By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Just 24 words. Say it with me….24 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.” The words are from a portion of the Equal Rights Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It promises that all persons in the United States shall enjoy the “equal protection of the laws.” Before you roll your eyes, I know. What was written on paper was not intended for many of us. Not Black people. Not Women. This is why amendments have been required to fix what has been left out of the constitution.
To date, there have been 27 amendments to the founding document. But, there is a proposed 28th Amendment that we are not talking enough about. The Equal Rights Amendment.
As taken from the site equalrightsamendment.org, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), first proposed in 1923, is an amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees equality of rights under the law for all persons regardless of sex. As of January 27, 2020, the ERA has satisfied the requirements of Article V of the Constitution for ratification (passage by two-thirds of each house of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states). In case you are wondering, Wisconsin ratified the ERA on April 26, 1972.
However, because of issues raised about its unique ratification process, the Archivist of the United States has not yet taken the final ministerial step of publishing the ERA in the Federal Register with certification of its ratification as the 28th Amendment.
At first glance, you might ask why is the ERA needed? Isn’t sex discrimination already prohibited in the Equal Pay Act (1963), Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act (1964), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978), and the Supreme Court decisions based on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause? The answer is that these are limited protections, subject to differences in interpretation and application. With the recent court decisions, at both the state and federal levels, women’s rights are under attack. The Constitution has to definitively make it clear that women have equal rights in this country. Full Stop.
Sex discrimination is real and constant. Gender pay discrimination is real. Black women earn 64 cents on every dollar paid to a white male. Reproductive gender discrimination is real. Name a single law that restricts a man’s rights to his reproductive health. In fact, Skinner vs. Oklahoma that affirmed the right of men to make their own reproductive health rights. Gender-based violence is real. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. Women are not yet equal in this country. We are not fully free. 24 words were meant to change that.