ASHEVILLE, N.C. – An organization, Ratify ERA-NC, has formed under the co-directorship of Roberta Madden, Black Mountain, and Nancy Glowacki, Hendersonville, and has begun to build a statewide database, Madden told Asheville Rising members Thursday, May 9.
“The Equal Rights Amendment is the simple idea women should be included in the constitution,” says Madden.
The informal meeting came as a result of Asheville Rising members expressing interest in addressing the underlying cause of the many problems undermining women’s welfare in matters of health, law, and economics.
A video filmed during International Women’s Day in March features local women’s responses to these issues.
A recognized leader in the Equal Rights Movement for more than 40 years, Madden was invited to meet with the group to share information and create public awareness regarding the current efforts to encourage North Carolina’s ratification of the amendment.
Why ERA? Why now?
The proposed Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923 by suffragette Alice Paul, states:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any
state on account of sex.
This historic piece of proposed legislation is back on the table due to the recent passage of the Madison Amendment, focusing on congressional pay raises. The passage of that amendment took 203 years, suggesting the deadline originally placed on the Equal Rights Amendment – not actually in the wording, but proposed by opponents – was invalid. First ladies such as Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, and Rosalyn Carter supported ERA in its 1972 failed attempt at ratification. At that time, the bill passed in the U.S. Senate and House, but fell short when only 35 of 38 states ratified.
ERA Reintroduced into U.S. Congress on May 9
Last week, 90 years after ERA was first introduced, a new bill to lift the deadline and place the ratification of ERA back into the national agenda was introduced in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate, the two legislative bodies within the Congressional House, says Madden.
“Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 15 and House Joint Resolution (HJR) 43 were introduced today,” she told Asheville Rising attendees at the Thursday, May 9, meeting, to a smattering of applause. “The text of the legislation and a list of cosponsors are available at www.thomas.gov.”
North Carolina Never Ratified ERA
North Carolina never ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, making it an important state in the current “3 state” push for ratification. Regrettably, no North Carolina members of Congress listed as cosponsors to the bill. To correct this oversight, supporters of the amendment may call Senators Hagan and Burr and their U.S Representative Meadows or McHenry, and urge them to add their names as cosponsors. The toll free number to the U.S. Capitol is 1-877-762-8762.
Without the guarantee of constitutional bedrock, all laws in the United States currently promising equality may be overturned by a single majority vote in state or U.S. legislatures, according to Madden and documentation provided by Ratify ERA-NC.
Equal Rights Protect All Persons
While opponents claim the 14th amendment guarantees equal rights, in actuality the 14th amendment does not prohibit sex discrimination in the U.S. According to Supreme Court Justice Scaglia, cases of discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin are considered with a standard of strict scrutiny by the court system. Those involving gender discrimination are deemed less important, and are held with intermediate or rational scrutiny.
Though women currently comprise more than 50 percent of the population and work force, they are not provided the same constitutional protections as men. In fact, they are explicitly excluded from Constitutional protections. The Right to Vote was granted as an exclusion to this lack of protection, and does not actually provide equal status under the law. Many U.S. states today continue to consider women as legal extensions of their husbands, fathers, or sons.
Madden offers a telling example of what this means in real life in North Carolina.
“On average, a North Carolina woman, working full time, year around, makes 81 cents to every man’s dollar. This affects everything: pensions, if they have them, and social security.”
As a result, women currently constitute three-fourths of elderly individuals in poverty in North Carolina. As parents of baby boomers, and the baby boomers themselves age, the ability to sustain quality of life during age is an issue which looms ahead for many North Carolinians.
Additionally, men would also benefit from the amendment, says Madden, particularly in areas such as family law, military service, and sex discrimination.
“Men file about half of the sex discrimination cases before the U.S. Supreme Court,” she says.
Asheville Rising is the western North Carolina response to the recent One Billion Rising Campaign on February 14 to take action to prevent violence against women. The group is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/333843030062908/.
Ratify ERA-NC can be reached at www.era-nc.org. For national updates on the Equal Rights Amendment, visit www.United4Equality.org.
Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., is a freelance writer from Weaverville specializing in mindfulness approaches to marketing public relations, at http://www.professionalmoneta.com. She is a member of Asheville Rising.