Women’s Rights Petition

Support Gender Equality. Pass the Equal Right Amendment Three-State Strategy (H.J. Res. 47).
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Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to pass H.J.RES.47 which is the Three-State Strategy to verify the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution.

What is H.J.RES.47?

H.J.RES.47, sponsored by U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI 2), is the bill resolution for the Three-State Strategy to verify the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution.

On March 8, 2011, U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI 2), introduced H.J.RES.47, which would eliminate the time limit for ratification of the equal rights amendment (prohibits discrimination on account of sex) proposed to the states in House Joint Resolution 208 of the 92nd Congress, second session. It declares that such amendment shall be part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the necessary number of additional states.

What is the Equal Rights Amendment?

The Equal Rights Amendment is an amendment that promotes gender equality in the United States constitution. It states, „Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.“ (www.equalrightsamendment.org)

Since the United States has been a country, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has not become a part of the United States Constitution.

What is the Equal Right Amendment Three-State Strategy?

The Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, would have become the 27th Amendment to the Constitution if three-fourths of the states had ratified it by June 30, 1982. However, that date passed with only 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. Instead, the 27th Amendment is the „Madison Amendment,“ concerning Congressional pay raises, which went to the states for ratification in 1789 and reached the three-fourths goal in 1992.

The fact that a 203-year ratification period was accepted as valid has led ERA supporters to propose that Congress has the power to maintain the legal viability of the ERA and the existing 35 state ratifications. If so, only three more state ratifications would be needed to make the ERA part of the Constitution. Legal analysis supporting this strategy was developed in 1995 by Allison Held, Sheryl Herndon and Danielle Stager, then third-year law students at the T. C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, VA. Their article, „Why the ERA Remains Legally Viable and Properly Before the States,“ was published in the Spring 1997 issue of William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to propose an amendment and to determine the mode of ratification, but it is silent as to the power of Congress to impose time limits or its role after ratification by three-fourths of the states.

It is important to note that Congressional promulgation is not a necessary feature of Article V. In the history of the amendment process Congress has promulgated only two amendments, the 14th and the 27th, following the final state ratification. In addition, the requirement for ratification within a „sufficiently contemporaneous“ time frame and the chronological definition of „contemporaneous“ are now open to question in light of the Madison Amendment experience.

Despite arguments by proponents that the Equal Rights Amendment should go to the states without a time limit in the tradition of the 19th Amendment, the ERA passed Congress in 1972 with a seven-year time limit in its proposing clause. If the time limit had been placed in the text of the amendment itself, that restriction would not be subject to alteration by Congress after any state legislature had ratified. However, the ERA language ratified by 35 states between 1972 and 1982 (see above) did not contain a time limit for ratification.

By transferring time limits from the text of an amendment to the proposing clause, Congress retained for itself the authority to review the limit and to amend its own previous legislative action regarding that time limit. In 1978, Congress clearly demonstrated its belief that it may alter a time limit in the proposing clause when it passed an extension of the original seven-year limit for ERA ratification and moved the deadline from March 22, 1979, to June 30, 1982. A challenge to the constitutionality of the extension was dismissed by the Supreme Court as moot after the deadline expired, and no lower-court precedent stands regarding that point.

The Coleman decision asserted that Congress may determine whether the states have ratified in a „reasonable“ time or whether the amendment is „no longer responsive to the conception which inspired it.“ Congress therefore could determine that the time period since the ERA went to the states for ratification in 1972 is „reasonable“ and „contemporaneous“ (particularly in light of the fact that it deemed the Madison Amendment’s 203 years to be so), and it could decide that the ERA remains „responsive to the conception which inspired it“ (indisputably so, since the fact that women’s equal rights are not constitutionally affirmed will remain unchanged until the Constitution is amended or interpreted to establish unequivocally that women and men have equal rights).

Therefore, under the principles of Dillon and Coleman, and based on the fact that Congress voted to extend the ERA time limit and to accept the 203-year-long ratification period of the Madison Amendment as sufficiently „contemporaneous,“ it is likely that Congress has the power to legislatively adjust or remove the time limit constraint on the ERA if it chooses, to determine whether or not state ratifications which occur after the expiration of a time limit in a proposing clause are valid, and to promulgate the ERA after the 38th state ratifies.

Why do women need the Equal Rights Amendment?

The fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution grants citizens due process, „All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.“ (United States Constitution)

However, at the time this amendment was written, it was not meant to include women. The amendment was passed to ensure the rights of African-American men. The fourteenth amendment on occasion has been interpreted to include women of any race or ethnic background; and it still does not give women any guarantee for gender equality. While the nineteenth amendment of the constitution protects women’s right to vote, „The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,“ there is nowhere in the United States Constitution enforcing women’s rights to due process.

