Fearless Carla Cunningham and Introduction of ERA in NC

ERA is in the air,” according to Gailya Paliga, President of the NC National Organization for Women.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is the topic of a new book – “Equal Means Equal, Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Is NOW” by Jessica Neuwirth in 2015.

Oscar winning actress Patricia Arquette used part of her acceptance speech to push for women’s equality Sunday night, February 22, 2015. Women “have fought for everybody else’s equal rights.  It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” she announced.

And the introduction of ERA in NC was big news at NC Women United’s Women’s Advocacy Day reception on Monday night, February 23, 2015.  Rep. Carla Cunningham (D -Mecklenburg) announced that a joint resolution calling for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U. S. Constitution was being introduced in NC’s House and Senate! 

Cunningham sponsored the bill in the NC House of Representatives – House Bill 166, “Equal Rights Amendment”. The same week, Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. introduced Senate Bill 184, “North Carolina Adopt Equal Rights Amendment.” This is the first time that bills to ratify the ERA were introduced since the 1980s as far as we know!

Cunningham talked about her own experiences as a working mother and in the health care field.  She went to the NC Legislature to champion equal pay, and sees the need to champion the Equal Rights Amendment to get there. 

Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenberg) Photo Credit: NCGA
Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg) Photo Credit: NCGA

Cunningham ended with “Be fearless!  Keeping moving forward!  2016 is coming, and it’s a woman’s year!”

Senator Josh Stein (D – Wake) and Senator Michael Woodard (D – Durham, Caswell, Person) also spoke at the event.  Senator Stein studied NC Women United’s Legislative Agenda, and determined that it “would substantially improve the quality of life of people in North Carolina.”  Find the Legislative Agenda at http://www.ncwu.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/NCWU-Womens-Legislative-Agenda-2015.pdf

Senator Woodard talked about how these issues affect women more than men. There are more women living in poverty, for example.  And how the NC Legislature has done many bad things to women’s health care.  He stated, “we need leadership who cares.”  Woodard encouraged women to talk to their representatives.  Facilitating that is the purpose of Women’s Advocacy Day.

Senator Floyd McKissick (D – Durham) is primary sponsor of ERA on the Senate side.  Senator Terry Van Duyn (D – Buncombe) has also pledged to sponsor, and attended the event.

Representatives from many women’s organizations attended the reception, including Tara Romano, President of NC Women United, who organized the reception and the Women’s Advocacy Day; Roberta Madden, Co-Director of Ratify ERA NC;  Marena Groll, President of NC4ERA; Mary Peterson, President of American Associate of University Women of North Carolina;  Beth Messersmith, Campaign Director of North Carolina Moms Rising; Judith Scruggs, Vice President/Convener of League of Women Voters of North Carolina; Pat Sledge, President of Business and Professional Women of NC; and Gailya Paliga, President of NC National Organization for Women.  

Many people think that the Equal Rights Amendment already wrote women into the U.S. Constitution.  After all, it was originally proposed and introduced in U.S. Congress in 1923 by suffragist leader Alice Paul.  However, it didn’t pass both chambers of U.S. Congress until 1972, after which it went to state legislatures with a 7 year deadline for ratification. Three quarters of the states, 38 states, had to ratify it.  Although Congress extended the deadline to 1982, the amendment fell three states short of ratification.  NC is one of the 15 states that have not yet ratified the ERA.

Meanwhile, a series of decisions by the Supreme Court have denied claims of sex discrimination by women.  In “Equal Means Equal,” Jessica Neuwirth explains how “ERA would address ongoing pay inequity, workplace discrimination and violence against women.”  

ERA is exactly what women need!

For more information on the Equal Rights Amendment or this event, contact
Marena Groll, NC4ERA, info@nc4era.org
Roberta Madden, Ratify ERA NC, robertamadden@era-nc.org
Gailya Paliga, NC National Organization for Women, nownorthcarolina@gmail.com

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