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.
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.
But 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.