I have been thinking for a few days that maybe it was time to think about a new initiative to pass the (gender) Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
My thought was that the last failures to reach the required three quarter of states threshold were in part caused by the then superficially appealing claim that there was no need for such a constitutional change because of the idea of equality was both accepted and enshrined in law.
Well, whatever the truth of that back in 1982, the last year or so have shown the utter speciousness of that argument. Things we thought were settled in this area just are not, and hostility to women’s rights remains a real and appealing force.
The news is that yesterday the Nevada Legislature actually passed the ERA! (Some technical fixes, due in the next few days, are still reportedly needed.) So, we need only two more states to get to the point that enough states have passed it that, had the enabling legislation not had a 1982 cut-off, the Amendment would have gone into force. That does not make it the law, but would give the effort huge additional force. As the LA Times also reports:
This year, Nevada was one of eight states with resolutions calling for ratification. But in six of those states — Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina — at least one house of the legislature is controlled by Republicans, who have opposed ERA ratification.
Actually, I am somewhat surprised that the the Republicans continue affirmative opposition. It seems to me that this is the perfect wedge issue, in that the Republican voters must be split on this issue. Moreover, drawing national attention to it would be disastrous for the party as a whole, even if in some states it is still less toxic a position for them. Amazingly, while being introduced every year into Congress, there has not been a floor vote since 1983. Moreover, some non-ratification states have passed state versions. Indeed, while some want an approach that removes the 1982 deadline by statute, I would argue that forcing Republicans in states that had already ratified to take stand again would be far more effective politically, and perhaps create unstoppable momentum very quickly. For national figures this would be about as no-win as you can get. (I wonder if there has been any poling on this recently?)
With so much at stake, one can see why this is not getting the attention it deserves. But, I suspect that many newly angry women (and men) would find opposition to the ERA beyond their understanding or acquiescence today.
Lets hear it from, for, and in support of, Nasty Women.
Wikipedia has a good history of the ERA.
Update: On March 25, the New York Times posted an editorial on the same subject.