By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Alyssa Milano has joined in the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), legislation Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has introduced 11 times she has been in office. Maloney, the bill’s lead sponsor in Congress, was joined by the “Charmed” actress, along with the ERA Coalition and activists at the Fearless Girl statue on Monday to call for the ratification of the bill. This was a few days prior to a “shadow hearing,” or unofficial hearing Maloney held for the ERA on Wednesday.
Although the amendment passed Congress in 1972, only 35 states ratified it. Thirty-eight states need to ratify it to amend the Constitution. The right to vote is currently the only right guaranteed to women in the Constitution and the ERA would guarantee that Constitutional rights apply equally to all persons regardless of their gender.
“This is an economic issue,” argued Milano on Monday. “When women earn more, it stimulates the economy and this would provide equal pay for women. Discriminatory laws are being enacted all the time but the ERA would put women on an equal footing.”
In addition to Milano, co-president of the ERA Coalition Carol Robles-Román and Jessica Lenahan, plaintiff in Supreme Court Case Castle Rock v. Gonzales, also testified at the hearing on Wednesday.
Maloney sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte requesting a hearing on the ERA in April but received no response, prompting the shadow hearing. The purpose of shadow hearings is to protest the inability to call witnesses or otherwise define a bill’s agenda. There has not been a formal congressional hearing on the amendment since 1984.
“Women are half the population and yet the only right we are guaranteed in the Constitution is the right to vote,” Maloney said. “At a time when there is an outcry from across our country for equal pay for women, an end to sexual harassment and assault and heightened awareness of sex discrimination in practically every sector of society, we must talk about Constitutional equality. We need to harness this energy to create lasting change for generations to come, and that means finally getting women’s rights in the constitution.”
The ERA would make sex the subject of strict judicial scrutiny and clarify the legal status is sexual discrimination, prohibiting sexual discrimination in the same way that discrimination based on race, national origin and religion is prohibited. It would also ensure that government programs and federal resources benefit men and women equally, guaranteeing an equal footing for women in the legal systems of all 50 states.
Maloney most recently introduced the ERA in 2017 and last week, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify it. Nevada ratified the amendment in 2017.
Activist Tarana Burke is credited with founding the Me Too movement more than a decade ago but Milano helped bring the issue to light last year when she tweeted encouraging victims of sexual harassment to put “me too” as their status and share their experiences in the wake of the allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.