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BY: DEVIN DYWER AND JACQUELINE YOO, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) – The nearly 100-year-old movement to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution on equality is back experience a revival, with proponents touting 2021 as the best opportunity in a generation Move the measure from political purgatory to reality.
ON Record number of women serve in Congress; America has its first female vice president; Democrats have political power in Washington; and the Coronavirus The pandemic has raised race and gender awareness Inequality in employment and pay.
“We have momentum in ways we probably haven’t had in decades,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., Who is leading a legislative effort to finalize the ERA. “This dynamic really started and grown in 2017 and it’s time. There is no deadline for equality, and it is time we recognized it. “
The language of the amendment is straightforward but far-reaching and states: “Equality under the law cannot be denied or curtailed by the United States or any state on the basis of gender.”
Proponents said these words could be prepared to become final as the 28th amendment to law at a critical time.
Women in the US still earn less, on average, for the same work – just 82 cents for every dollar men make, according to data from the US Census Bureau. The Gap is even bigger for women of color.
Many women leave the workforce altogether.
More than 2.3 million women have withdrawn from the job market since the pandemic recession began, including another 275,000 just last month, the Department of Labor said. January was the lowest female employment rate in more than 30 years. Some have referred to the nation’s recent economic downturn as a “cession”.
Economists say the situation could worsen the gender pay gap.
“Your male colleagues move up and down the ladder as you work,” said Buffy Wicks, a member of the California Congregation that became a symbol of the crisis last fall when she was forced to move her young daughter into the statehouse bring to do their job.
“And then they have to re-join the workforce and are so far back. This wage inequality will grow again over time, ”said Wicks. “If we anchor the ERA in the constitution, it will guarantee equality and equality for women across the country.”
Proponents argue that the change would create a constitutional basis for women to tackle wage differentials and other forms of discrimination.
“I got a very good salary, and the problem is that salary couldn’t keep up,” said Deepa Kumar, professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, who described herself as a victim of gender pay discrimination. “It was not an easy fight, not only because it is emotionally stressful, but also because it is so difficult to actually win that kind of justice.”
She was hired in 2004 at Rutgers, the same school where a young law professor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, won an agreement on unequal pay for female faculties in 1969. Kumar and four other professors sued the school again last year.
“If I could be treated like that. What about people who have no job security, who are not as high-ranking as me, who are not as open as me? “, She said.
Rutgers did not want to comment on Kumar’s case, but told ABC News in a statement that it is creating a new pay-equity program and “has a duty to resolve outstanding pay-equity requests as quickly and responsibly as possible.”
“I think it’s very important to have a law that allows women to question the injustice and discrimination they face so that you know it’s equal pay for equal work for everyone” said Kumar from ERA.
It’s not just the pay gap. Women’s rights activists said that systemic discrimination exists in areas that are not generally recognized.
“In 30 of the 50 states, menstrual products are not exempt from sales tax because they are not deemed necessary,” said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public and an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice.
The so-called “tampon tax” has been banned by nearly a dozen other countries, but its persistence in the US still comes as a surprise to many.
In 2016, a social media video of President Barack Obama discuss the problem quickly became known.
“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury goods. I suspect it’s because men passed the laws when those laws were passed, ”he said in an interview with YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen.
“Most people, when they hear this, force almost everyone to leave.” I never thought of that. Why is that? Who decided that? Asked Weiss-Wolf. “It’s great and amazing the progress that has been made over the past few decades, even if the ERA hasn’t crossed the finish line, but it’s time for consistency.”
The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 with an overwhelming majority of both parties. Dozens of states quickly ratified it; Still, for years the change was three fewer states than the 38 required to make it official.
“Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to set a deadline for adoption. very paternalistic, ”said Speier.
That deadline, originally 1979 but extended to 1982, was never met after activist Phyllis Schlafly mobilized a movement of conservative women in the opposition. She warned that the ERA would turn American society on its head, which would result in women being drafted into the military, abortion restrictions ended, and bathroom gender names removed.
It wasn’t until last year that Virginia became the final state, gaining the three-quarters majority required to complete the addition to the nation’s constitution. Several states later voted to repeal previous ratifications, despite legal scholars debating the practical implications of these moves.
ERA advocates acknowledge that ratification alone will not bring an immediate end to gender discrimination across the country, but argue that it will make it easier for women to face legal challenges backed by the full force of the Constitution.
“There has been discrimination – it’s about pay, pregnancy and violence against women. So these are the areas that will be affected, ”said Speier.
The Biden government said the passing of the ERA was a core part of their “agenda for women”. Vice President Kamala Harris has said the move is a priority in her first 100 days in office.
Speier said more than 200 lawmakers from both parties co-sponsored their bill to remove the deadline for ratifying the ERA and pass the law.
“The legislation is pretty simple. It’s just the deadline in the preamble of the amendment, ”said Speier.
However, there are still major legal hurdles.
A US Department of Justice analysis Last year concluded that “Congress may not be able to revive a proposed change after the deadline.”
Even the Ginsburg Supreme Court judge conceded before her death that the process would have to start over.
“The ERA has not ratified three states. I hope one day it will be put back in the political funnel and start over and rally the required number of states to ratify it, ”Ginsburg said in 2019 to law students at Georgetown University.
Some constitutional scholars argue that the legal analysis is flawed.
“We have insoluble problems that can only be solved by setting the Constitution and really declaring that there is no gender discrimination – and that’s all this amendment says,” said Carol Jenkins, President and CEO of ERA -Coalition. “We have been working on it for 100 years.”
Jenkins and an army of loyal ERA activists, fueled by a wave of activism from the MeToo and Time’sUp movements, said it was time to put the change into effect for good.
“It’s time to get this across,” said Weiss-Wolf. “I think this is when it will happen.”
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