Is Gender Equality Still a Dream?


>By Cherrie Wheaton, Co-President, American Association of University Women of North Carolina



Like most Americans, you may think women already have equal rights protected by law.  But the sad truth is that the U.S. Constitution only guarantees equality among men.  Although progress for women has occurred incrementally over the years through legislation, women’s equality under our Constitution remains a dream.  This is because the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) still has not been ratified by the required number of states.

The ERA states that:

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state because 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.

Women achieved the right to vote in 1920, and three years later the first ERA legislation was presented to Congress.  Although it was introduced every year thereafter, Congress did not pass it until 1972.  But for this legislation to become an amendment to the Constitution, 38 states also needed to ratify it.   Although two deadlines have already passed, proponents of ERA claim that Congress has the authority to extend the ratification period based on the precedent of the 27 th Amendment, which took 203 years to ratify.   So, the effort for ratification continues.  Nevada moved us closer to our goal by ratifying the ERA this year, becoming the 36 th state to do so.  Now only two more states are needed to ratify the amendment.

You may be surprised to learn that North Carolina has NOT ratified the ERA.  The amendment remains buried in committee and has not been brought to a vote by our state legislature. Gender equality does not have the same protection under the law as equality in terms of race, religion or nationality.  Ratification of this amendment is important to women because legislation that benefits women could not be rescinded by legislators if gender equality were protected in the Constitution.  

We need to come together to celebrate Women’s Equality Day by encouraging an additional two states to pass the ERA.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate the 100 th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote with the passage of the ERA by 2020?  It is shameful that it has taken this long to progress from obtaining the right to vote to securing true equality for women under our Constitution.  This unfinished business needs to be completed!



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