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