina realize how important the ERA is on our country’s journey to a more perfect union. Know as well that our hearts are with you in this fight to simply do what is right and ensure equal scrutiny in law for all Americans through the power of the United States Constitution.
South Carolina Equal Means ERA
Today, May 13th, is the date that marks the close of the 2021 legislative session of the South Carolina state legislature. The end of the first year of a two-year term.
But just because the session has officially closed, doesn’t mean the work has ended. Legislative committees meet and activity continues over the summer. Many offices are still staffed, and many staff members know where their Senators and Representatives stand on specific issues.
So our number 1 priority continues to be — even over the summer — to identify if your legislators support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
We got a lot done this year. We’ve continued to spread the word on why South Carolina state ratification is so necessary to improve the lives of our women and families. Economically, it’s a sound investment (to see why, visit GOP4ERA). And we’ve continued to build our network so that when the real action begins — in year two — we’ll be ready.
So beginning in January of 2022, we’ll have 3 months to make our case and get legislation through. We need to have a resolution passed by one chamber and moved to the other by early April (see crossover date). Then we’ll have till the end of the session — this time next year — to get the final vote.
This should not be hard. As Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeberg stated on December 18, 2018, when the first ERA resolution was proposed:
“The ERA is just 24 simple words. No money needs allocation; no language needs reconciliation. Just an up or down vote for equality.”
That’s all we want.
To find out if you legislator is supportive, go to our House and Senate Scorecards to look them up. If they've not committed, click on their picture and use the contact info to track them down. Then let us know what you hear so we can keep count. The more we know heading into next year, the likelier success we will have.
And if you need some inspiration, listen to South Carolina Senator Tom Davis’s testimony on YouTube. He’ll tell you why South Carolina needs to do our part to make equality the law of the land.
Have a great summer! See you soon.
Last month, a couple of great things happened that we in the ERA community should take a moment to celebrate. They not only help us to move closer to equal rights for all as the law of the land, but they also point out why we still need the ERA today, more than ever.
First … On March 17th, the House passed their version of the resolution to remove the deadline that was placed on the ERA back in the 1970s. This is good news.
You may remember that last year the House also passed a resolution to remove the deadline, but it was blocked in the Senate. Even though the Senate resolution had 49 signatures and needed just 2 more to pass — Lindsey Graham, as Chair of the Judiciary Committee — refused to recognize it. But this year, since Lindsey has lost that position, the outcome should hopefully be different.
And it can be different.
Even though Senators Graham and Scott do not support the ERA, if enough people across the country put pressure on their state Senators to vote for the legislation, it can get passed. If you have influence or friends in states that have ratified in the past, ask them to contact their Senators to honor their state’s past ratification. For a list of ratified states and the contact information needed, click here.
Second … Also on March 17th, the House passed the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). Originally passed in 1994, it periodically needs renewal. And depending upon who is in power at the time, that renewal can be a problem.
VAWA expired two years ago, in February of 2019. There couldn’t be a better or more timely example of why we need the ERA. (Update March 9th, 2022 ... We're still waiting!)
VAWA is legislation (law) that provides grants to state and local governments for programs addressing domestic abuse, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. It also imposes gun purchase restrictions on spouses (and now hopefully dating partners!) who have been convicted — CONVICTED — of domestic violence or abuse from owning or purchasing a gun. It’s significant legislation, particularly since gun homicides have jumped 25% from the year before, apparently fueled in part by a rise in intimate partner violence (and opportunity, due to Covid isolation and quarantine).
Violence against women is the ultimate sex discrimination. We don’t know how many lives we’ve lost the past two years when cities and states lost their funding due to VAWA’s expiration. Good laws are dependent upon good lawmakers to keep them in place.
Because laws are fragile. They are not comprehensive and differ from state to state. And they are subject to interpretation and revocation by whichever legislative body, court or administration is currently in power. Laws are not permanent. A gain in one circumstance can easily be lost in another.
The ERA would change that. It would anchor women’s rights within the governing text of our land — the United States Constitution. The wording is simple, and not open to legislative or judicial interpretation. It would add “sex” as a suspect category at par with “religion” and “race” that receive the highest level of judicial scrutiny in cases of discrimination. That protection would be fundamental and universal throughout the United States.
Women would have the same legal protection as men, and would have the right to live their lives more fully and complete, with less fear and greater possibilities. What is good for women is good for families, neighborhoods and nations.
Much to do. More to come.
Or as we like to call it … “The Year of the ERA”!
