Will America Kill the Equal Rights Amendment?

By: Barbara Hannah Grufferman
Writer and speaker on women’s issues, author, “The Best of Everything After 50”

Share this story: CrossPosted from Huffington Post

I wrote an article last week — “From Hope to History: It’s Time to Pass the Equal Rights Amendment” — that generated hundreds of comments and thousands of shares. Why? Many readers were dismayed and confused to learn that this simply worded sentence is still not in the U.S. Constitution, even after 88 years:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Readers who believed the Equal Rights Amendment had already passed through Congress to become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution years ago were shocked. The amendment, first written in 1923 by Alice Paul, was, in fact, approved by Congress and sent to the states in 1972 with a ten-year deadline for ratification, but by 1982, supporters had managed to sign on only 35 of the 38 states needed to add the amendment to the Constitution.

Some who are not in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment claim it is redundant and unnecessary, often citing the 14th Amendment, which they say already protects the rights of women. It does not. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly stated that the 14th Amendment was never intended to protect women. It was only intended to protect race. Federal and state law cannot protect citizens who are not protected under the Constitution. He made this remark in January 2011:

Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.

Sensing that people are as confused about the issue as I am, but just as eager to turn the promise of the Equal Rights Amendment into a reality, I interviewed key thought leaders who are directly involved in efforts to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.

Why do we need the Equal Rights Amendment?

Laws can be repealed. Judicial attitudes can shift. We continue to see demonstrable cases of systemic gender discrimination — even in this day and age when women have come so far. Establishing the clear unambiguous language of the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution would have a real impact on our national consciousness. Our democracy rests on the principle of ‘liberty and justice for all.’ We need the ERA to ensure that this concept applies equal to women.

— Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment on June 22nd, 2011.

Women in the armed services are fighting on the front lines in two wars to protect and defend a constitution that does not protect and defend them. The U.S. strongly urged Iraq and Afghanistan to include women in their new constitutions as they rebuild their societies; yet we have not led by example.

— Carolyn A. Cook, founder and CEO of United 4 Equality, and author of the HJ Res. 47 resolution, which calls for Congress to officially remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA.

First, a movement has to move and the women’s movement will only grow and thrive if it keeps on pushing for policies such as the ERA — which is nothing more than the American value of fairness and equality under the law. Second, because even though it hasn’t passed yet, every time we have made it an issue, women have advanced in myriad ways. And third, we must pass it because it is the right thing to do. No cause is lost when it is the right thing to do.

— Gloria Feldt, activist, and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.

What are the options for getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed once and for all?

There are two strategies that are currently being pursued by those who support the Equal Rights Amendment:

Rep. Carolyn Maloney explained it this way:

I have introduced the full ‘start-over’ ERA in each Congress since I arrived because the rights of women deserve to be constitutional. This Congress, I introduced H.J.RES 69 with over 155 original cosponsors. This would re-set the ratification count at zero and start the ratification process over again. In addition to the ‘start-over’ strategy, there is the ‘three-state’ strategy, which would put the ERA in our Constitution when an additional three states ratify, which, when added to the original 35 states, add up to the necessary 38 ratifications. However, some Constitutional scholars believe that this approach would violate the Constitution and would likely be subject to a challenge which would likely win in court and invalidate the entire ratification. Nevertheless, I support both strategies and believe in doing anything that will increase the chances that the ERA will be included in the Constitution.

To address the issues inherent in the “three state strategy,” Carolyn A. Cook spearheaded a resolution which she authored (HJ Res. 47) urging Congress to remove the time limit for ratification in the final three states needed. According to Carolyn,

It is a far more efficient, fair and likely-to-succeed approach than hitting the reset button on ERA. I drafted the proposal, recruited some passionate ERA advocates from unratified states to help, and together we introduced this bill on March 8th to mark the 100th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. This day serves as a reminder that the U.S. cannot curb the human rights abuses of women and girls worldwide while denying them constitutional equality at home. 


Mike Hersh, on staff at the Progressive Democrats of America, succinctly summed up why we need to pursue the “three state strategy” instead of starting over:

Starting over requires a 2/3 vote in favor from both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, which we can’t expect until 2013 at the earliest. For reference, this has been tried in every Congress for many years, and has never passed, even when Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker and Democrats had huge majorities in both the House and Senate. Once we get the ERA out of Congress again, we’d have to start over from zero and get 38 states to ratify the amendment. Fewer than half that many are likely to do so in the foreseeable future. So starting over would almost definitely take several decades.

What can we do to ensure that America does not kill the Equal Rights Amendment?

