Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The History of the Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, and was introduced to Congress in 1923. Since 1923, many politicians and women’s rights groups, especially the National Organization for Women have fought to pass this important amendment. It is crucial that women be included in the United States constitution. There was a time when the passing of the ERA seemed possible when it passed the House and Senate in 1972. By 1977 the ERA was ratified by 35 of the 38 states needed to pass the amendment, but a cultural war was brewing that greatly hindered the progress achieved by those who worked tirelessly to ratify the ERA. Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative figure, dominated the national discourse opposing the ERA at the time it was being ratified by the states. Schlafly opposed the ERA on the basis of it being dangerous to housewives and that it threatened traditional gender roles. She used fear-mongering tactics such as saying women would be drafted into the army and that mothers would not get custody of their children in cases of divorce. Unfortunately, this proved to be successful because by the ratification deadline in 1982, five states rescinded their ratifications, and no new states had ratified. The amendment was dead.

The ERA has been introduced to every new Congress since that volatile period from 1972-1982, but has not picked up the steam it had in the 70s. Many legal analysts have maintained that the ERA remains viable even after the ratification deadline, and that the 35 state ratifications are still acceptable. As a result there have been great efforts taken to introduce the ERA in front of every new session of Congress with the promise of no ratification expiration date. Proponents of the ERA highly favor a three state strategy, meaning if three more states ratify the ERA then that will be enough to pass the amendment considering the 35 states that ratified in the 70s are still valid. This strategy is a sensible solution to a long journey that should have ended in 1982. The status of women in the constitution should not be questioned, and it should not be up for debate. The United States cannot afford to ignore half of its population. The passing of the ERA could have unimaginable benefits to society, and could change the course of history.

Written By: Enxhi Liti, Intern- NOW Oakland/Macomb Chapter