The following proof is offered:
This is BIG!!!
That’s because women are not in the Constitution! The Equal Rights Amendment would correct that omission, by specifically adding the word “sex” to the language of the Constitution as a category that cannot be discriminated against.
Sex would join “religion” (1st Amendment) and “race” (15th Amendment) as categories that get the highest level of judicial review when determining cases of discrimination. The ERA would provide women with equal justice under law, regardless of state or jurisdiction. A standard they do not currently enjoy.
Passing the ERA at the federal level is our primary objective. We want to flood our legislators’ DC office with calls of support.
HERE'S HOW YOU DO IT ...
As of today, the SENATE Resolution has only two signatures. It needs 51 to pass (last year it had 49 signatures, but Senator Graham, as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, blocked it from any discussion).
Contact Senator Graham @ 202-224-5972; Senator Scott @ 202-224-6121.
When the staff person answers say something like, “My name is ______ and I am a resident of South Carolina who supports the removal of the deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment. I want Senator ______ to sign on as a cosponsor of S.J.Res.1.”
Chances are, you’ll just be leaving a message. If so, you should repeat your name and give your address. If you want to leave an additional message at your local office, or send an email, the name links above will give you that senator's information.
The HOUSE Resolution currently has 202 signatures. It needs 218 to pass.
No South Carolina Reps have signed on. If you do not know who your representative is, click here. The “Contact Your Member” look-up is in the far right column. If you know who your representative is, use the information below.
District 1: Nancy Mace 202-225-3176; @RepNancyMace
District 2: Joe Wilson 202-225-2452; @RepJoeWilson
District 3: Jeff Duncan 202-225-5301; @RepJeffDuncan
District 4: William Timmons 202-225-6030; @RepTimmons
District 5: Ralph Norman 202-225-5501; @RepRalphNorman
District 6: James “Jim” Clyburn 202-225-3315; @ClyburnSC06
District 7: Tom Rice 202-225-9895; @RepTomRice
Again, when the staff person answers … “My name is ______ and I am a constituent who supports the removal of the deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment. I want Representative ______ to sign on as a cosponsor of H.J.Res.17.” Additional numbers and emails can be found at the links above.
Letters have been written from Equal Means ERA to each of these legislators asking for their support. Each letter included a transcript of words spoken by SC Senator Tom Davis at a Senate hearing on the ERA in March of last year. It's well worth reading. For a link to the letters, click here.
Right now our priority is getting the federal legislation passed, so please ... start calling!!!
And soon, the work of state ratification in South Carolina will begin again. New resolutions have been filed in both chambers:
We'll be gearing up shortly. Stay tuned!!!
Additional reading …
Representative Carolyn Maloney
The words of the Equal Rights Amendment:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Last week, Equal Means ERA joined several organizations and corporate entities across the country by fling an amicus brief in support of the Attorneys General of Nevada, Illinois and Virginia who are suing the National Archivist for not recognizing Virginia's ratification.
As a “friend of the court,” we can express our support.
The Archivist's job regarding amendments is to make sure each state follows the necessary procedures for ratification, and if successful, publish the result in the Federal Register. Mr. Ferriero did that with Nevada and Illinois. But when Virginia ratified, he knew the 38-state threshold would be met to complete the state requirement for an amendment to become law. So, rather than do his job, he asked the Justice Department for an opinion. They replied that the ratification should not be published.
Problem is, the Justice Department has no authority to give such a ruling. Article V of the Constitution is very specific about how the amendment process works, giving the legislative branch — Congress — all the power. The executive branch has no role in making an amendment into law.
The press release and details for our Equal Means ERA brief are below as well as press coverage on some of the filings. A complete and up-to-date list of all filings can be found at Vote Equality US, an organization that was created by the Ratify VA group after their success in Virginia. They provide excellent insight and analysis as well.
As always ... Onward!
Commonweath of Virginia v Ferriero
Our Counsel's Press Release 06.29.20
Equal Means ERA Amicus Brief 06.29.20
Florida Phoenix article on Equal Means ERA Brief 06.30.20
Why Apple, Google and 91 other companies support the ERA 06.30.20
Statewide group joins suit pressing to ratify women's rights ... the Sumter Item 07.04.2020
Today marks the end of our work in the 2019-2020 legislative session to get the ERA ratified. We hope, because of our effort, South Carolina women will have a stronger voice in matters of equality going forward. But today, we accept that the ERA is just not going to be ratified this year.
