Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (2022)

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (1)

Coral Murphy MarcosUSA TODAY

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Nearly half a century after the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress, the proposal to enshrine equality for women in the U.S. Constitution has gained new momentum.

(Video) The Equal Rights Amendment: An Ongoing Struggle – Women’s Rights in the United States Series | A...

The timing is fortuitous, aligning with the centennial this month of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote, and the political environment is primed as the women’s movement has reasserted itself as a powerful force.

The protections guaranteed by the ERA – providing specific protection for women as a class – are designed to end gender discrimination in broad segments, including employment, property rights and divorce.

“We face the same challenges we faced since 1982, and that is that very few people understand we still don't have equality regardless of gender,” said Lucienne Beard, executive director of the nonprofit Alice Paul Institute, named after the woman who wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. The amendment was proposed in Congress every session until it was finally approved in 1972.

“Our country is based on our laws,” Beard said, “and our laws do not reflect the reality that men and women are equal and should be treated as such under the law.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s left millions of Americans unemployed and the economy cratered, the ERA has new meaning: As families struggle to pay their rent, food and other necessities while living with uncertainty about whether they'll receive more federal benefits or not, the ERA would create legal space for women to hold employers accountable for punitive actions taken against them based on increased child care responsibilities.

Christina Sciabarra, a political science professor at Bellevue College in Washington state, said day care and school closures hit working moms particularly hard. Those women "could face punishment from employers who have grown frustrated with accommodating family needs," Sciabarra said. Passing the ERA would offer them some form of protection.

The women’s movement gained momentum in the early 20th century thanks to the ratification of women’s suffrage. Despite that crucial victory, women’s rights advocates argued that women didn’t have equal rights under the law.

“As many voices in this centennial tell us, not all women actually succeeded in securing actual voting rights at the point of the 19th Amendment's ratification in 1920,” said Reva Siegel, a professor at Yale Law School.

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (5)

There's still work to be done when it comes to equality. The 19th Amendment wasn’t fully extended to women of color: Black, Latina, Native American and Asian women continued to face disenfranchisement, either because they were living under Jim Crow laws or they were not granted full citizenship.

(Video) Equal Rights Amendment: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Three years after women secured the right to vote, Alice Paul, a key figure in the suffrage fight, wrote and introduced the Equal Rights Amendment.

It took decades for the ERA to gain traction. The country was recovering from the Second World War, and women were sent back homeout of their workplaces. Women felt renewed discrimination regarding employment. The civil rights movement of the 1960s helped the ERA gain momentum again.

The ERA was passed by a majority-Democrat Congress on March 22, 1972, under President Richard Nixon; however, it failed to achieve ratification after it was sent to the states.

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (6)

To be added to the Constitution, it needed approval by legislatures in three-fourths – or 38 of the 50 – states by March 1979. The ERA received approval in only 35 states by that date. Its defeat was due in part to the work of conservative women, who shunned the ERA and the women’s liberation movement.

One of the ERA’s major opponents was Phyllis Schlafly, who expressed her disdain for the amendment, which she sawas an attack on women, families, homemakers and morality. Schlafly formed the group Stop ERA, which aimed to halt the amendment's ratification. (The ERA fight was portrayed in the 2020 Hulu series "Mrs. America," which feminist leader and ERA advocate Gloria Steinem criticized as being inaccurate.)

Although Congress voted to extend the original March 1979 deadline to June 30, 1982, no other state voted yes before that date, and the ERA was pushed to the back burner.

Critics of the ERA argue it is no different from the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The 14th Amendment was ratified after the Civil War to address race discrimination, and it has been applied to sex discrimination only since 1971.

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (7)

“Although the ERA was not made part of the official text of the Constitution, the mobilization for its recognition profoundly altered the understanding of both public and private actors all around the U.S. and began to make aspects of the law shift in a transformative way,” Siegel said.

Recently, 10 of the states that didn't ratify introduced ERA bills in their legislatures: In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA, and in 2018, Illinois became the 37th. On Jan. 27, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify, jump-starting the conversation again for the amendment's inclusion in the Constitution almost 50 years after it was defeated. The ratification vote came after a record number of women were elected to Virginia state office in November 2018.

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (8)
Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (9)
(Video) The Equal Rights Amendment Will Damage Women's Rights • Washington Journal

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (10)

After Virginia’s ratification, the ERA reached the minimum of 38 states required by Congress for addition to the U.S. Constitution. Less than a month later, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that would remove the deadline for the ERA’s ratification.

“Without full equality under the Constitution, women face a devastating wage gap,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a speech in February. “And this has an impact not only on the families, what families earn today, but on women's pension and retirement in the future.”

