The Equal Rights Amendment has seen a resurgence in the last 5 years with the forming of a national coalition, the ERA Coalition, a book by Jessica Neuwirth-Equal Means Equal and two documentaries developed by Kamala Lopez and her team at Equal Means Equal. The focus on finally ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment after a defeat in the early 80s has come full circle with second wave activists such as Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority and former President of NOW, and women like Roberta Madden who started Ratify ERA in NC and was at the helm of the 70s movement when she lived in Louisiana.
Marena Groll and Joanna Wade, Co-Presidents of the ERA-NC Alliance, along with a dedicated group of activists, planned a day full of forums, visits with legislators, a press conference and a fantastic mobile billboard circling the legislature with sayings such as “Make Mama happy. Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s Good for families” and the opposite side of the truck saying, “Nothing Protects Families Like the ERA-ratify the ERA amendment now’”. National figures were panelists: Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority organization; Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition; and Bettina Hagar, COO of the DC ERA Coalition.
The plan for the day follows, with some events going on at the same time.
- The ERA-NC Alliance guest panelists visited the NC Council on Women and Youth to hear about the preparations being made for the 2020 Centennial and bringing attention to the economic situation for women in the state.
- As noon, there was a one-hour forum with bill sponsors Rep. Carla Cunningham and Senator Floyd McKissick and over 20 legislators who have co-sponsored the bill. Eleanor Smeal provided the audience, consisting of 20+ legislators and other parties some of the history of the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment and why it is still needed. Carol Jenkins provided an overview of the work the ERA Coalition has done to move states like Nevada and Illinois to ratify. Bettina Hagar talked about ERA as well. The panel was moderated by Joanna Wade. The Winston&Strawn law firm provided ERA:Common Legal Questions.Winston & Strawn. Joanna Wade is a lawyer with Winston & Strawn.
- At 12:30, others were gathering in the Legislative Building, and learning about ERA from past and current ERA organizers, including our own Roberta Waddle.
- At 1:30pm, there was a Press Conference hosted by the bill sponsors: Senator Floyd McKissick and Representative Carla Cunningham. The press room was full of legislators, organizations, activists and members of the ERA-NC Alliance. Many more women watched through the windows (see through to left of door in picture).
- At 2pm, volunteers went to eat and distribute folders to all lawmakers. Folders contains information on the bills and why lawmakers should co-sponsor.
- At 4:00, activists gathered in the Senate, where Senator Floyd McKissick recognized the gallery. At 4:45 that same group gathered in the House where Representative Carla Cunningham recognized the gallery.
As of March 8, every Democratic lawmaker (in NC Senate and House) has signed on to be a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 184 and House Bill 271. Stay tuned for the next big events and the ERA-NC Alliance works to get these bills out of committee and on to the floor for a vote. The ERA-NC Alliance is a coalition of women’s groups across the state.