Equal Rights Amendment ratification long overdue

By Congresswoman Jackie Speier, lead sponsor of H.J. Res. 113

Our Constitution granted women the right to vote 94 years ago, but efforts to ban discrimination based on sex have never earned constitutional status. This gaping legal hole was summed up recently by conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “Certainly the Constitution does not require(discrimination on the basis of sex). The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”

Women today aren’t guaranteed equal pay for equal work and are subjected to restrictions on contraception and family planning services, unfair workplace conditions and laws that favor the perpetrators over victims in cases of sexual assault. The need for constitutionally guaranteed equality remains shamefully overdue. How can we have “liberty and justice for all” when a prohibition against sex discrimination is missing from our nation’s blueprint?

The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until 1972, the year it finally passed. The amendment required ratification by 38 states, but fell three states short.

The 15 states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. The Illinois Senate passed the ERA in May and the Illinois House is set to vote on it in November.

The ERA would provide women with remedies to combat discrimination in pay equity, pregnancy accommodations, contraceptive coverage and domestic violence. Currently, women face a double burden when they are victimized. They must first prove the violation happened, and then they must also prove intent to discriminate based on sex. The ERA would banish this “intent” requirement forever. Continue reading

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Michigan ERA Update — Women’s Equality Day – August 23, 2014

By Laura Carter Callow

This year, I’m really excited about presenting the ERA Update because there is so much positive going on with the Equal Rights Amendment.

Currently, there are three ERA Resolutions in Congress. Two of them are called the start-over measures  because that’s what we would have to do—start over. Get both Houses of Congress to approve by a two-thirds vote and then get thirty-eight states to ratify.

The first start-over bill is in the Senate. It is identical to the 1972 version that we all know so well:  “Equality of rights …” There is no House version of this bill.

The second start-over measure is in the House. It contains two sentences. The first reads: “Women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The second sentence is identical to the wording of the 1972 bill.  Continue reading

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E.R.A Won’t Go Away! (and we don’t want it to)

By Tara Romano, president, North Carolina Women United

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

That, in a nutshell, is the whole of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Sure doesn’t sound like something that could have created such a fuss all these years, does it? But create a fuss it did – this was somehow giving women “special rights”, that would lead to such societal ills as birth control and abortion “on demand”; legalized prostitution; and uni-sex bathrooms. While we’re not entirely sure why working towards a society that respects everyone’s bodily autonomy and sexual expression was something to fight against, it’s unlikely any of these scenarios would have come to pass as soon as the ERA passed, if ever. What this amendment is meant to do is actually get women into the US Constitution, as technically, we’re not in there. Continue reading

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ERA is alive and kicking at Raleigh event

Former Senator Ellie Kinnaird shows off a feminist lapel button before delivering her keynote speech.

At RATIFY ERA-NC’s recent statewide conference, “The ERA: Alive and Kicking,” in Raleigh, women (and one male ally) from across the state gathered to hear keynote speaker Ellie Kinnaird discuss the amendment’s history, our current three-state strategy, and congressional legislation to eliminate the deadline for ratification. Former state Senator Kinnaird mentioned that NC had failed to ratify the ERA in the 1970s by only one vote. She noted that the 14th amendment speaks specifically of males and that sex discrimination cases, unlike race discrimination lawsuits, have been interpreted by the Supreme Court using intermediate scrutiny, rather than strict scrutiny. Men file 40 percent of sex bias cases in the Supreme Court, she noted. Continue reading

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What Is a ‘Women’s Issue’? Women of Color Challenge the Prevailing Narrative

Emma Akpan

by Emma Akpan August 5, 2014

All too often, when women of color are concerned about things outside of what appears to be the predominant white woman’s agenda, they aren’t considered "women’s issues." But, we cannot tell women of color what issues are important to them.All too often, when women of color are concerned about things outside of what appears to be the predominant white woman’s agenda, they aren’t considered “women’s issues.” But, we cannot tell women of color what issues are important to them. (StoryOfAmerica / YouTube)

Last summer, in response to an onslaught of attacks on abortion and contraceptive access by the North Carolina General Assembly, activists behind the Moral Mondays demonstrations decided to dedicate an upcoming protest to women’s issues. Moral Mondays gather folks from all over North Carolina to speak and engage in civil disobedience in response to dangerous policies enacted by the legislature. I was invited by its organizers to give the closing prayers for this particular Moral Monday.

Women were invited to talk about the Earned Income Tax Credit, equal pay, cuts to education, and of course, reproductive justice. And speak out they did. But, it fell two days after the George Zimmerman verdict. A man who had killed a 17-year-old Black child would walk free and the country was in mourning. So women also spoke out against gun violence, racial profiling, and held moments of silence for Trayvon Martin. At our statewide demonstration, spending time in mourning and reverence was more than important; it was essential to mourn and hold his life in reverence.

But not for all of us.

After this Moral Monday, something happened that shows how much work we still need to do in the women’s movement around race. An email from an individual who works closely with the women’s coalition and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People went out expressing concern about the direction the event took. It complained that the focus seemed to be on Trayvon Martin and racial profiling. “This was about women’s issues,” the writer said.

