Archive for April, 2009

ERA would end women’s second-class citizenship – by Carolyn Cook

ERA would end women’s second-class citizenship – by Carolyn Cook

Only three more states are needed to declare gender bias unconstitutional. Carolyn Cook is the Washington representative for the ERA Campaign Network.

ERA would end women’s second-class citizenship
April 12, 2009

by Carolyn Cook

Op-Ed, Philadelphia Inquirer
When our forefathers broke from Britain, they left nothing to chance. They put it in writing.

In unified thought, spirit, and action, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 white, male landowners representing 13 colonies. Hardly reflective of America today, it formally challenged the notion of the “divine right of kings” and guaranteed wealthy men equal rights.

The Declaration of Independence provides the rationale through which the U.S. Constitution is interpreted. Therefore, the Supreme Court renders its judgments based on a legal precedent established 239 years ago of equality among men only!

With only one justice and one quarter of judges in state courts female, the odds are not in our favor. Furthermore, without the explicit wording and intention of women’s rights documented in the principles of our government, women remain second-class citizens until we unite and declare otherwise.

Justice Antonin Scalia affirms this stark reality. “When a practice not explicitly prohibited by the text of the Bill of Rights bears the endorsement of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use, that dates back to the beginning of the Republic, we have no proper basis for striking it down,” he wrote.

More than two dozen amendments to the Constitution have granted critical civil and political rights. Steadily, our cultural landscape transformed from horrific human rights violations to electing the first Catholic and African American male presidents. Stunning triumphs, and yet our moral compass must not ignore the double standard that remains – gender discrimination.

Without a uniform guarantee of equality across 50 states, there is no assurance of women’s progress. The stopgap of laws arbitrarily sprinkled throughout the states, subjectively interpreted by courts and subject to being overturned by a single vote, has failed us. Unwise “investors” bank on the security and protection of state laws, assuming these measures are sufficient. They build castles made of sand that the changing tides in legislatures can sweep away without a trace.

Verbal, sexual, and physical assaults have become commonplace; advertising exploits our bodies and limits our self-concept; wage disparity and insufficient family support persist in employment; and caregivers are not yet eligible for Social Security.

The omission of women in the U.S. Constitution has had far-reaching consequences for far too long. The time to take action is now.

The Equal Rights Amendment updates America’s original social contract. It calls upon the U.S. government to modernize its structures, laws, and policies to reflect the progress and contributions of the other half of its taxpaying citizens.

Just three more states are needed to ratify the ERA as the 28th Amendment. Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida (2009), and Virginia (2010) are attempting to officially declare men and women equal stakeholders in America’s future. With an economy to recover, international relations to mend, and corruption to end, all hands must be joined in this effort.

ERA simply states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The ERA invests in women’s social progress – offering them the dignity and respect they are entitled to as individuals and citizens of this democracy. It is high time our government declare gender discrimination unconstitutional as it has nobly done with race. With a uniform guarantee of equality upheld in all 50 states, women’s progress at home, at work, and in their communities will be measured and protected by the full extent of the law.


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