Throughout United States history, women have faced sexist discrimination. For years women could not vote, hold property, work outside the home, and were considered the property of their husbands and fathers. Eventually protective laws were established that gave women more rights which enabled them to vote, work outside the home, hold property, and not be considered property of men. However, even with protective laws, women in the twenty-first century, still face discrimination from men and society; in the work place they face a glass ceiling, women are often subjected to violence, women face sexism in classrooms, women face disparities in health care, women with disabilities get ignored and stigmatized even more than men with disabilities, and women are still not paid equally to men.

While there are laws on the books protecting women’s rights, the truth of the matter is that the laws of women’s rights in the United States are not enough to promote gender equality. The reason is because the laws do not rest upon a strong constitutional foundation, leaving them vulnerable to be repealed by the courts and the legislature. There are many loopholes to federal and state laws and regulations when it comes to gender equality which have been inconsistently interpreted and ignored.

The bottom line is without the ERA giving a constitutional backbone to gender equality the political and judicial victories that women have achieved over the past two hundred years remain vulnerable to be reversed. Women’s rights laws could be easily weaken by a legal amendment or even repealed by lawmakers. As a result, women would no longer have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, Title VII and Title IX could be reversed, along with other reversals.

At the state level, with the exception of the fourteenth’s amendment Equal Protection Clause, the protections of women’s rights could be wiped away by Congress with a simple majority vote. In addition women’s rights the protections can be wiped by totally undemocratic administrative actions taken by the executive branch, and courts can rule in ways that would overturn long-standing tradition and precedent regarding women’s rights laws.

The Problems Women Face Without The Equal Rights Amendment

While women in the United States have come a long way over the past two hundred years, even in the twenty first century they still continue to face gender discrimination. According to the National Organization of Women, women still continue to face barriers and discrimination in the following ways;

· In education, women and girls with disabilities get ignored and do not receive as much help as boys with disabilities. While Title IX has reduced gender discrimination in educational programs, women and girls still face disadvantages. For instance a girl’s high school track team may be disqualified because of the shorts they wore like at Gulliver Academy in Florida, or being kept out of military academics like the Virginia Military Institute.

· In employment, women face gender discrimination and a glass ceiling. Women have been kept out of male dominated professions and only receive women only make seventy-five cents for every dollar men make. Women face poverty much more than men do.

· In health care, women face higher premiums than men for the same health care benefits, or they have to pay the same amount as men for less health care protections and benefits, reducing their take home pay.

· For Pensions, women are half as likely as men to receive a pension and the women who do receive a pension receive only half as much.

· For social security benefits, married men will receive 100% of lifetime benefits. However, since homemakers‘ contributions to marriage partnerships are not fully valued, wives are then considered to be dependents and as a result receive lower payments. A widow will only receive 72% of their deceased husband’s benefits, while divorced women only receive half.

To deny women their civil rights in this way is wrong and immoral. The fact that women and girls are still even facing sexual discrimination in this way shows that the female gender in the U.S. has not come as far as they’ve needed to. It shows that the laws we have regarding women’s rights need to be stronger and given a constitutional backbone.

The Solution

At the moment, the United States has the chance to enforce gender equality including it in the U.S. Constitution and to improve the lives of women and girls in the U.S. by adding the ERA to the constitution. Women and girls would be guaranteed full equal opportunity and privileges and discrimination towards women and girls would decrease. Even if gender discrimination occurs under the ERA, the courts would have a strong foundation that enforces gender equality and lawmakers wouldn’t be able to repeal women’s rights laws.

In court practices, the constitutionality of the ERA would clarify the law for the lower courts when it comes to sexual discrimination cases and would influence legal cases for women in a positive way. Also in gender discrimination cases the burden would be shifted away from the ones fighting discrimination and place it on the people who discriminate, forcing the discriminators to justify why discrimination should be allowed rather than having a woman explain why women deserve equality. In addition lawmakers would be unable to repeal the existing laws that give women their civil rights.

The ERA by any means would not discriminate women over men. Instead, it promotes equality for both genders. In fact, with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing gender equality men would also be protected in cases of reverse gender discrimination.

Overall, the ERA would give women full constitutional protection to their rights so women’s rights laws couldn’t be repealed in the courts and in the legislature, it would give women full equality and would make it harder for society to discriminate against women. Also ERA would give women, not only constitutional equality, but would enforce and protect women’s rights laws.

What will the Equal Right Amendment Three-State Strategy do?

The Equal Right Amendment Three-State Strategy would overturn the ratification deadline for the ERA and only three more state ratifications would be needed to make the ERA part of the Constitution.

What you can do to help pass the Equal Rights Amendment Three-State Strategy?

Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and ask them to co-sponsor H.J. Res. 47 and vote yes when this bill comes before committee and the floor. In addition, please write to and/or call President Obama ask them him to sign it into law and send it to the necessary states for ratification.