“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.
Because we need a way to communicate with you on an ongoing basis.
We need to share strategy and success. What seems to work and what definitely doesn't. We want you to know our current thinking and we need to hear yours. We have a lot to get done in a short period of time, and we all need to work NOW!
An Update: We currently have joint resolutions (see below for definition) in both chambers (Senate & House) awaiting committee movement. This is good, because it means the legislation will be taken more seriously because there is a companion resolution on the other side waiting. There is a date in April (as yet not known) where one of these resolutions has to "cross-over" into the other chamber in order to be passed this year. If that doesn't happen, we'll lose the opportunity to get ratification and will have to start over with a new two-year session next year. We hope that won't be the case.
In the Senate, we have two joint resolutions — S.901 & S.918 — awaiting subcommittee assignment. In the House, joint resolution H.3391 is a little further along, as it currently stands in the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. It just needs one more sponsor to move forward.
To pass the House, we need support from 63 members. As of this writing there are 17.
To pass the Senate, we need 24. As of this writing there are 11.
Legislators are typically in Columbia Tuesday thru Thursday. For contact information at home and office, go to the House & Senate Scorecards on this site.
Look for new postings in the coming weeks.
"Joint Resolution" as a legislative term is often used interchangeably with the word "bill," however, there is one major difference. In the case of a Constitutional Amendment, neither the approval nor signature of the President or any state Governor is required to become law. The amendment is added to the Constitution when the resolutions are passed jointly by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the U.S. Congress, and at least three-quarters vote of state legislatures.