To me, this felt like a slap in the face. What are “women’s issues,” exactly? All too often, when women of color are concerned about things outside of what appears to be the predominant white woman’s agenda, those things aren’t considered “women’s issues.”

We cannot tell women of color what issues are important to them. Implying that the grief of losing Trayvon Martin is not a women’s issue erases the experience of Black mothers across the United States. Facing stark realities, Black mothers have to raise their sons with mistrust of the police and constantly remind them how to avoid violence and arrest.

Lived experiences define the activism of women of color, not a narrowly prescribed list of issues. White women must learn about and respect the diversity of the lived experiences of women of color. Too often, though, it feels as if our colored faces are being used to speak on behalf of a white movement. Women of color are asked to be spokespeople for a movement we are not allowed to fully participate in.

In my experience, many white women in North Carolina put blinders on when it comes to the work women of color are already doing, perhaps because we aren’t doing it with them. When women of color are not joining with predominantly or historically white organizations, not using the language such as “my body” and “my choice,” are gathering on issues other than contraceptives or abortion, then white women often try to reach out to us and fold us into their movement.

If our “women’s issues” don’t fit within the prescribed list defined by white women, then we are told they do not count. Asking women of color to show up to events, participate in planning meetings, and knock on doors, but then saying that we cannot grieve the death of Black boys and express anger at the injustice of the justice system, is like asking us to host a dinner party and cook the food, but not letting us choose what’s on the menu.

Luckily leaders in the women’s movement in North Carolina have begun to recognize the deep and racist problems that cause some white women to consider only reproductive health and equal pay as women’s issues.

This year, we’ve already seen NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, SisterSong (a Black reproductive justice collective) and El Pueblo (a Latino youth organization) plan a Reproductive Justice Summit specifically for youth between the ages of 16 and 24, to hear what young people have to offer the movement.

North Carolina’s women also stood in solidarity with the recent “Standing Our Ground” conference, which included a discussion on reproductive justice for Marissa Alexander, an African-American woman and domestic violence survivor who was incarcerated and kept away from her child because of racial profiling and unjust domestic violence laws.

Supporting Marissa Alexander is both symbolic and important for North Carolina’s women because it shows that we consider all intersections for women’s concerns in the fight for reproductive justice. Yes, contraceptive coverage and abortion is important for reproductive justice, but couple those restrictions with dangerous gun laws, poor reporting of domestic violence, and racism, and a woman of color faces far more barriers in life than choosing when and how she raises a child. In fact, these barriers directly influence our reproductive decisions. They cannot be separated.

It is important for white-led movements to avoid simple “outreach” to women of color and instead collaborate with us, and learn about the work we are already doing. In order to build a strong, inclusive women’s movement that will empower all women in North Carolina, all women have to be included in both the planning and executing of all actions. We cannot call ourselves inclusive if we leave important voices out.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with Emma Akpan please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.



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ERA Update

RATIFY ERA-NC is hard at work to make ERA part of the U.S. Constitution. Our focus in North Carolina is on the congressional legislation (House Joint Resolution 113 and Senate Joint Resolution 15), which will remove the deadline for ratification and make ERA part of the Constitution after only three more states ratify. We have persuaded Senator Kay Hagan to be a cosponsor and are trying to persuade other members of the NC delegation to cosponsor the measures. SJR 15 has 34 cosponsors, while HJR 113 has 120 cosponsors. We are urging everyone to call Senator Burr and their respective U.S. House member to urge them to cosponsor. It’s a toll free call to the U.S. Capitol: 1-877-762-8762. Black Mountain members will meet tomorrow with Congressman Patrick McHenry to urge him to cosponsor.

Meanwhile, several other state legislatures are moving ahead with ratification efforts. These include Illinois, where the state Senate recently voted for ratification and where the House is considered a good bet also. Also, the Nevada legislature is expected to take up the ERA soon and is considered to be a favorable possibility. The Virginia Senate has voted twice for ratification, but the measure has been blocked in the House each time. There is pro-ERA activity in several other states as well.

RATIFY ERA-NC is working to expand our network across the state and has recruited several women to serve as “point persons” in their own areas. For example, Varnell Kinnin and Michelle Evans of the Triangle area are helping to organize an ERA program in Raleigh on August 2, tentatively called “The Equal Rights Amendment–Alive and Kicking.” Speakers will include former Senator Ellie Kinnaird, 12-year-old feminist Madison Kimrey of Burlington, NC, and Nancy Glowacki and Roberta Madden of RATIFY ERA-NC. We are planning extensive publicity. The program will include training in how to lobby, how to write an op ed or letter to the editor, and how to organize an ERA house party. Similar programs will be held throughout the state.

Roberta Madden has spoken on the ERA at a well attended meeting in Chapel Hill. She and Nancy Glowacki spoke to a group in the Sandhills area several months ago. Robbie and Anna Stearns presented “A Radical Idea: Equality for Women” at the Unitarian church in Black Mountain recently. Robbie addressed the state AAUW meeting in March and will speak at the June state convention of Business and Professional Women. Both AAUW and BPW have made generous contributions to RATIFY ERA-NC.

Nancy Glowacki has recruited a design professional to create a new logo for RATIFY ERA-NC, which will be used on printed materials and on our website.

Next meeting of RATIFY ERA-NC will be a conference call on June 12.

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