Equal Rights Amendment Advocates Convene in Atlanta, Ratification Effort Gaining Strength

Equal Rights Amendment advocates from the states which never ratified the ERA meet to discuss the ratification campaigns in their states and a national ERA ratification strategy.

(PRWEB) June 6, 2005 -- For the first time this century, Equal Rights Amendment advocates from states which never ratified the ERA convened to discuss a national strategy for gaining ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment will guarantee American women equal rights under the US Constitution. The conference was held on June 3-5, 2005 and hosted by 4ERA, a national, non-partisan ERA organization based in Atlanta. The conference participants included Democrat and Republican women who discussed the campaigns in their states and a strategy to advance the campaign at a national level.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by Congress in 1972 but opponents were successful in placing a time limit on the ratification. By the June 1982 deadline, the amendment had achieved 35 state ratifications, three shy of the 38 needed. Then in 1997, a legal opinion based on the precedent set by the ratification of the 27th amendment in 1992, stated that the ERA is still legally viable and that Congress can finish the ratification process after three more states ratify it. This opinion reinvigorated ardent ERA supporters and they set to work to reactivate past supporters and to educate a new generation. Since then, as part of a three state strategy, the ERA has been introduced into several of the 15 state legislatures that never ratified it.

The last two years has seen a marked increase in ERA activity in the unratified states. In 2003, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the ERA. In Arizona, Missouri, Florida and Virginia legislators regularly introduce ratification resolutions into their General Assemblies and this spring state lawmakers in Nevada and Arkansas also introduced ERA resolutions. New ERA campaigns have begun in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Nevada, Alabama and Mississippi.

The Equal Rights Amendment says, "equality of rights under the law will not be denied or abridged on account of sex" and polls show that it's inclusion in the Constitution is still favored by an overwhelming majority of Americans. Yet many Americans think the ERA is already in the Constitution and many women don't know that they have no constitutional guarantee of equality. Lawmakers are equally uniformed. "Our state lawmakers need to be made aware of why the ERA campaign continues because they are the ones who vote on the ratification of the amendment," noted Idella Moore, 4ERA's Executive Officer. "Since the majority of their constituents are women and the majority of voters are women, they need to recognize the importance of this issue."

ERA supporters point out that a guarantee of equality is still needed because sex discrimination is still prevalent and particularly damaging to the economic advancement of women. Moore says that laws are not protecting women from sex discrimination and sex discrimination cases are not diminishing. For instance, she relates that in a recent pregnancy discrimination case in Columbus, Georgia, a young TV reporter was advised by her company to have an abortion rather than ruin her career. Because she chose to have her child, she experienced blatant discrimination. So much so that a jury awarded her $2 million dollars in punitive damages. However, because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act caps punitive damages for sex discrimination, the victim will receive only one-tenth of that award. "This is precisely why sex discrimination in the workplace continues. Punitive damages are supposed to act as a deterrent, but because there is a cap on damages to victims of sex discrimination, companies know they are protected from the full impact of a jury's award," says Moore.

ERA proponents agree that if the previous ratification campaign had been successful this kind of lawsuit would be a thing of the past. "I am convinced that had the ERA been ratified twenty three years ago, cases such as the current class action lawsuit involving 1.6 million women suing Wal-Mart for sex discrimination would not be before us today. Sex discrimination cases would, by now, be rarer," said Sandy Oestreich leader of Florida's Equal Rights Alliance.

Advocates realize that their public awareness campaigns have some hurdles. "The myths surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment persist regardless of the fact that it can be demonstrated that these are indeed myths," says Moore. Back in the 1970s opponents of the ERA convinced many legislators that unisex toilets, state funded abortions on demand, same-sex marriage and women being drafted would be the results of the ERA. "These predictions were always baseless, scare tactics," said Moore. "The myths concern separate issues which the ERA would not affect. For most Americans they are no longer taken seriously as arguments against a guarantee that men and women will be treated equally under the law. Yet some members of the public still associate them with the ERA."

The conference participants ranged from seasoned proponents who lobbied during the ratification efforts of the 1970s to women who were still teenagers when the 1982 deadline shattered the hopes of the estimated 60 million Americans who favored the amendment. "We are fortunate to have women and men from different generations and both the major political parties coming together over this issue. Young people are the ones most surprised to learn that equality is not guaranteed to the majority of American citizens. This is an issue that they quickly understand and want to do something about," said Moore.

Idella Moore
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Source :  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/6/prweb247929.htm