Equal Rights Amendment still relevant, promotes equality


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Women both supporting and against the Equal Rights Amendment protesting in January of 1982.

Stella Maximuk

“All men are created equal” is one of the most famous phrases from the Declaration of Independence and is often used to highlight American equality. While its intentions are just — the statement is not true. Not all citizens in the U.S. are created or treated equally and part of this reason is because of a lack of legislation. 

One hundred years ago, Congress introduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment was created three years after the 19th Amendment to ensure women had equal rights in divorce, property, employment and other matters. Throughout the century, the amendment has gotten painfully close to being ratified, only only because of a lack of a few votes. Regardless of its past failures, the ERA can not be forgotten; it is still relevant today and is desperately needed. 

In 1972, Congress passed the ERA and states began the voting process. In order to become ratified, 3/4 of states (or at least 38) had to approve of the ERA by March of 1979, the deadline given by Congress. A year later, 30 out of the 38 necessary states had approved of the ERA. However, because of a religion-supported rights campaign, support dramatically slowed. Anti-ERA advocates argued that the ERA would allow same-sex marriage to be legal, create gender-neutral bathrooms and cause more women to be in the military, leading the steady movement of ratification to abruptly halt, according to the Brennan Center

Because 35 states endorsed the amendment by 1977, Congress decided to extend the deadline to 1982, however, it was in vain. By the second deadline, the ERA was short of three votes — just narrowly failing. 

Yet 40 years later, after the “failure” of the ERA, Nevada ratified the proposed amendment in 2017, completely disregarding the deadline Congress created in 1977. Nevada was soon followed by Illinois in 2018, and finally, Virginia, the 38th state, in 2020. 

If the deadlines for the ERA were ignored, it would have enough state support to become the 28th amendment. Additionally, according to a study by the Pew Research Center in 2020, 57% of all Americans, both male and female, Democratic and Republican, believe that not enough has been done to give women equal rights. With both of these factors combined, there should be no reason that the ERA is not once again considered to become an amendment, especially when having the amendment would be the solution to many current key issues, such as abortion limitation, unequal pay and gender discrimination. 

While the original intention of the amendment was for women, this has greatly changed and has become much more inclusive. If ratified, the ERA would codify equality for all, regardless of sex, create a judicial standard against sex-based discrimination and provide strong legal defense for cases such as Roe v. Wade, along with other things. 

These protections would also extend to LGBTQ members who still face discrimination. Twenty three states in 2022 introduced anti-LGBTQ bills. Thirteen states signed anti-LGBTQ legislation into law. The ERA would solidify already existing protections and provide support for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

Additionally, the proposed amendment would explicitly add protections against sex discrimination in the Constitution. This means that if ratified, the ERA would stop Congress and other lawmakers from introducing and adopting legislation based on whims and changed political climates. Pregnancy discrimination would be more recognized and classified as sex discrimination. Overall, abortion and other women’s rights would be more protected. 

The anti-ERA movement in the 1970s that hindered the support of the amendment is largely based on ideas that are legal and protected today. Gay marriage is legal, gender-neutral bathrooms exist and many women serve in the military. Furthermore, there should be enough political and public support for the ERA. 

In January, the Georgia House introduced a resolution encouraging the Biden Administration to publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment. Even though the passage of the amendment isn’t as widely talked about, discourse around it has still continued. The U.S. has a chance of improving equality. I implore legislators and citizens to consider the amendment and fight for it so that all people in the U.S. really can be created and treated equally.