A recent poll showed that 80% of Americans believe that women and men have equal rights under the Constitution. But the fact is, they don’t. On March 22, 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution. It said “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” But it is not law because a constitutional amendment requires three-fourths of the states (38 out of 50) to ratify it, and until recently only 35 had done so. However, in 2017, Nevada became the 36th state and in 2018 Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the ERA. It only takes one more state ratifying it for the ERA to be implemented.
Why do we need this amendment? It’s true that, in the forty-seven years since Congress passed the ERA, legislation and court decisions have furthered women’s equality. But laws can be changed or even revoked at the whim of legislators and judges. Implementing the ERA would ensure women have the she Constitutional protection from discrimination that is already bestowed on race, religion and country of origin.
What will implementing the ERA achieve? It would end sex discrimination in employment and help advance fair pay legislation so that women will earn 100% of the wages men earn, not the current 70%. It would promote equal opportunity for women in academic and athletic programs. The ERA could force law enforcement and the judiciary to respond to rape and sexual assault more effectively. It would clarify that sex discrimination is a violation of constitutional rights.
Senator J.P. Morrell has just announced that on the first day of the 2019 Legislative Session he intends to file a Senate Concurrent Resolution that provides for ratification by the Louisiana Legislature of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. Louisiana has the opportunity to make history. Let’s all tell our legislators we want them to vote yes on Senator Morrell’s resolution and ratify the ERA.
Written by Joyce Corrigan and submitted by Jan Harrison, Chair, Leadership Team, League of Women Voters of St. Tammany.