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NOW Presidents: Two Sign on Letters Due May 1

NOW Presidents: ERA resolution removes ratification deadline

May 2, 2013

Dear NOW Leaders,

We need your help to lift up our national Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratification effort.

Bipartisan Effort - On Thursday, May 9, Sens. Ben Cardin (D. Md.) and Barbara Mikulski (D. Md.), along with Sens. Mark Kirk (R. Ill. ) and Lisa Murkowski (R. Alaska) will introduce a bipartisan resolution to remove the deadline for the states' ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). An identical version of this resolution will soon be introduced in the House by Rep. Rob Andrews (D. N.J.). If this legislation passes Congress (only a simple majority vote -- 51 percent -- is required) and is signed into law, we have a very good chance at finally seeing the Equal Rights Amendment fully ratified. Only three more states' ratification is needed. A copy of the resolution is posted here.

Endorse and Co-Sponsor - We are asking your chapter to officially endorse the legislation (no bill number as yet) and to call both your senators to ask them to become an original co-sponsor of this resolution. Send your confirmation of chapter endorsement to Jan Erickson, NOW Government Relations, at govtrel@now.org by Tuesday, May 7. You can call your senators via the Capitol switchboard, 202-225-3121. Ask to speak to the staff member who handles judiciary matters or women's rights. Give the staffer these co-sponsorship contacts: For Democrats, call Margot Hecht in Sen. Cardin's office at 202-224-4524 or send a message to margot_hecht [at] cardin.senate.gov. For Republicans, call Gretchen Blum in Sen. Kirk's office at 202-224-2854 or gretchen_blum [at] kirk.senate.gov. Talking points and background information follows.

Your Talking Points:

• Congress has the authority to extend the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment; the U.S. Constitution contains to no limits for ratification of constitutional amendments.

• The Fourteenth Amendment does not adequately protect women against discrimination. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has repeatedly claimed that women are not covered by the Equal Protection clause at all. Ratification of the ERA by state legislatures would provide the courts with clearer guidance in holding gender or sex classifications to the 'strict scrutiny' standard.

• In 1972 and again in 1979, Congress stipulated a very short time period in which the ERA had to be ratified by 38 states – many equal rights advocates believe that this unreasonable restriction is itself unenforceable, but this resolution is needed to make it clear that it has no force. We need the chance to gain three more states to ratify this long-needed constitutional protection.


Short Deadline - When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it stipulated that the measure would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states) within seven years. Alice Paul, originator of the ERA, wept when she heard that the short deadline had been enacted. Approaching the 1979 deadline, feminists pressed Congress for an extension – which was then moved to 1982, just three more years.

Important History - Despite the diligent efforts thousands of NOW members and other activists, the ratification period expired with just 35 of the required 38 states, stymied by the power of the insurance industry, colleges and universities concerned about protecting their expensive male-only athletic programs and a hysterical but well-funded right wing. For more about this, see the report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), "The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues," here.

Congress Has Authority - As Sens. Cardin and Kirk noted in their letter to colleagues, Congress has the authority to give states another chance. Article V of the Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of constitutional amendments, and the ERA time limit was contained in a joint resolution – not the actual text of the amendment. Moreover, the 27th amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate pay raises was ratified after 203 years! And, it should be noted, that there is no constitutional provision for states to withdraw or rescind their ratification vote; that was recently confirmed to us by the Archivist of the United States.

Discrimination Against Women Continues - The Fourteenth Amendment states: "[N]or shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The Supreme Court, however, has never granted "strict scrutiny" review to sex discrimination, using an "intermediate scrutiny" standard instead. And Justice Antonin Scalia claims that women are not covered at all under the 14th Amendment: "[C]ertainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't." This extremist view is not shared (openly, at least) by other justices, but it is emblematic of the lack of constitutional protection women have in the U.S. Ratification of the ERA by state legislatures would provide the courts with clearer guidance in holding gender or sex classifications to the "strict scrutiny" standard.

Thanks to You - NOW is working with numerous other women's rights and civil rights organizations and with the National Council of Women's Organizations (NCWO) Equal Rights Task Force, to move this resolution forward. A White House petition asking the administration to support legislation to remove the deadline was successful in gaining a sufficient number of signatures and we are hoping to hear from the White House soon about possible actions. Also, NOW recently helped coordinate a hearing in Congress to talk about the need for an Equal Rights Amendment and we hope to have the involvement of all our dedicated grassroots activists in this historic effort.

Thank you for all you do for women's equality!


© 2013 National Organization for Women

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