Women's Equality Amendment

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When the Women's Equality Amendment was first introduced in 1923, it was entitled the “Equal Rights Amendment.”

109th Congress Legislative Action

However, on March 30, 2007, Democrats re-introduced it as the “Women’s Equality Amendment,” or the W.E.A. The sponsors are assuring a vote by the end of this session.

Sponsors

Senate Co-Sponsors

House Co-Sponsors

Content

Although the W.E.A. is only 52 words long, it has one key line:

  • “Equality of rights should not be denied or abridged by the United States or the State on account of sex. [1]

Gridlock in States

Thirty-five out of fifty states ratified the W.E.A. throughout the 1970s. However, this is still three states short of the necessary thirty-eight, to ratify it as the 28th Amendment.

The 15 states who have yet to ratify the W.E.A.

Implications of the W.E.A.

Supporters believe that the passage of this legislation will help women gain more equality in nearly every facet of life. Dissenters argue that ratification of the Women’s Equality Amendment would prove harmful for their state and their country.

Relation to reproductive rights

Cases in states with state W.E.A.s show that the W.E.A. would not invalidate state laws on abortion which are otherwise constitutional. The constitutional principles by which reproductive laws are upheld or struck down are primarily the right of privacy and equal protection. At present, 19 states have state E.R.A.s or equal rights guarantees in their constitutions. The status of abortion rights in such states has more to do with the progressive nature of their state courts and state politics than with the presence of a state E.R.A. In fact, most state cases are argued under a combination of privacy, equal protection, and equal rights claims, and the presence of a state E.R.A. is not necessarily the determining factor in those court decisions.

On the other hand, Arkansas state Rep. Dan Greenberg (R) opposes the measure. Since two states have ruled that equal rights amendments in state constitutions justify state funding for abortions, he cannot support the bill. [2]

Relation to homosexual rights

W.E.A. opponents’ claim that the amendment would require states to allow same-sex marriage is false. The state of Washington rejected such a claim under its state ERA in the 1970s. The state of Hawaii, which considered such a claim under its state ERA, recently amended its constitution to declare marriage a contract between a man and a woman. The legislative history of the W.E.A. shows that its intent is to equalize rights between women and men, not to address issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, a vote on the amendment is being held up in several states, including Arkansas. Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly traveled all the way to Little Rock to testify against the measure. She believes that passing such an amendment would compel the courts to approve same-sex marriage. [3]

Relation to single-sex institutions

The W.E.A. would not make all single-sex institutions unconstitutional – only those whose aim is to perpetuate the historic dominance of one sex over the other. Single-sex institutions that work to overcome past discrimination are constitutional now and are likely to remain so.

History

The Women’s Equality Amendment (W.E.A.), was originally introduced as the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) in 1923. Though introduced in every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either chamber for a vote. However, in 1971 Representative Martha Griffiths passed House Joint Resolution No. 208. It was adopted by the United States Senate a year later. The original deadline for attaining 3/4 ratification of the states was 1979. However, bowing to public pressure, Congress granted an extension until 1982. The E.R.A. remains legally viable under the Madison Amendment. This allows for the preservation of all the states who already ratified the amendment. Only three more states are needed to pass the legislation before it becomes the 28th Amendment. On March 27, 2007, new resolutions were introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate containing the traditional E.R.A. language, but this time with no deadline attached. A vote is expected before the current session is over. [4]

Articles and resources

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