Complacency will kill the Equal Rights Amendment, and we need to change the tone of the discourse. Let’s stop thinking about it in terms of us against them, left vs. right, conservative vs. liberal, men vs. women. Reframe the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment and ask yourself this question:

Is it the right thing to do?

Can a country that prides itself as the leader and protector of democracy in the world, and one which implores other countries to include the word “women” in their constitutions (Afghanistan and Iraq), still not protect the rights of women in its own?

If you believe the Equal Rights Amendment should be in our U.S. Constitution, here’s what you can do:

Share this article.

Read up on both strategies (starting over and the three-state solution) to better understand why the three-state solution is probably the stronger option, and get behind it.

Contact your local government representative and urge them to co-sponsor “HJ Res 47: Removing the Deadline for Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Visit United4Equality.com and “friend” them on Facebook to get more information on how you can help push through the HJ Res. 47. … and start volunteering

Go to Facebook pages such as ERA Now, ERA Once and For All, and Equal Rights Amendment to get up-to-date information.

If you believe in the Equal Rights Amendment, then get behind it, and get it done.

ERA Revival: United 4 Equality in Action

BettyJean Downing Kling

United 4 Equality http://www.united4equality.com/ is teaming up to do Lobby Days this Wednesday and Thursday on Capitol Hill to secure a Senate sponsor for a companion bill to HJ Res 47. Thursday, June 30th is the 29th anniversary of ERA’s “expiration”, so what better way to mark its revival!  I am hoping each of you will gather your friends and family and using the calling script provided to call your senators (1st) and representatives (2nd) and join in the fun!   

BE VERY CLEAR THAT YOU ARE CALLING ABOUT ERA: REMOVING THE TIME LIMIT FOR 3 STATES AND NOT FOR THE ERA “START-ALL-OVER” amendment! There seems to be confusion among members of Congress that these are two separate bills.  HJ Res. 47 calls for the time limit removal so we can ratify the ERA now – not 100 years from now.

Please contact me for House and Senate Calling Scripts and please sign our petition: 

1. The ACTION ALERT to be used this week to join our NATIONAL CALLING or FAXING PARTY (SENATE) – (Send out a.s.a.p.)

2. NAT’L CALL IN SCRIPT FOR HOUSE – Although they are not in session, staff should be there, so they might pick up the phone since it’s quiet. 

3  PETITION LINK   www.change.org/petitions/equality-for-women.

IMPORTANT: If you head up an organization, please identify yourself as a member of the United 4 Equality Coalition when you are calling Congress. Congress must see there is significant on-the-ground support for ERA/HJ Res. 47 in their state.  Please track the calls/emails/or faxes made to Congress this week.  Email the staffer’s name and title to  info@united4equality.com with the result of your call.  Did they agree to co-sponsor YES – NO-MAYBE?  This will enable us to follow-up afterwards with more information.

Once you’ve called your senators, please use the alternate script for the House.  These congresspersons already signed-on to Maloney’s bill by states where we have coordinators.  If you target them since they already support ERA, they should have no problem supporting our resolution as well.  Maloney is a co-sponsor.

  • LA: Cedric Richmond  
  • AZ: Pastor and Grijalva
  • WI: Kind
  • FL: Brown, Castor
  • IL: Biggert, Holt, Quigley, Davis, Schakowsky, Costello,
  • MD: Sarbanes, Ruppersburger, Cummings
  • MO: Clay
  • MI: Levin, Kildee, Conyers, Peters, Clarke, Dingell
  • MN: McCollum
  • NC: Watt, Butterfield, Price, Miller
  • NJ: Pallone, Pascrell, Rothman, Payne, Holt,
  • PA: Schwartz ,Fattah, Brady, Doyle, Holden

It is very important that we have all hands on deck.  Reach out to your friends, ERA advocacy groups and family far and wide!  Come on, let’s do this for Alice Paul. Our best chance to pass “47” is in the Senate this year!  The 2012 elections are right around the corner, so we need to strike while the iron is hot and give Congress something to campaign on…!

Have a great week all!  Thank you so much for your support and efforts – we are going to get this!  Let me know if you have any questions.

Go Topless for Equality?

I once heard a man say he wished women would go topless all the time. Many men have probably desired this.

Be careful what you wish for.

If it actually happened, men would likely lose interest.

In cultures where women go topless all the time, as with tribal societies, breasts are no big deal.

A similar phenomenon occurred in Europe in the 80s when women went topless at the beach, in magazine and television ads, and on billboards.

Female nudity was used in European advertising because it caught the attention of both men and women.

But after a while, people stopped noticing. Nudity became blasé.

Male European students studying in the U.S. began asking why American men thought breasts were such a big deal. They’d grown up seeing so many of them, they couldn’t fathom the mystique.

