A Late Summer Vision: Equal Rights Amendment Lives

Monday, 15 August 2011 21:36 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Only one woman in the congressional Super Committee charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal budget with such women-critical programs---like Medicaid, Medicare, child care, education, food assistance, and Social Security. They are all under scheduled to go under the knife or ax as the case may be.

Add this to the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood federally and in several states as well as the strategies to limit access to legal abortions. Tossed in difficulty of prosecutors have persuading juries to convict accused rapists, the rise in sex trafficking and the typical wages of women in the United States (Examples: The median salary for the 3 million secretaries and administrative assistants in the United States is $33,000; the million plus female customer service representatives in the U.S. enjoy median earnings of $25,130, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor  report..)

Mulling this over last week, I had a moment that felt like one of extreme clarity:

What we need is the Equal Rights Amendment, I said to myself. Two contradictory thoughts immediately chased that one.

First: What are you, crazy? That’ll never happen.

Second:  “Imagine, when Congress passes a budget, it would have to include a gender impact statement that would document how the proposed spending plan would affect women—elderly women, girls, the entire gamut.”

This is not a new idea by any means. The amendment proposed in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972. In the 10 years women were given to gain the nod from 38 states, only 35 ratified the amendment.

You got to wonder, with Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin as likely foes, as well as the likes of the king-making Koch brothers, am I crazy to think the ERA has a chance 30 years after the deadline for ratification expired?

Back then, Phyllis Schlafly, an attorney led the well-heeled national campaign that argued the ERA would require unisex bathrooms and women to be subject to the military draft. Be sure to note: Unisex bathrooms are now as common as Starbucks franchises and the United States no longer has a draft. Maybe next time around, even some conservatives would hesitate to openly oppose equal rights for women.

Here is the actual amendment that Schlafly made a career of opposing.  

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

One person fires me up to believe, though. Kamala Lopez, an actor and an activist, is in the process of creating 20 public service announcements that are fast, funny and use the famous to ask: Did you know that women in the U.S. do not have equal rights under the constitution?.

Lopez is also a powerful orator and she just might have the will, the resources and the strategy to bring it off. She is also active with the with the National Women’s Political Caucus, which just might have the infrastructure to master the procedural hurdles, and she had engaged a political fundraiser to give the effort the financial backing it needs.

Imagine with me: A burden on Congress to demonstrate that proposed laws do not have a negative impact on either gender.  And go further. Imagine a Supreme Court that weighs how past decisions may no longer serve as precedent because they did not take women’s equal status into account.

And if you have time, send me your dreams about how the ERA might change women’s lives for the better.