Some women ‘out of touch’ as U.S. Congress breaks again on fairness & equal pay
It’s true that much legal discrimination has disappeared. Remaining inequalities and the shortcomings of statutory protections and judicial review still make the ERA necessary, argue women’s rights scholars, human rights advocates and activists.
“At a symbolic level, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would affirm that the bedrock principles [of equality] of United States democracy…finally and without question apply equally to women,” said Roberta W. Francis, Chair of the ERA Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organization in 2001.
The ERA, Francis also stated, “would clarify the law for the lower courts.”
“The ERA [would act] as a blanket insurance policy or a firewall for all laws passed for women,” said Virginia NOW President Diana Egozcue, speaking last February before a senate committee in support of Virginia’s ratification of the ERA.
Lisa Baldez and others in a 2006 Journal of Legal Studies analysis of the impact of state ERAs on judicial decision-making argued that it could raise sex discrimination cases to the much higher standard of race discrimination cases.
The problem with the ERA is time-limits. The proposing clause in the 1972 ERA Resolution set a seven-year ratification deadline. The thirty-five states that ratified before the deadline expired represented about 72 per cent of the population, but the deadline consigned the proposed amendment to limbo.
In fact, conventional wisdom said that the ERA was dead. Its demise was so generally accepted that every Congress since has re-introduced the ERA. Representative Carolyn Maloney’s H.J. Res. 61 reintroduced the ERA in the House in June, 2011. This is called the start-over strategy and would require a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress and ratification by 38 states.
Yet, there is currently a debate about the necessity, the viability and the constitutionality of deadlines, arising from the ratification in 1992 of the 27th Amendment after more than 202 years. This amendment prohibited members of Congress from awarding themselves pay raises without going to the voters.
After the 27th Amendment ratification, an article in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law in 1997 argued that the ERA was still viable. This led to the three-state strategy – a proposal whereby the ERA would be fully ratified with three more states.
Last year, a measure that United For Equality of Washington, D.C. devised, refined this. In March 2011, House Joint Resolution 47 and in March 2012 Senate Joint Resolution 39 were introduced to remove the deadline from the original 1972 ERA resolution, basing the viability of these resolutions on the fact that the deadline in the 1972 ERA resolutions was only in the preamble to the wording of the proposed amendment. A 1977 memo to the President to do with extending the ERA deadline at that time said a change such as this required only a simple majority.
Deadline removal could help ERA workers in some of the fifteen unratified states. Camille Moran and ERA lobbyist in Louisiana, ERA, one of several that have tried ratification in recent years, said they always encounter the objection that the ERA is dead because of the deadline. Its removal could negate these objections.
Young Women In Favor
Young women who are informed do favor the deadline removal. Wigginton and Kittrell supported it. Julie Ellsworth, 33, a Huntsville, Alabama graphic designer said she wants it because Article V of the Constitution on amendments contains nothing about deadlines.
George said she was “surprised that [the Congress] would find it necessary to start over. HJ Res 61 would cost a lot of money… It surprises me that Congress would want to spend more money with the issue of the national debt today.”
Jennifer Free, 23, a music student in Redlands, California, would “probably be for the deadline removal.”
Jesse Lee Pope, 20, a math senior in Monroe, Louisiana, expressed surprise that equality of the sexes is still an issue, but said, “I would be behind any move [to ratify].”
In 2009, The White House Project’s report, Benchmarking Women’s Leadership, analyzing U.S. women’s participation in the workforce, concluded, “while women may be participating in the workforce in equal – or in some cases, higher – numbers relative to their male peers, they rarely make it to the top…[There], women are stalled at 18 percent…”
If sex discrimination is creating this situation, young American women just starting out in work today would benefit most from a ratified ERA.
In 1966 the U.S. Department of Labor placed this PSA – Public Service Announcement on American television nationwide. In it Batgirl, one of the main characters from the television show, adventure parody series, Batman informs that ‘she too’ deserves equal pay for equal work. On August 2011 the U.S. Department of Labor placed this PSA on Youtube for the first time. So the question is — Why aren’t women getting the same pay for the same work today and why aren’t U.S. legislators helping to get this legislation passed?
For more detailed information on the ERA and the Paycheck Fairness Act go to: ERA Education Project at ERA UNIVERSITY
Scottish born Bernadette Cahill is a U.S. freelance journalist, author and historian with work based in Arkansas and North Carolina. She specializes in women’s issues, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment. She is currently researching and completing a book covering American suffragist and activist Alice Paul, who lead the campaign to get women the vote in 1920. Her upcoming book is also exploring the role and influence of woman suffrage on the American civil rights movement.
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