That’s because we have passed the mysterious and incredible hard to verify "cross-over date," where a bill has to move from one statehouse chamber to the other to be considered eligible for passing in a given legislative session. That date, as near as we can determine, is Friday, April 10th.
We did have good momentum in the Senate. Thanks to the four women senators (and Senator Tom Davis). Joint resolution S.918 moved out of subcommittee and looked as though the Judiciary Committee would send it to the Senate floor. But COVID-19 interrupted the momentum — as it rightfully should have — and we were all sent home. Frustrating but understandable.
But there are still things we can do.
For instance, Equal Means ERA SC has joined an amicus brief along with ERA groups in Georgia and Louisiana in support of Commonweath of Virginia v. Ferrerio, the case challenging the National Archivist decision to not certify Virginia’s ratification. As a “friend of the court,” we are showing our support.
We can also still work to support the removal of the deadline that the US House has already passed and now stands before the Senate with 49 votes in support. Proposed by Senator Ben Cardin with 48 cosponsors, its passage would be the cleanest way to get the ERA enacted. (BTW — of the 27 amendments made to the Constitution in the past 233 years, only four had deadlines. Click here for the story on that.)
And, since Senator Lindsey Graham has refused to acknowledge S.J.Res.6 in his role as Judiciary Chair — AND — because he has publicly said he does not support the ERA, our best chance at getting the deadline removed would be to remove "him" from office in November. Fortunately, his opponent in the upcoming election — Jaime Harrison — supports the ERA and deserves your support. Please acquaint yourself with Jaime, donate to his campaign and volunteer.
And we still need to find out where your individual SC state senator and representative stand (again, good information to know before November elections!). You can check that out on our House and Senate Scorecards, and get the contact info you need to confirm. Should we come back next year, knowing who’s for as well as who's against us will put us further ahead.
We can all be proud of the work we’ve done and the progress we’ve made. So let’s give ourselves a pat on the back, each other a virtual hug, take a deep breath, and STAY HOME to get over this horrible virus. We certainly are all in this together.
Wouldn’t you like to have access to the local legislators who have the most influence in your everyday life? Well … turns out there's a list. Let me make some introductions.
In South Carolina, each of its 46 counties have legislators within their boundaries that form that county's Legislative Delegation. Some are large, like Charleston and Greenville with 22 legislators each. Others are small, like Newberry with only two. And some legislators overlap into other counties.
These legislators meet on a regular basis to form a governing body that makes decisions specifically for their county. Among other things, they appoint people to boards and commissions, approve Notary Publics, and hold regular meetings for public information as well as comment. Each county provides administrative and clerical support to the legislators within their borders.
These elected officials make decisions that affect you directly. They work together because they have the shared interest of their particular county. They also present a manageable subset of legislators that you can contact with your specific concerns. And in the case of the ERA, working within the delegation allows you to expand your reach beyond an individual legislator to influence a larger audience.
As far as contact, our Legislator Outreach walks you through some different methods. Larger delegations are perfect for a Postcard Party while smaller ones can be contacted individually. And since most delegations hold periodic public meetings, you also have the opportunity to testify in public (sign-up is usually required ahead of time so check your county for those dates).
Since the ERA is of benefit to all, our approach is nonpartisan. Any meetings or conversations you have with legislators need to be non-confrontational. And when you do get support from a few legislators within the delegation, others may be more inclined to come along as well.
Here's a link to all the County Delegations in South Carolina, and below is a list of the South Carolina counties with 10 or more legislators. Each listing also offers an email link to reach most of the members of that delegation. Flooding them with contacts can get their attention. For help on that, go to Legislator Outreach.
Regarding the ERA, I think you have something to say. Let your legislators hear from you!
County — # of Legislators
“The ERA is 24 simple words. No money needs allocation; no language needs reconciliation. Just an up or down vote for equality.”
Those words were spoken by Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg on December 18, 2018, when she pre-filed H.3391 for the 2019-2020 South Carolina legislative session.
EQUALITY OF RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW SHALL NOT BE DENIED OR ABRIDGED BY THE UNITED STATES OR BY ANY STATE ON ACCOUNT OF SEX.
While individual states are continuing to push for ratification, last week real progress was made at the Federal level. H.J.Res.79, a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to “remove the deadline” for ratification of the ERA was passed. The vote was 232-183. Attention now moves to the Senate, and their version of the bill, S.J.Res.6. There are currently 47 sponsors in support. They just need 4 more! (Here's a list of current sponsors).
This is amazing. This is herstory.
