Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Forty seven years ago, in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment fell three states short of becoming an amendment to the United States constitution. At last we have arrived at what may be the crest of the wave to success. Illinois and Nevada passed it recently and now it’s a race between Virginia and Missouri to close the gap.
Alice Paul, a suffragist, was the author of the original amendment, which had slightly different wording (and had a hand in its subsequent revision). She saw it presented to Congress in 1921, just a few years after right to vote was granted to women. But it got caught in committee by the opposition and it never was debated or voted on. Almost 100 years later, we are on the verge of seeing her vision(and the vision of so many) become a reality. Why did it take so long? Aren’t equal rights for women something we all can agree on?
You may be surprised to learn that it’s passing was(ironically) sabotaged by women who were against the ERA. The resistance within the ranks of women stemmed from the thinking that the amendment would shake the very foundation of traditional women’s roles and disturb family structure. They thought that the legislation would take away certain privileges away from women, like being exempt from the draft and being excused from doing physically demanding or rough work.
Abortion—was and still is—a hot topic around the amendment. Opponents are fearful that the amendment will make legalized abortion part of the constitution. Gay marriage is also a consideration. Even though the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, it(along with Roe vs. Wade)could be overturned.
As far as the draft goes, there are strenuous physical requirements to being included in combat. Some men don’t even qualify. Not all women will fulfill those requirement in terms of front line combat. The fact is that as a group, women are physically smaller and weaker. If a woman who meets the requirements wants to be trained to fight, it should be her right to do so. In the case that there are children at home, one parent at least should stay with the children and perhaps that should be left up to the parents to decide which. Women are already an important part of our military. Why should they not go into battle if they desire to do so? It’s my opinion that these details will be sorted out—from the foundation of women being allowed to do what men do when they have the desire and ability.
Even without he ERA, women have swept the country with brilliance in every way imaginable, permeating every occupation and every corner of life with creativity, ingenuity, sensitivity and tenacity. Even without the ERA, women are doing largely what we would be doing anyway. The absence of the ERA hasn’t stopped us from progressing.
So why do we need the ERA?
Although many of us enjoy equality in the workplace and in other areas, we do not technically enjoy equality in our legal standing. Those of us who are victims of gender discrimination have little federal legal framework to support our seeking justice. We need the ERA in place to be fully protected. We need that security to give us the confidence to demand what we know is rightfully ours, but currently may shy away from simply to keep food on the table.
For those who discriminate against women, the ratification of the ERA will be a clear message that the game is up. They can no longer use discriminatory practices without risking litigation in which they could lose money, reputation and business status.
For men, there are benefits as well. They will have a stronger position in divorce courts, where mothers are many times seen as the more nurturing parent. That is not always the case. Men will be able to more confidently demand the custody they deserve and seek the child support they need.
Over the last 100 years men and women have lifted up the torch of the ERA, reaching for its acceptance again and again, keeping the flame of the ERA from being doused. And we will continue to call for its ratification and subsequent permanence in the constitution.
The United States was founded on freedom, which will ultimately prevail.