Charlotte NOW president Melba Smith Evans spoke on need for Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) at at a Listening Session for Mecklenburg County representatives. The Mecklenburg County Delegation of state representatives and senators held a “Listening Session” at the South County Regional Library on Saturday March 9th from 9am to noon.
This is Melba’s speech.
Thank you to our legislators who came out on a Saturday morning to listen. All Democrats in the House and in the Senate cosponsored the ERA. We must reach out to Republican representatives for their support for the ERA.
The Equal Rights Amendment in NC
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
First of all, thank you to all of you who cosponsored the ERA. We are thrilled that all of the Democratic representatives in the House and Senate were cosponsors. I hope to give you some additional information this morning as we continue to move toward ratification.
We need the ERA to affirm constitutionally that the bedrock principles of our democracy – “all men are created equal,” “liberty and justice for all,” “equal justice under law,” “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” – apply equally to women.
It is necessary to have specific language in the Constitution affirming the principle of equal rights on the basis of sex because for more than two centuries, women have had to fight long and hard political battles to win rights that men (at first white men, eventually all men) possessed automatically because they were male. The only right that the Constitution specifically affirms equally for women and men is the right to vote.
We need the ERA to prevent a rollback of women’s rights.
Unless we put into the Constitution the bedrock principle that equality of rights cannot be denied or abridged on account of sex, the political and judicial victories women have achieved the past two centuries are vulnerable to erosion or reversal at any time – now or in the future.Congress has the power to make laws that replace existing laws – and to do so by a simple majority. Therefore, many of the current legal protections against sex discrimination can be removed by the margin of a single vote.
The ERA would have obligated the Supreme Court to consider the discriminatory impact of Hobby Lobby’s claim to religious freedom on the women employed by the company.
Doris Garcia, a pregnant worker, was fired by Chipotle for taking too many bathroom breaks and keeping a water bottle handy. She was forced to seek public assistance. Doris did not have the same legal right to reasonable accommodations that people with disabilities have under the law.
Peggy Young was forced out of work by UPS during her pregnancy. UPS was not legally required to reassign her temporary work that did not require heavy lifting. UPS routinely reassigns workers with job related injuries and offers drivers who get a DWIs temporary reassignments to non-driving jobs.
The ERA differs from the protections already provided under the law. The Fourteenth Amendment says that no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Fifth Amendment applies the same principle to the federal government. These protections do not apply to sex the same way they apply to race or national origin. Title VII is limited. It only applies to larger corporations, leaving those who work for small companies unprotected. Title IX addresses discrimination in education and only applies to educational institutions that receive federal funding, not to schools like St. Paul’s where the “Senior Salute” ritual has encouraged sexual assault.
People ask if the states will lose their power to legislate.
No. The ERA will not take any power away from states
People ask if it will change abortion laws.
No. Ratifying a federal ERA will not change any abortion laws.
Others ask if the ERA would require removing gender designations from bathrooms, locker rooms, jails, and hospital rooms.
No. Passing the ERA would not change bathrooms. Other states have had equal rights in place for decades and it has not eliminated separate women’s and men’s restrooms.
Will the ERA erase the gender wage gap?
No. The ERA alone can’t do that but it could change outcomes which depend on the legislative loop hole of “a factor other than sex” As in the case of Lola Kouba with Allstate earning $825 a week while males on the same job earned $1,000 or Tracy Rexroat working for the Arizona Dept of Ed earning $17,000 a year less than male counterparts. The factor “other than sex” was that they earned less in their prior jobs.
We need the ERA now to expressly prohibit discrimination against girls and women on the basis of sex in our Constitution. The ERA was ratified by 35 states before the deadline. [In 2017, Nevada became the 36th and in 2018,] Illinois became the 37th. One more ratification is needed. Congress created the deadline, so it has the power to remove it-or to extend it as it did in 1979. Support the ERA and make NC the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA and send it to Congress.