ERA, It’s Time

Equal Rights Amendment: It’s Time

I hope many of you were able to watch the recent PBS American Experience special documentary “The Vote” on the fight to pass the 19th Amendment extending the right to vote to women. While Jeannette Rankin and Montana did not feature prominently in this telling of the story, “The Vote” underscored the incredible struggle and courage of those involved in gaining political rights for women. To paraphrase suffragist Alice Paul after the 19th Amendment became law, this is only the first step toward equality for women.

Alice Paul went on to introduce the ERA amendment in 1923.

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the

United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Nearly fifty years after it was first introduced, the ERA finally passed the House and Senate with the required two-thirds majority in 1972. The amendment was then sent for ratification to the states, but only 35 of the 38 states needed had ratified it by the time the Congressionally imposed deadline of 1982 expired.

So where are we now?
Nevada voted in 2017 to ratify the ERA, Illinois ratified in 2018, and in January 2020 Virginia ratified, becoming the 38th and final state required. The only remaining barrier to the ERA becoming the 28th amendment to the US Constitution is the arbitrary 1982 ratification deadline.

Do we still need the ERA?
As the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2011: “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained, “Every constitution written since the end of World War II includes a provision that men and women are citizens of equal stature. Ours does not.”

This will not change until we amend the US Constitution with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

In February of 2020, the US House of Representatives passed legislation eliminating the ratification deadline. Now the US Senate needs to do the same, by passing SJR 6.

The LWV Montana is launching a campaign to update Montanans on the current status of the ERA amendment and encourage our US Senators to support SJR6. The LWV Montana website https://my.lwv.org/montana-league-women-voters has a link to a short video covering the history of the ERA and where it stands today, as well as links to other informational sites.

What can you do?
Let your friends and neighbors know that now is the time to renew the fight for women’s equality. To help with this effort, LWV Montana created ERA signs with the image above that can be posted in yards or in windows to raise public awareness. If you would like a sign for your home or business, let me know by emailing nancleifer@gmail.com

Contact Montana’s US Senators and urge them to support SJR 6 and move it through the legislative process. LWV Montana is launching a postcard campaign using pre addressed postcards with the same image to use in contacting Montana’s US Senators. These postcards are available free and can be ordered on the LWV Montana website.

It’s time for our nation to provide women equal rights under the law by ensuring that the ERA becomes the 28th amendment to the US Constitution. Go to the LWV Montana website today to order a free “Lady Liberty” postcard kit to write to Senators Daines and Tester.

Equal Rights Amendment, It’s Time!

Nancy Leifer
President, League of Women Voters Montana