Under the Trump Administration these past four years, the bold advances that women have made over past decades, particularly those of our Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Latinx, trans, and gender non-conforming relatives, have been seriously undermined – some have even been erased. We know that that first 100 days are crucial in setting the tone and establishing priorities for any administration. This is why the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women’s Blueprint are bringing these voices to the forefront as part of a listening and discussion series. We want to broadly to share the issues and ideas that matter most to us and we plan to urge the Biden-Harris Administration to include these issues and ideas as part of a national feminist policy agenda. We are pulling together the best ideas from these sessions for NOW’s blog Say It Sister! for future reference and taking action. The next step after Listening… is Doing.
Nearly 100 years since Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, we are still fighting for full equality and the prohibition of discrimination based on sex in our Constitution. While we celebrate our achievements thus far, such as the recent vote for Virginia to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), our work is not yet done. In light of that long-awaited action and a related federal District Court ruling that dismissed a case demanding the ERA be certified in included in the Constitution, we know we still have lots of work to do. This Listening and Discussion event centered on the continuing fight for constitutional equality by passing legislation in Congress to remove the time limit of seven years, later extended by three years in the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment resolution. Panelists included Delegate Hala Ayala, of the 51st district in Virginia, a key player in the adoption of important legislation including the ERA ratification measure in 2020; Carol Jenkins, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality; and Belan Yeshigeta, a co-founder and Executive Director of the national youth-led organization Generation Ratify.
We were honored to have Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), House sponsor since 1992 of a new Equal Rights Amendment, as our keynote speaker. Throughout her career, Rep. Maloney has used her voice and position to advocate for the most critical issues of our time. She is a co-sponsoring H.J. Resolution 17, which would eliminate the deadline for ratification of the ERA, and just announced the introduction of H.J. Resolution 28, which would restart the amendment ratification process. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Rep. Malone, as chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chose to honor women, specifically women of color, who have fought for the ERA, in her keynote speech. Below are important steps that were discussed so that we might be successful in our efforts to ensure that the ERA ultimately becomes part of the Constitution.
- Continue the Conversation: Now, more than ever, it is important to continue the conversation about the ERA until it is ratified, certified, and incorporated into the Constitution, and even beyond that. To carry our feminist movement forward, we must first carry forward the conversation about what sex equality means. It is essential to continue to have these important conversations about equality with the next generation. We are so close to the final adoption of the ERA and it is important to get everyone involved. Donations to this cause are not just fiscal. Support includes keeping your voice heard and talking about the ERA.
- Push to Move Forward: We talk about systemic racism and sexism constantly, and the design of it all lies in our Constitution. We must change the playbook that dictates how we govern. Until this is done, we will not be able to cure the seemingly intractable problems of economic disparities, violence against women, workplace discrimination, and more. We must continue pushing the ERA forward so that finally we can state that equality is an American value and discrimination based on sex is unconstitutional. Amending the Constitution is not an easy endeavor, and we must continue to fight to overcome the barriers in front of us. We have met the requirements stipulated in Article V of the Constitution, but now we must do away with the time limit that was included when the ERA was first passed in Congress. Last year, the House of Representatives dissolved the time limit, and then it got buried in the Senate. We’ll just pass it again with a new Senate, a new Administration, and a new Department of Justice, and a new chance to finally enshrine the ERA in the Constitution. We must continue our advocacy for H.J. 17 in the Senate, which would eliminate the arbitrary deadline for the ratification of the ERA. Let us get off the sidelines and call senators, have virtual meetings, start petitions, collaborate, and advocate.
- Your Vote Matters: Whoever is in “the room where it happens” has the power. America is ready for true equality, but we have a small group of legislators who do not believe in it, even though their constituents may. We have had women and men bring ERA legislation to the floor for years, with constant advocacy, yet our progress has been halted by not having support in all of our state bodies. Unfortunately, we have seen countless laws and bills pass to suppress the people’s voice. We must change Jim Crow practices and pay close attention to what is going on in terms of who is allowed to vote. Representation matters, so we all need to pay attention. Your vote matters, our democracy depends on it.
We must acknowledge and celebrate the BIPOC women now, and in our history, who have fought so hard for the ERA and are at the forefront of this battle to get it finally ratified. We have come far and now we must talk about the implementation, going through every statute in every state in the federal government, and looking over them. We must celebrate the work that has been done and anticipate the work that remains ahead.
You can watch a recording of the full event, here. Check out future events in this series, here.
Sascha Shroff, PAC Intern