National Topless Day protesters say women should have the same constitutional right as men to bear their chests. They want women to see that their breasts are noble, natural, and not something to be shamefully hidden. 

The Go Topless campaign argues that feminism has led women to repress their femininity, which is “a powerful asset.” Go Topless doesn’t get that in the end, uncovered breasts would likely lose that very power.

In fact, some feminists have advocated going topless, arguing that if men were continually exposed to breasts, they would lose their status as sex objects – and so would the women who are attached to them.

As Jezebel reports, Go Topless Day was founded by Claude Vorilhon, who now calls himself Rael. He says a UFO inspired him to start a church, complete with an “Order of Angels,” really, a group of women who sexually service Rael and his friends. Go Topless looks more like shock PR for his church than a real concern with gender equality.

Georgia Platts

Chávez funds Gender Equality

Contributed by: Louise Downing

Comments Please ?

I don’t care why Chávez does it – I care that he does it. Women now have
an electoral law that increased the representation of women to nearly 40% in state and legislative assemblies. 40 % !!!!

Venezuela Turns Women’s Affairs Ministry Into Full-Fledged Ministry

March 10th 2009, by James Suggett – Venezuelanalysis.com

La Cantera, a collective of women cultural workers, performed folks songs and poetry along with President Chavez Sunday in honor of women. (ABN) Mérida, March 9th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — In honor of International Women’s Day Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which was created last year as an extension of the National Institute of Women (INAMUJER), will now have its own budget and central office, and the name of the ministry will be changed to include “gender equality.”

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs will become a ministry with a budget,” said Chávez during his weekly talk show Aló Presidente. “What’s more, it occurs to me that it should be called the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, since these are two distinct and complementary things.”

Last year on March 8th, Chávez designated the president of INAMUJER, María León, to head up a new ministry dedicated to defending and extending women’s rights nation-wide. But until now, the ministry did not have a budget independent of INAMUJER.

Chávez dedicated Sunday’s broadcast of Aló Presidente as well as “Chávez’s lines,” the opinion column the president publishes in more than two dozen newspapers across the country every week, to women’s issues.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Without the true liberation of women, the liberation of the people would be impossible, and I am convinced that an authentic socialist should also be an authentic feminist,” Chávez wrote in his column.

During the show, a collective of female cultural workers performed several folk songs dedicated to women. Then, with their acoustic guitars strumming in the background, Chávez recited a poem about a battle against the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez in the early twentieth century, drawing a parallel between motherhood and the struggle for national liberation.

Women’s Affairs Minister María León, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nicia Maldonado, Telecommunications Minister Socorro Hernández, Communes Minister Erika Farías, PSUV leader Ana Elisa Osorio, National Assembly Deputies Iroshima Bravo and Nohelí Pocaterra, and other female political leaders accompanied President Chávez on his talk show Sunday.

In honor of International Women’s Day, this group of women ceremoniously placed a bouquet of flowers at Venezuela’s national pantheon where independence hero Simón Bolívar’s remains are buried.

Minister León highlighted the achievements in favor of women’s rights since Chávez took office in 1999. These include an extensive Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence, legal recognition of the economic value of household work, the creation of a women’s bank and other programs to finance women-led businesses, and an electoral law that increased the representation of women to nearly 40% in state and legislative assemblies.

León also pointed out several important tasks in the coming years in order to further strengthen women’s rights in Venezuela. These include the pending passage of the Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Pensions for Homemakers in the National Assembly, and the expansion of popular education programs to provide sex education to youth and deepen gender consciousness in the general populace.

“As long as the subordination of women exists in our collective conscience, men will continue thinking they can violate the rights of women. The collective conscience must be shaped to bring about equality between men and women,” León declared.

One of the Women’s Affairs Ministry’s top agenda items this year will be the promotion of women’s committees in the tens of thousands of local community councils across the nation, to allow communities themselves to shape solutions to problems such as domestic violence, and to facilitate the denunciation of domestic abuse to local authorities, according to León.

Also Sunday, León said the central office of the Women’s Affairs Ministry was inaugurated in Caracas, and a sister office called the Institute of Formation in Socialism and Gender Equality was inaugurated in Aragua state.

In an interview on the state television station VTV, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nicia Maldonado spoke of the unique ways that indigenous women in Venezuela have benefitted from the government’s support for indigenous communities, including a recent housing project in the Yukpa communities of the Sierra de Perijá.

“Long live indigenous women! We salute all women worldwide and in our country because here we continue in the vanguard, struggling so that gender equality exists, so that we can construct a better world of equality, where sexism is broken along with capitalism,” said Maldonado.

