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Next step after Women’s March: Pass the ERA

Betty Folliard

It was exhilarating to rub shoulders with so many people of all races, creeds, ethnicities and genders at #WomensMarch in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21. I had the honor of being a featured speaker on the topic of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) at two events surrounding the D.C. march. An estimated 4.5 million people participated across the globe, the largest protest the world has ever seen.

Diverse coalitions from various segments of society rallied around a single declaration that “Women’s rights are human rights.” The Equal Rights Amendment was stated as a key goal in the principles outlined in advance of the marches. It’s time to pivot energy toward changing unjust public policy. Here’s the next step:

Change the policy landscape

The policy superhighway to equality in the U.S. is to remove the artificial deadline on the ERA, known as the 3-State Strategy, providing the path to eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender in our Constitution, ensuring equal access to justice for women and men. Ninety-five percent of people in the United States believe we should have equal rights; however, 72 percent of citizens think the ERA already passed last century.

It didn’t.

The ERA passed through both houses of Congress in 1972, and was sent out to the states for ratification. We needed 38 states to ratify, but only garnered 35 states in the mere 10 years the ERA was allowed before an artificial deadline took effect, thereby ending the effort. Research shows that of the myriad of constitutional amendments offered to the U.S. Constitution over our 241 years of existence, only two ever received a deadline. One of them was women’s rights.

Only you can’t put a deadline on human rights. Human rights just are. And as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once stated, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It behooves all of us to remove manmade, artificial barricades to our rights.

Removing the deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment requires a simple majority in Congress. The Constitution of the United States governs all the courts in the land; without an ERA our current piecemeal laws are nails without a hammer.

To that end, there’s now legislation both nationally and in Minnesota to remove the June 30, 1982, ERA deadline — thereby permitting three more states to pass it through their legislatures to reach the 38-state threshold.

Organizations all across the country that have been working ratify the ERA, including Women-Matter (Virginia), Nevadans for Equal Rights, National ERA Alliance (Florida), Fem Federation (California), We Are Woman (New York), Katrina’s Dream (D.C.), ERA Action (Ohio), ERA-NC, ERA Minnesota, ERA Coalition (D.C.), ERA Education Project (California), backed up by powerful allies like the African American Policy Forum, AAUW, YWCA, Equal Rights Advocates, Feminist Majority, Legal Momentum, NOW, NWPC, and UniteWomen.org, to name a few.

Removing the sunset

Federal legislation includes S.J. Res. 5, which would remove the sunset on the Equal Rights Amendment. The chief author is Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, plus 20 other U.S. Senate co-authors. H.J. Res. 53, the House’s companion bill, will remove the sunset on the ERA. The chief author is Rep. Jackie Speier of San Francisco.

Minnesota legislation includes SF 229, a resolution memorializing Congress to remove the deadline on the ERA (chief author is state Sen. Sandy Pappas of St. Paul). HF 356 is the companion bill to remove the sunset on the ERA, with chief author state Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul.

Accompanying the 3-State Strategy approach, there are also efforts to pass a renewed Equal Rights Amendment into our federal constitution, and one into the Minnesota Constitution. If passed at the state level, Minnesota will become the 24th state in the nation to embed equal rights into our state constitution.

Reintroducing the ERA

Federal legislation includes S.J. Res. 6, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. The chief author is Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey. H.J. Res. 33 is the companion bill, a constitutional amendment declaring that women shall have equal rights in the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction; its chief author is Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York.

State legislation includes SF 224, a constitutional amendment providing gender equality under the law (chief author, state Sen. Richard Cohen of St. Paul). HF 189 is the companion bill proposing a constitutional amendment providing gender equality under the law (chief author, state Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis). In addition there are copycat bills SF 101 – a state constitutional amendment providing gender equality under the law (chief author state Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis), and HF 313, a state constitutional amendment providing gender equality under the law (chief author state Rep. Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis). 

#WomensMarch demonstrated the fervor with which Americans hold dear a person’s right to equality. We made it known its time to get onboard or get out of the way. Our legions are many. We will not tire. All are invited to help in this struggle.

Call your national and state legislators. Tell them women aren’t willing to wait another 241 years for equality. Pass the ERA already.

Betty Folliard is a former state representative and current president of ERA Minnesota. She hosts a weekly radio show called A Woman’s Place on AM950 Radio.

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If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/10/2017 - 08:46 am.

