In history class, we learn about how the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in order to incorporate more laws and protections. We have an amendment that gives us the right to exercise free speech, an amendment that guarantees that citizens will be protected equally and an amendment that ensures that no president can be in office for more than two terms. However, despite the fact that there are 27 amendments that help ensure our freedom, there is one amendment that we have not been able to pass: the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The ERA was first proposed in 1923, with the purpose of ensuring that civil rights will not be denied on the basis of sex. Essentially, it would have ensured, in writing, gender equality.
When I first heard about this amendment, I thought that it seemed like a great idea — it guarantees that everyone is treated equally. I mean, what’s wrong with that?
To the people of the U.S., a lot is wrong with that. It has been 96 years since the ERA was first proposed, and it still hasn’t been passed.
Currently, there is no legislation guaranteeing equal pay, nothing preventing any other type of workplace discrimination based on gender and nothing guaranteeing gender equality in education. Except for voting rights for women, as established in the 19th Amendment, there is nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing equal rights among sexes.
It is 2019, and the law does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. We cannot seriously still keep the Founding Fathers’ archaic phrase “all men are created equal” and not see a problem with it.
Of course, there are still laws regarding sex discrimination. However, these laws can easily be repealed by Congress, as seen with how the Violence Against Women Act recently expired.
If the ERA is passed, sex discrimination becomes illegal. This law would not and could not change by Congress or the President alone, thus nearly ensuring that women and men would finally be equal in all aspects of the law and it would be in virtually no danger of being repealed.
So why can’t the ERA be passed? The way that a Constitutional Amendment is ratified is by being sent to both chambers of Congress and then being sent to the states to ratify it. In October 1971, the House of Representatives passed the ERA onto the Senate, where in March 1972, it passed. From there it moved on to the states.
As of today, 37 states have ratified the ERA. For a Constitutional Amendment to be ratified, three-fourths of the states need to pass the ERA. If you do the math, three-fourths of 50 is rounded to 38.
Essentially, the ERA has not been passed because just one more state is needed to ratify it. It is ridiculous that the difference between guaranteeing equal rights and not guaranteeing equal rights lies in the power of exactly one state.
Many people do not realize how close we are to getting the ERA ratified. As comedian John Oliver said during his episode of “Last Week Tonight” on June 9, “The fact is, though, we have never been closer to the ERA being enshrined in our constitution.”
The 13 states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah. If just one of these states ratifies the ERA, we could have gender equality explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution. This would be a milestone for women’s rights.
If you are from any of these states and believe in the ERA, you can help to get it passed by calling your respective senators and advocating for the ERA. Who knows? Maybe before the ERA turns 100, we will have added it to the Constitution.
Anika Veeraraghav is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.