Meanwhile, in Caracas and in several other major cities, a diverse array of rural and urban social movement organizations marched through the streets. In a dispatch titled “Men and women weaving socialist conscience for our mother Earth,” the marchers drew the connection between women’s issues and the deepening of Venezuela’s revolutionary process on all fronts.

The marchers also said they were demonstrating in honor of women who had died struggling for their rights in the past, including the 140 Italian and Jewish immigrant laborers in a textile factory in New York who burned to death in the infamous “Triangle Fire” in March 1911.

International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s, and was observed nationally in Venezuela for the first time on March 8th 1944.

Violence against Women is a Hate crime

Please join us Monday Night 3/23/09 10 pm EST
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/FreeMeNow
Call-in Number: (347) 838-8011

Join US : NYS Assemblywoman  Patricia Eddington , Marcia Pappas and I will discuss proposed legislation making violence against women a hate crime.

Cross Posted – http://www.campaignforgenderequality.org/breaking_the_silence

Submitted by pat on Sun, 03/01/2009 – 18:55

“Turning a person into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence against that person.”

– Jean Kilbourne, lecturer and keynote speaker focusing on violence, women, and the media.

Chris Brown’s brutal beating of Rihanna reignited talk about domestic violence in this country. That is a good thing! We need to have more honest conversations about this epidemic. The statistics shed some light on the severity of this problem:

Battering is the single most common cause of injury to women in the United States, more common than car accidents, mugging and rape combined. Much to the misconception of many, victims of domestic violence come from all races, classes and ethnic backgrounds. Of all women murdered in the U.S.—an average of three a day—about one-third were killed by an intimate partner. According to the National Organization for Women, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.

I found this recent article by Megan Twohey and Bonnie Miller Rubin disturbing. According to them, 1 in 10 teens suffer from dating violence, yet their reaction to Rihanna’s beating is that she deserved it. What is the answer to this gross misconception? Education. According to Twohey and Rubin:

“In recent years, some schools and youth organizations have started educating teens about the dangers of dating violence. Rhode Island and Virginia have adopted laws requiring such instruction in the public schools. But most states, including Illinois, don’t have such a mandate and education on the topic remains in short supply, experts say. Two of three new programs created by the federal Violence Against Women Act in 2005 to address teen dating violence were never funded.”

Not only are we not doing enough to educate youth about domestic violence, but the media (a prime source of information for today’s youth) doesn’t give domestic violence its due coverage. We barely heard anything about the woman in New York who was recently beheaded by her husband after she had filed for a divorce. Where is the outrage? I know it’s not a pretty story, but if we don’t talk about domestic violence, and, more importantly, learn about its roots and causes, we will never eliminate it.

What makes domestic violence and other forms of violence against women so prevalent? What makes men feel they can have power and control over women? The answers to these questions are abundant and complicated, but recently I came across two videos that shed some light:

This one speaks to advertising and the effects it has on women and the value of women.

This one talks about the media and how men learn to treat women.

Campaign for Gender Equality is a non-profit 501c3 organization focused on raising public awareness of the benefits of gender equality, regardless of age, race, class or sexual orientation, through education and advocacy.

We have partnered with Professor Bettina Aptheker, head of Women’s Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to promote her “Introduction to Feminisms” course now available in a 17 set DVD. In her DVD titled “Domestic Violence: Strategies for Prevention and Resistance” Aptheker says, “Violence against Women is the magnification of the historical unequal power relations which have lead the domination over and discrimination of women by men to the prevention of women’s full advancement.” Order “Introduction to Feminisms” on DVD.

Battery, whether emotional or physical, is about power and control. From Aptheker’s DVD, here are just some examples of the different types of domestic violence.

  • Emotional – putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, calling her names, making her think that she is crazy.
  • Economic – trying to keep her from getting or keeping a job, making her ask for money, giving her an allowance, or taking her money.
  • Sexual – making her do things against her will, physically attacking the sexual parts of her body, and treating her like a sex object.
  • Using children – using the children to give messages and using visitation as a way to harass.
  • Threats – making and/or carrying out threats to do something physically or emotionally, threatening to take the children, and threats to commit suicide.
  • Using male privilege – treating her like a servant, making all the big decisions, acting like the master of the house
  • Intimidation – putting her in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voices, smashing things, destroying her property.
  • Isolation – controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, and where she goes.

Perhaps many readers do not experience these confinements, but a great many women in our own country still live this way. These patterns of domestic abuse and domestic violence are all about power and control. To stop the epidemic of violence against women that exists in this country we must break the silence. We must put adequate funding into educating the next generation of girls and boys about violence against women and its root causes. We must have honest conversations about domestic violence and pressure the media to change its portrayal of women as objects.