By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is calling on her colleagues to pass a federal and state Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which despite having been introduced at the federal level 11 times by Maloney, has yet to even get a vote.
Alongside Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and the New York Girl Scouts at the Fearless Girl statue in Lower Manhattan on Saturday, Maloney emphasized that the only right guaranteed to women in the Constitution is the right to vote. The amendment, she argued, would prohibit denying equal rights to women under the law by ensuring that government programs and federal resources benefit men and women equally and would guarantee equal footing for women in the legal systems of all 50 states.
While the bill was passed by Congress in 1972, it was three states short of ratification and has still not been brought to a vote. Maloney noted on Saturday, however, that her legislation has 28 new co-sponsors as of last Friday, for a total of 144, and Nevada ratified the amendment just last year, bringing the number of states needed for ratification down to two.
The bill needs to pass two successive legislatures and be brought to an election in New York to pass on the state level.
“National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are special opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the women whose struggles, contributions and achievements have shaped our society,” Maloney said. “In the era of the Me Too and Times Up movements, we have a unique opportunity to turn activism into lasting change, and the ERA is an essential part of that change. By amending our state and U.S. Constitutions to declare that men and women are equals, we will be sending a message that the days of discrimination against women are coming to an end.”
The amendment would ensure that women’s rights would be preserved as a basic right guaranteed by the US Constitution, regardless of other laws that could be repealed or due to judicial attitudes shifting.
The legislation would also prohibit sexual discrimination in the same way discrimination based on race, religion and national origin have been prohibited by clarifying the legal status of sex discrimination for courts.
Advocates also argue that the ERA would help close the wage gap because it would put the full weight of the Constitution behind employment laws in regards to the prevention of gender discrimination in hiring and firing, as well as promotions and benefits. The amendment could also protect women from pregnancy discrimination and would eliminate sex discrimination in the armed services.
The legislation is seen as a way to protect women’s rights in education, employment and from domestic violence because it would prohibit denying equal rights under the law on the basis of gender. An ERA at the state level would ensure that regardless of what happens at the federal level, women in New York would be protected against gender-based discrimination.