Equal Rights Amendment revival


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi along with other members of Congress fighting to renew the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). If ratified, the ERA would provide for complete gender equality under the law. Photo courtesy of NPR.

Adrienne Deslongchamps, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Nearly a hundred years ago, women at the 1923 Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention made history when they proposed the following constitutional amendment:

“Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

It was called the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and during the early to mid-1900s it sparked controversy and garnered upset from both men and women alike, according to the ERA’s website.

The amendment was formally proposed to Congress in 1972, and the ratification deadline for states was set to 1982, according to NPR.

According to The New York Times, the ERA today reads as follows:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

However, the ERA was never amended to the Constitution because it did not receive the mandatory ratification by 38 states — it had only gained the support of 35 states by the 1982 deadline.

The amendment lay dormant for decades, believed by nearly all to be dead — until Nevada ratified the ERA in March 2017 and Illinois in May 2018.

The ERA received the final necessary ratification from Virginia in January of this year, and it raises the question of what happens next?

According to Politico, what happens next has thankfully proven to be action; on February 13, the House voted 232-183 to pass legislation that would remove the 1982 deadline for states.

The vote occurred almost faithfully along the party line — it had unanimous support from Democrats and the support of five Republican lawmakers.

Representative Jackie Speier from California, a supporter of the ERA’s revival, said, “It’s almost laughable that we are one of only a handful of countries in the entire world to not have this in our Constitution. What are we afraid of?”

Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate, succinctly said, “I’m personally not a supporter.”

Nearly every Republican in Congress has taken an opinion similar to McConnell’s. 

This has been a devastating blow to women’s rights advocates in Congress, who had hoped such a simple issue as equality would create bipartisan unity.

According to Politico, opponents to the ERA’s revival believe that the amendment will have troubling implications for equal pay, parental leave, pregnancy accommodations, and the expansion of transgender rights.

Supporters of the ERA’s revival believe that the amendment is necessary in addressing issues such as the gender pay gap and sexual harassment against women in the workplace, according to The New York Times.

The next step in the process for the ERA’s advancement is passage through the Senate — whether or not it will succeed in the Republican-majority Senate remains to be seen.

As residents of the border between the United States and Mexico, the fight for women’s rights takes on a different significance for El Pasoans.

News of femicide — killing women simply because they are women — happening in Mexico is an almost daily occurrence.

According to The New York Times, 1006 femicides were reported in 2019, and it is estimated that 10 women are murdered every day in Mexico.

The widespread femicide in Mexico is an appalling humanitarian crisis, and the response from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been lackluster, even dismissive.

According to The New York Times, when he was asked back in February to comment on a recent string of violent femicides, he said, “Look, I don’t want the topic to be only femicide… [t]his issue has been manipulated a lot in the media.” 

In response, protests against femicide have arisen; “not one more” is the rallying call of the protesters.

“It seems like he is closing his eyes before a reality that is not only sitting in front of him but is slapping him in the face,” said Beatriz Belmont, a protester and a member of the feminist student collective group called the Fourth Wave.

The fight for women’s rights is one that is drastically different on either side of the border, but on both sides it can be disheartening to see how social progress is halted by the inaction of political leaders.

Women’s rights are human rights — we can never have true equality until women are given the same opportunities and rights that men are. 

For that reason, we should support the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment —  both as a show of solidarity for the protesters in Mexico and as a way of upholding the very ideal of equality that America was built upon.