It's now up to Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, and Lindsey Graham, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, to decide if any discussion or vote will be held on removing the deadline in the Senate. Unfortunately, neither has shown any interest in the ERA.
That has to change. We need to ask Senator Graham to support S.J.Res.6 and hold hearings to move the resolution forward.
Here’s a link to contact information for Lindsey Graham in DC as well as his local state offices. Give him a call, or stop by to register your support for the ERA. You can send an email (if you can figure out which of the 30+ pre-assigned categories on the contact form that the ERA fits into). Or you can write a letter or host a special Postcard Party, just for him. Please take a minute to let him know where you stand.
And ... one would think ... a great way to get Senator Graham’s attention, would be to pass our ERA resolutions right here in South Carolina!
So if you haven't done so already, please contact your state Senator and Representative, and ask them to support the ERA resolutions currently before them in the South Carolina General Assembly.
Here’s the look-up tool for your legislators. The Senate resolutions are S.901 & S.918; the House resolution is H.3391. Here are the current Vote Tally Scorecards for the South Carolina House and the Senate from this website. If/when we get the ERA passed, it would be pretty hard for Senator Graham to ignore the intentions of his own state's government.
Let’s make it difficult!
We have the American Bar Association behind us; the Chair of the SC House Judiciary Committee; city councils and local churches; and even Senator Strom Thurmond.
It’s time for our Constitution to guarantee equal rights under law for all.
Last week, a group of us traveled to the Statehouse in Columbia to lobby legislators on behalf of the ERA. It was an interesting experience, and gave us an insiders look into a dubious practice.
Turns out, anyone can lobby. It literally means you wait in the lobby of the Statehouse, between the two chambers, and submit a call-out card to hopefully draw a legislator out of session to speak with you. Who knew? It was crowded, a little chaotic and seemingly disorganized. But it was obvious a lot of business was getting done.
We spoke with several legislators and received a mostly warm reception.
Senator Tom Davis, sponsor of S.901, welcomed us and said he appreciated our presence. We discussed the status of the two Senate bills and how they would be reconciled. He said eventually there would be only one, most likely by him throwing support behind S.918, originally filed by the the four women of the Senate. But he said the urgency now is to get the resolutions assigned to a judiciary subcommittee, which is the necessary first step to begin their journey.
Senator Sandy Senn who is one of the sponsors of S.918 invited us into an inner room where we had a good discussion and got to meet Senator Margie Bright Matthews (another sponsor). We were also fortunate to have Senator Senn introduce us to Senator Luke Rankin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and together we asked that he assign the Senate bills to a subcommittee. He seemed receptive. We'll keep an eye on it this week, but need to keep the pressure on (to contact Senator Rankin, click here).
Senator Marlon Kimpson as well as Senator Dick Harpootlian were supportive, but have yet to sign on as sponsors. So we encouraged them to do so.
We also spoke with Senator Richard Cash who has issues with the original deadline and does not want his daughter to get drafted. We mentioned the deadline is a Federal issue and that the draft ended in 1973 and we now have an all-volunteer service. But was concerned that his daughter would have to “register” for the draft as 18-year old males still need to do. He then started talking about the disintegration of the family unit ... We gave him an ERA Brochure and moved on.
On the House side we spoke with Rep Russell Fry who is the last holdout to sponsor H.3391 in the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee. He hadn’t read the bill yet and would not commit. We need to keep those cards and letters going.
Rep Leon Stavrinakis said he was a supporter of the ERA (and rightly so since he cosponsored H.3340 with Peter McCoy). However, Peter McCoy has since deferred to Gilda Cobb-Hunter’s bill (H.3391) as the one to move forward. We asked Leon to sign onto that and he hopefully will soon.
Rep J.A. Moore said he would sponsor and indeed did so by the end of the day. (Yay!)
Rep Marvin Pendarvis was in support as well as Rep Robert Brown. We’re keeping an eye on them. And we were fortunate to run into Rep Pat Henegan and thanked her for being a sponsor.
We also spoke with Rep Lin Bennet and the conversation was not encouraging. She’s decided to do nothing until the “eliminate the deadline” decision is made at the Federal level (SJ Res 6 & HJ Res 79). She see’s that as a prolonged effort that will end up in the court, and feels to discuss the ERA at this point would be a waste of time. She also believes current laws protect women sufficiently and there is no need for a constitutional amendment.
So in summary … by participating in a rather arcane process, we made our presence known, learned more about how the ERA is perceived, and hopefully secured additional support. All in all, a pretty good day.