The resolution is in the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was dismissive of the measurewhen asked in February whether he would allow it to come to the floor.

"I haven't thought about that," he said. "I am personally not a supporter, but I haven't thought about it."

Equal Rights Amendment: Will women ever have equal rights under federal law? (11)

Pelosi, D-Calif., said this year it’s shameful the ERA hasn’t been enshrined in the Constitution.

“As a result, millions of American women still face inequality under the law and injustice in their careers and lives,” Pelosi said in February.

Millions of American women still face inequality under the law and injustice in their careers and lives.

(Video) Do we need an Equal Rights Amendment to ensure gender equality in the U.S.?

Supporters of the ERA say they aim to end pregnancy discrimination, problems exposed by the #MeToo movementand gender inequities at home and work amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden supports the ERA and said that if he's elected in November, he will work with Congress to include it in the Constitution.

The Trump administration filed a motion to dismiss the case that seeks to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

“With two conservative Supreme Court justices relatively recently appointed and confirmed, there are real questions as to what this could mean for abortion rights, LGBTQ rightsand women's employment rights,” Sciabarra said. “Final ratification and certified publication of the ERA would provide an additional legal barrier to reversing gender-based rights, although it is no guarantee, given its simplicity.”

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(Video) Equal Rights for Women | Simple Civics

FAQs

Do women in America have equal rights? ›

Paul's Equal Rights Amendment stated that, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” With the amendment, Paul intended to eliminate all sex discrimination and inequality in the law in one bold move.

Did the Equal Rights Amendment fail to pass? ›

However, during the mid-1970s, a conservative backlash against feminism eroded support for the Equal Rights Amendment, which ultimately failed to achieve ratification by the a requisite 38, or three-fourths, of the states, by the deadline set by Congress.

Why did women oppose the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

These women argued that the ERA would disadvantage housewives, cause women to be drafted into the military and to lose protections such as alimony, and eliminate the tendency for mothers to obtain custody over their children in divorce cases.

What are the arguments for the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

The Equal Rights Amendment is needed in order to prevent a rollback of women's rights by conservative or reactionary political votes. The ERA will promote laws and court decisions that fairly take into account women's, as well as men's, experiences.

Do women have all rights? ›

These rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage. As the now-famous saying goes, “women's rights are human rights.” That is to say, women are entitled to all of these rights.

Is there an Equal Rights Amendment for women? ›

Three years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was initially proposed in Congress in 1923 in an effort to secure full equality for women. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.

Why did the Equal Rights Amendment fail quizlet? ›

It was not ratified by the necessary 38 states.

How many states rejected the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

The 15 states that did not ratify the Equal Rights Amendment before the 1982 deadline were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

What is the current status of the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

Res. 638 passed the House and Senate in 1978, but no additional states ratified the ERA before the June 30, 1982, deadline. Nevada ratified the ERA in 2017, and Illinois ratified the amendment in 2018. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA in 2020.

When did women get equal rights? ›

Women's Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What was the argument for women's rights? ›

Arguments in support of suffrage were grounded in women's rights: Natural rights—those who are affected by laws should have a say in making them. No taxation without representation—women are wage workers and pay taxes. Legislation will be more moral, educational and humane—women will clean up politics and government.

Who tried to stop the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

Phyllis Schlafly was perhaps the most visible opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her "Stop ERA" campaign hinged on the belief that the ERA would eliminate laws designed to protect women and led to the eventual defeat of the amendment.

Why is it important to have equal rights? ›

Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.

What are the benefits of having equal rights? ›

It is a human right and it is good for the economy.
  • Gender equality prevents violence against women and girls. Gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women. ...
  • Gender equality is good for the economy. ...
  • Gender equality is a human right. ...
  • Gender equality makes our communities safer and healthier.
30 Mar 2021

What is the issue of equal rights? ›

The ERA would protect individuals against discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, the same way that federal statutes such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 do.

Is women's rights still an issue today? ›

Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.

What rights did women not have? ›

In accordance with social tradition and English common law, women were were denied most legal rights. In general they could not vote, own property, keep their own wages, or even have custody of their children.

What did the Equal Rights Amendment allow women to do? ›

The ERA is a constitutional amendment which would prohibit denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any state on account of sex.

What are the laws protecting women's rights? ›

WOMEN-SPECIFIC LEGISLATION
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (172.32 KB)
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986) (239.43 KB)
  • (172.32 KB)
  • The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 (3 of 1988) (294.55 KB)
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (330.96 KB)

How has the Equal Rights Amendment affected women's civil rights quizlet? ›

How has the Equal Rights Amendment affected women's civil rights? It has ensured that men and women are treated equally in the workplace. It has eliminated gender discrimination in the military.