    Pass it already

    A fine idea. A necessary idea. An essential idea.

    But I think it won’t happen as long as Mr. “Nevertheless, she persisted” is running the U.S. Senate, and Mr. “Repeal and replace” is the Speaker of the House. And even if it gets through Congress (again), it would have to be ratified by the likes of Mr. Gazelka in the Minnesota Senate and Mr. Daudt in the Minnesota House, not to mention the many other state legislatures now controlled by Republican males.

    You’ll pardon me if I don’t hold my breath, waiting for this to happen.

    That said, it’s among the most worthy of causes we have, and waiting another 241 years, or 24 years, is unconscionable. Especially in an era with a sexual predator in the White House, this deserves far more media and public attention than it’s been getting.

  2. Submitted by Sandy Oestreich on 02/20/2017 - 05:38 pm.

    Honorable Betty Foliard’s Next step after Women’s March: Pass th

    We of the National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance, 501c3, with 300 000 members are delighted to comment on our friend’s article which is finely and factually wrought. As its Founder-President, I have worked on this essential document’s passage during its first effort, 1970s, and for 17 nonstop, unpaid, 12/7 years, Amendment ratification Resolutions in one state for SEVENTEEN YEARS. Florida is that state, still fighting its way our of medieval considerations of girl’s and women’s “proper place in society.” Imagine That; nobody hears of males’ proper place. They are plainly entitled, because they are male. Lots of them feel our pangs at being dissed, groped, stalked, trafficked, and raped so casually..and the adjudications meted out equally casually.
    We actively mentor 4 other states, and our newish Congressional Equal Rights Amendment legislation to tidy up loose ends so that this Amendment can pass with less fuss and feathers in a shorter time. As all other states working on this Amendment’s ratification, we espouse the Three-State Strategy wherein the goal is to achieve ratifications in just 3 more states so that this Amendment takes the last step to pass it in Congress. Finally.
    We often ponder what exactly is the source of such reluctance among lawmakers that it is repeatedly denied Hearings,or is stifled in one House or Assembly in the occasionally as many as 9 states filing such legislation.
    What in the world causes states to forgo a 15% GDP boost, and the much-improved quality of life when horrid Sex Discrimination becomes a Violation of the U.S. Constitution!
    So, Reader Mr. Schoch is right in his frustration. We agree, but we also agree that, shamefully, we must go the distance if we females (and males) are ever to be accorded sex-equal treatment, a measurable goal outcome. We Forge ON. We have no choice other than succumbing to second-class citizenship. We do it, not for money, status, nor power; we do it because we care. We just wish others awaken after reading our 2PassERA.org to see the reasons this MUST pass, what they are missing that other nations already have.
    So, here’s how we agree with Ms. Folliard for

    Sex Discrimination SOLVED:
    WE are urging the amazing Marchers (I was one) to Stay Charged, right now–with us , to Focus on The ONLY Thing that is GUARANTEED to Solve those Sex Discriminations they inscribed on their Signs!

    So, PASS the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. IT is GEARED just For That!
    THEN , when we women and girls actually HAVE our Voices to raising in chorus, THEN we can take up the Challenges of climate change, global warming, and all the individual harms now produced by People (toooo many of us).

    We promise.
    Sandy Oestreich, founder-president of National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance Inc, 501c3
    Prof. Emerita, Adelphi U., NY
    Fmr. elected official
    Co-author, internationally distributed pharmacology reference texts
    Nationally certified Nurse Practitioner of 35 years; and Clinical Nurse Specialist
    Member, 3 Nurse Practitioner professional organizations
    Headed a Free Clinic for Seniors; worked for a NY City Hospital clinic
    Biographied in Feminists Who Changed America
    Nat’l ERA Alliance, Inc, is a Lead Organization of the nat’l ERA Coalition,
    Member, national ERA Action
    Member, Vision2020, Advisory Board-for women’s empowerment
    2016 Nominee, “WOMEN’S SUMMIT”, DC
    2015 Finalist, St Petersburg FL “Best Nonprofit Business”
    2014 Recipient, AAUW/FL “Woman of Distinction”
    2012 Recipient, County LWVoters Susan B. Anthony “Failure is Impossible” award
    Wife and mom
    http://www.2PassERA.org (renovation nearly complete–Go See!) SandyO@PassERA.org
    Fbk: Pass the Equal Rights Amendment Twitter: @SandyO

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