PENINSULA POLL BACKGROUNDER: Outrage over court ruling brings back ERA push

By David Crary
The Associated Press

Drafted by a suffragette in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has been stirring up controversy ever since.

Many opponents considered it dead when a 10-year ratification push failed in 1982 — yet its backers on Capitol Hill, in the Illinois statehouse and elsewhere are making clear this summer that the fight is far from over.

In Washington, D.C., Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., are prime sponsors of two pieces of legislation aimed at getting the amendment ratified.

They recently organized a pro-ERA rally, evoking images of the 1970s, outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Recent Supreme Court decisions have sent women’s rights back to the Stone Age,” said Speier, explaining the renewed interest in the ERA.

The amendment would stipulate that equal rights cannot be denied or curtailed on the basis of gender.

Participants in the July 24 rally directed much of their ire at the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling.

In a 5-4 decision, with the majority comprised of five male justices, the court allowed some private businesses to opt out of the federal health care law’s requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge.

“They could not have made the Hobby Lobby ruling with an ERA,” Maloney said.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, battle lines are being drawn for a likely vote this fall in the state House of Representatives on whether to ratify the ERA.

The state Senate approved the ratification resolution on a 39-11 vote in May, and backers hope for a similar outcome in the House after the legislature reconvenes in November.

If the amendment gets the required three-fifths support in the House, Illinois would become the 36th state to ratify the ERA.

Thirty-eight states’ approval is required to ratify an amendment.

Written by Alice Paul — a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. a century ago — the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced annually in Congress from 1923 to 1970, when congressional hearings began in the heyday of the modern feminist movement.

In 1972, the ERA won overwhelming approval in both chambers and was forwarded to the 50 state legislatures in search of the needed 38 votes to ratify.

Congress set a deadline of 1979, at which point 35 states had ratified the ERA.

The deadline was extended to 1982, but no more states came on board, and the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the ERA was dead.

The states that did not ratify were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Last modified: August 10. 2014 5:52PM
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