The Equal Rights Amendment consists of 24 simple words “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Often as members of the ERA-NC Alliance ask law makers if they support the Equal Rights Amendment, the response is frequently, “I’m sorry! I haven’t had time to read it.”
The Alliance, formed in 2016 as a 501(c)4 is a nonpartisan, non-profit group of 13 organizations, including WomenAdvaNCe, who agree that ratification of the ERA will improve women’s lives in North Carolina and in the United States.
The ERA was introduced by Alice Paul, a leader in the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1920 to extend voting rights to women. Paul authored the ERA in 1923 and spent the rest of her life fighting for its ratification in the U.S. Constitution. In 1972, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the ERA and it went to the states for ratification. Due to pressure from representatives against the ERA, Congress placed an arbitrary time limit of seven years upon the ratification process in the preamble to the amendment. Thirty-eight states were needed for ratification for the ERA to become an amendment, only 35 states ratified by 1979. Congress extended the time limit for an additional three years, but the ERA remained three states shy of the necessary 38.
Nationally there’s been positive action on the ERA. In 2017, the Nevada Legislature ratified the ERA as did the Illinois Legislature in 2018 with both ratifications being officially recorded by the National Archivist. The Virginia Legislature ratified the ERA in January 2020 to become the 38th and final state required for the ERA to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Almost immediately the U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General William Barr, objected to certification stating the deadline for ratification had passed.
In 2020 the attorneys general of NV, IL, and VA filed a joint lawsuit to force the National Archivist to certify the 38th state ratification as did the national organization Equal Means Equal. The ERA-NC Alliance filed amici briefs (friend of the court) in both lawsuits. Unfortunately, the courts dismissed both lawsuits. Appeals will be filed, and it is likely the Supreme Court will make the final decision in the lawsuits.
In February, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and House introduced a joint resolution (SJR1, HJR17) to eliminate the deadline for state ratification of the ERA. SJR1 is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee and it is expected that HJR17 will be introduced the week of March 15 for a vote. If Congress passes the resolution to remove the deadline, the Alliance is optimistic the ERA will be the 28th Amendment in 2021. However, there could still be further obstacles to ratification.
The ERA-NC Alliance is part of a nationwide strategy to finally secure the ERA in the U.S. Constitution. North Carolina women will have equal rights under the constitution the moment the 28th Amendment is added, but it is critically important North Carolina ratifies as a state. North Carolina did not ratify women’s right to vote, the 19th Amendment, for 50 years, until 1971!
Since 2015 the ERA has been introduced in every full NC General Assembly, including the 2021-2022 session with Senate Bill 15 and House Bill 8. Both bills were co-sponsored by all NCGA Democrats but no Republicans at all. SB15 and HB8 currently rest in the respective Rules Committee where bills go to die with no floor vote.
North Carolina must demonstrate to its own citizens that legal equality is valued. Last year the Alliance placed billboards on major highways across the state saying, “4.2 Million Women Live in North Carolina. 0 Women Have Equal Rights.”
The Covid Pandemic has been toughest financially on women and children. But even before the pandemic, North Carolina women earned an average median income $8,600 less than men. This suggests NC women will not enjoy pay equity until 2060, and if working women were paid the same as comparable men, the average earnings increase for women would be $6,628, equivalent to a raise of over 19 percent! The increase in earnings would reduce the poverty rate among working women by more than half while impacting the income of the entire family and North Carolina’s overall economy, a reason for both parties to support the ERA!
The more states that ratify the ERA, the more it demonstrates the importance of full legal equality for women and the widespread support backed up by poll data. Discussion and debate of equal rights keeps the topic in the news and sends an important message to the state’s citizenry including students, young adults, elected representatives, and those warriors for equal rights for women since 1972, almost 50 years ago!
A call for action –
✓ Contact Senators Burr and Tillis and your Congressional representatives to vote YES on the SJR1 and HJR17.
✓ Connect with NC legislators requesting support of SB15 and HB8. The following list of websites have toolkits with letter/email templates phone call scripts, resolutions, etc.
✓ Tell friends about ERA and spread the word on social media.
✓ Help candidates supportive of equal rights.
✓ Pass a local resolution in your city, town and/or county.
✓ Write a letter to the editor or a guest OpEd to the newspaper.
✓ Ask an ERA-NC Alliance member to speak to groups and organizations!
✓ Consider joining the ERA-NC Alliance in our efforts to solidify universal human rights.
✓ ERA, the 28th Amendment, is so close to being included in the U.S. Constitution! Let’s get ERA done in 2021!