WASHINGTON – Supporters of a new effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution say they will draw inspiration from both James Madison and Iraqi women.
At a news conference Tuesday,several members of Congress and representatives of women's groups said they don't believe that the ERA,which failed to gain ratification in 1982,is dead.
Although Congress placed a time limit on the ratification process,sponsors said the Madison Amendment,which regulates congressional pay raises,became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution in 1992,202 years after Congress approved it.
ERA supporters said that if Madison was still valid after two centuries,the ERA,only 33 years old,deserves another shot.
Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972,which said the government must enforce equal protection and opportunities regardless of sex. The amendment was sent to the states,but was deemed a failure after only 35 of 38 states required to ratify it had done so.
Madison contained no time limit,and supporters said the time limit placed on the ERA was political and arbitrary.
Kim Gandy,president of the National Organization for Women,said Title IX,an amendment to the Civil Rights Act also passed in 1972 that requires equality in school athletics,is not enough to protect women's rights. Gandy said the importance of the ERA has not faded over the years,noting that women still make only 76 cents to every dollar men make.
“Yes,we have statutory protection in place,” she said. “But we cannot count on statutory protection alone. They can go back from whence they came.”
Rep. Robert Andrews,D-N.J.,said that women in Iraq who voted for the first time earlier this year have equal rights in the country's temporary constitution.
“If it's good enough for the women of Baghdad,then it's good enough for the women of the United States,” Andrews said.
Phyllis Schlafly,president of a pro-family activist group,the Eagle Forum,said the ERA would require taxpayers to pay for abortions,make homosexual rights part of the Constitution and take away a woman's special position as emotional nurturer in the home.
Schlafly,a longtime ERA opponent,said the battle will be a short one,avoided by members of Congress and fought over the issue of homosexual marriage rights.
“I think it is going to die of its own weight,” she said. “Most of them aren't going to want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. People don't want same-sex marriages,and this crosses both parties.”
“I think it is a one-day story,” Schlafly said. “It isn't going anywhere.”
The National Council of Women's Organizations ERA Task Force put together a constitutional analysis of the ERA. The analysis by constitutional scholars said the 35 state ratifications remain valid. Should Congress agree,ERA supporters will push to get the remaining three states on board. They mentioned Illinois as one possibility.
If Congress does not believe the 35 state votes still stand,supporters said they will start over,drafting a new amendment.