What was the final outcome of the Equal Rights Amendment? ›

In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment, designed to guarantee protection against sexual discrimination for women under the law, passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the individual states for ratification.

What are the limitations of the Equal Protection Clause? ›

One of the main limitations in the Equal Protection Clause is that it limits only the powers of government bodies, and not the private parties on whom it confers equal protection. This limitation has existed since 1883 and has not been overturned.

Is the Equal Rights Amendment ratified in all states? ›

Listing each of the 38 states by date of ratification, the House resolution resoundingly concludes the ERA “has met the requirements of the Constitution and become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the Constitution, and shall be known as the 'Twenty-Eight Amendment to the Constitution. '”

Is the Equal Rights Amendment a federal law? ›

The Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed nearly a century ago and has still not been added to the U.S. Constitution. The original Equal Rights Amendment was proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul, woman suffrage leader and head of the National Woman's Party, and was introduced in Congress in the same year.

How many equal rights are there? ›

Everyone born in this world have human rights that must be protected by the law. According to United Nations, there are 30 basic human rights that recognized around the world.

Who started the equal rights for women? ›

The Equal Rights Amendment was first drafted in 1923 by two leaders of the women's suffrage movement, Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. For women's rights advocates, the ERA was the next logical step following the successful campaign to win access to the ballot through the adoption of the 19th Amendment.

When did women's rights begin and end? ›

The Women's Rights Movement, 1848–1917.

What is the biggest problem with women's rights? ›

The biggest challenge facing women in the United States today is patriarchy. This is especially evident in the realm of politics. Regardless of a woman's experience, education or abilities, the patriarchal nature of U.S. society fosters the perception that women are less qualified and less competent than men.

What is the main role of a woman in our society? ›

Women are the primary caretakers of children and elders in every country of the world. International studies demonstrate that when the economy and political organization of a society change, women take the lead in helping the family adjust to new realities and challenges.

When was the Equal Rights Amendment Defeated? ›

In 1946, it is narrowly defeated by the full Senate, 38-35. In 1950, the ERA is passed by the Senate with a rider that nullifies its equal protection aspects.

Who was the first to propose everyone is equal before the law? ›

In Modern times the rule of law was propounded by the Albert Dicey, a British jurist and Philosopher. He gave following three postulates of rule of law: 1. Everyone is equal before the law. 2.

What are the women's rights in America? ›

These include the right to live free from violence and discrimination; to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn an equal wage.

What are women's equal rights? ›

In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment, designed to guarantee protection against sexual discrimination for women under the law, passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the individual states for ratification.

Is women's rights still an issue today? ›

Today, gender bias continues to create huge barriers for many women. Ongoing struggles include ensuring equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence.

Why is women's rights a thing? ›

Gender equality prevents violence against women and girls. It's essential for economic prosperity. Societies that value women and men as equal are safer and healthier.

Where do women have rights? ›

Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Sweden were the only ones offering full equal rights for men and women, at least from a legal perspective. Spain and Greece were the newcomers among those rated at 100 points this year.

Who has the most gender equality? ›

Iceland has once again been named the most gender equal country, topping the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2022. The Nordic country has closed more than 90% of its gender gap – and tops the ranking for the 12th year in a row, out of a total of 146 economies in the 2022 Global Gender Gap Index.

What country are women most free? ›

Sweden was ranked the best country in the world for women and Denmark and the Netherlands follow up in second and third place on the list.
...
Here are the top 60 World's Best Countries for women in 2020.
RankCountryScore
1Sweden99.7
2Denmark99.4
3Netherlands99.2
4Norway98.7
56 more rows
24 Jun 2020

What is women's equality called? ›

gender equality, also called gender egalitarianism, sex equality, or sexual equality, condition of parity regardless of an individual's gender.

What are the laws protecting women's rights? ›

WOMEN-SPECIFIC LEGISLATION
  • The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (172.32 KB)
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986) (239.43 KB)
  • (172.32 KB)
  • The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 (3 of 1988) (294.55 KB)
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (330.96 KB)

Videos

1. What Is The Equal Rights Amendment?
(Students for Life)
2. The History of the Equal Rights Amendment: 3 Things You Should Know
(Harvard Kennedy School)
3. Do Women Need the Equal Rights Amendment
(Network of enlightened Women)
4. Why We Need An Equal Rights Amendment
(act.tv)
5. Why hasn't the Equal Rights Amendment been ratified?
(POLITICO)
6. The Equal Rights Amendment and Its War on Women
(ILFamilyInstitute)

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