What Does a Gun Have that a Woman Doesn’t?
Just think. Guns have a constitutional amendment protecting them and women don’t!
Eleanor Smeal, past president of NOW, has pointed out this startling fact.
Actually, women do have one constitutional protection: the right to vote. But that’s the only protection against discrimination on the basis of gender. In many cases brought before the Supreme Court, the justices have ruled that the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing due process, does not cover women. Justice Antonin Scalia flatly stated that he believes that the Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination.
The lack of a constitutional guarantee means that any law or policy that protects women can be removed by one vote in a state legislature or in Congress—or by a judge. There’s no constitutional recourse.
Think it can’t happen? In February 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature repealed that state’s equal pay law. And for years, Title IX, the federal law promising equality for women and girls in education (including school athletics) has been under siege. This law (and others) banning sex discrimination can be butchered by one vote in Congress—and some members are sharpening their knives.
Until the Equal Rights Amendment becomes part of the U.S. Constitution, women will continue to suffer discrimination. Ironically, the United States has insisted that equal rights for women be guaranteed in the constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, here at home, women still lack this basic legal protection.
Contrary to what some people think, the Equal Rights Amendment is very much alive. Thirty-five states have ratified it, and only three more states are needed to put it into the Constitution. Although Congress placed a deadline on getting the required 38 states to ratify, many legal scholars believe the deadline is a false issue. They base this opinion on the Madison Amendment (dealing with congressional pay raises), which became the 27th Amendment 203 years after it began its journey through the states. To clarify the issue, HJR 47 and SJR 39, now pending in the U.S. House and Senate, will eliminate the deadline and specify that the ERA becomes part of the Constitution after three more states ratify it.
Will North Carolina become one of the three ratifying states? Yes, if enough women and men explain to their legislators how important the issue is. In 2013 the ERA will be introduced in the General Assembly. Meanwhile, at least six of the other 15 unratified states are actively working for the ERA. The Virginia Senate recently passed it (although chances of getting it out of the Virginia House look dim).
What can you do?
Become informed. To start, check out the website of Equal Rights Amendment North Carolina Citizens Task Force: www.era-nc.org. And tell your friends, too.
Talk to your state legislators and legislative candidates now. Tell them why the ERA matters to you. Insist that they to take a stand for equality for men and women.
Call Senator Kay Hagan and ask her to cosponsor in the U.S. Senate SJR 39—to eliminate the deadline and make ERA part of the Constitution after three more states ratify it. It’s a free call: 1-877-762-8762.
It’s been 89 years since Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s way past time for the ERA to become part of the Constitution. We value women more than we value guns, so let’s put the Equal Rights Amendment in our crosshairs.
Roberta M. Madden
Equal Rights Amendment NC Citizens Task Force