Need For Equal Rights Amendment For Women Highlighted This Women’s History Month

Source: Queens Gazette

NYS Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney joined together with women’s rights advocates and New York Girl Scouts at the Fearless Girl Statue to emphasize the need for a federal and New York State Equal Rights Amendments (ERA).

While New York State is one of the most progressive states in the nation, equal rights are not explicitly guaranteed in the State Constitution, and although 130 nations have ERAs, many Americans are unaware that the US is not among them. To this day, the right to vote is the only right guaranteed to women in the Constitution. Congress Member Maloney has reintroduced a Federal ERA 11 times, but it has not yet received a vote.

“It is unacceptable that the New York Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex,” said Assembly Member Seawright. “With the federal political atmosphere changing, there is a renewed call to ensure that basic equal rights are guaranteed for women. It may seem like a fundamental American value, but we cannot simply hope that we are treated equally, it must be guaranteed.”

“National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are special opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the women whose struggles, contributions, and achievements have shaped our society,” said Maloney. “In the era of the Me Too and Times Up movements, we have a unique opportunity to turn activism into lasting change, and the ERA is an essential part of that change. By amending our state and US Constitutions to declare that men and women are equals, we will be sending a message that the days of discrimination against women are coming to an end. I’m excited to report that we added more than 25 new co-sponsors to the ERA in Congress this week! We have 144 co-sponsors and I’m not stopping until we have enough votes to pass it.”

In recent years, there have been efforts to roll back women’s rights in education, health, employment, and even domestic violence. These attempts could be thwarted with the passage of an ERA. The ERA is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States, or any state on account of sex. A state-level ERA would ensure that whatever happens on the federal level, the women in New York State are protected from gender-based discrimination. 

The ERA passed Congress in 1972, and was sent to the states for ratification. Unfortunately, by the time the deadline passed in 1982, the ERA was just three states shy of the 38 necessary. With Nevada ratifying the ERA in March 2017, the Amendment is now only two states shy of the minimum requirement. On the state level, the Equal Rights Amendment bill must pass two successive legislatures and then be brought to the people of New York in an election.

The ERA is a constitutional amendment which would prohibit denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any state on account of sex. This critical amendment would guarantee the equal rights of men and women by:

• Making sex a suspect category subject to strict judicial scrutiny, clarifying the legal status of sex discrimination for the courts. This would prohibit sexual discrimination in the same way we have prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.

• An ERA will put women on equal footing in the legal systems of all 50 states, particularly in areas where women have historically been treated as second-class citizens, including in cases of public education, divorce, child custody, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

• Women are still not receiving equal pay for equal work. According to the US Census Bureau, women on average earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

• Passing an ERA will put the full weight of the US Constitution behind employment laws relating to the prevention of sex discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, and benefits—especially in the public sector.

• Pregnancy discrimination continues to be prevalent in the workforce. An ERA can protect women from being harmed by a policy simply because she is a woman.

• Women’s progress can be all too easily rolled back. Laws can be repealed and judicial attitudes can shift. Supreme Court Justice Scalia has even said that the Constitution does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender.

“The Girl Scouts of Greater New York proudly stand with Congresswoman Maloney, Assembly Member Seawright, and many others in the continued pursuit of equality for women in this country. Never has the need for the Equal Rights Amendment been clearer than in the wake of the #Metoo movement,” said Girl Scouts of Greater New York CEO Meridith Maskara. “For the last century, we’ve created the most successful girls’ leadership development programming in the country. But that alone is not enough. We owe it to our girls to create a future where their rights are constitutionally guaranteed. That’s why we are here today and will be fighting for this amendment until it passes.”

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