No, women do not have equal rights

The United States of America, a country that prides itself on its “liberty and justice for all,” has failed to provide basic rights to a particularly large demographic — women.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) states that “the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply equally to all persons regardless of their sex.” Unfortunately, this bill hasn’t been passed yet and the US is one of six countries that lacks legislation guaranteeing equal rights for both genders, along with Iran, Somalia and Sudan. Without the ERA, there is no constitutional guarantee that any of the rights in the Constitution, with the exception of the right to vote, apply to women as well.

The 19th and 14th amendment are not sufficient to guarantee women’s rights. In fact, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once claimed that the 14th amendment was never intended to protect women and instead more so focused on race.

The ERA was first proposed by feminist Alice Paul in 1923 and was finally passed in Congress and sent to the states for ratification in 1972 with a seven-year time limit. The deadline was later extended to 1982, but only 35 out of the required 38 states ratified it. The ERA’s current path, known as the “three state strategy”, involves obtaining the signatures of at least three of the 15 states that did not ratify it between 1972 and 1982.

Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York explains that it is imperative to pass the ERA because “[o]ur democracy rests on the principle of ‘liberty and justice for all.’ We need the ERA to ensure that this applies equally to women.”

Carolyn A. Cook, CEO of United 4 Equality, says that “women in the armed services are fighting on the front lines in two wars to protect and defend a constitution that does not protect and defend them.”

“We must pass it because it is the right thing to do,” states Gloria Feldt, activist and author. “No cause is lost when it is the right thing to do.”

One of the factors preventing the Equal Rights Amendment from passing is the belief that sexism no longer exists. However, sexism persists, as proven by the recent #RepealThe19th, popular among supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The hashtag was inspired by a tweet by statistician Nate Silver stating that if only men voted, Trump would win by a landslide. Certain Trump supporters then proceeded to argue that women’s right to vote should be revoked.

Another factor to explain why the bill has not been passed is the lack of awareness of the fact that the US doesn’t guarantee equal rights. Congresswoman Jackie Speier states that 70 percent of people polled think it’s already in the Constitution.

“When asked, the vast majority of Americans think the Constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and they’re appalled to hear it doesn’t,” Speier says. “So I do think more awareness would help.”

Speier is the representative for California’s 14th congressional district and an active proponent for the ERA. In May 2015, Speier introduced HJ Res. 51, which called for the nullification of the deadline before which the ERA must be ratified.

When asked about Congress’ reaction the resolution, Speier optimistically replied, “Since we already have 164 co-sponsors, we only need 54 more members to vote ‘yes’ when the bill comes up for voting. I think we can do it!”

Speier believes America’s lack of legislation guaranteeing equal rights “reflects badly on our country, which purports to be a nation built on the  premise that all people are equal, especially when we encourage emerging nations around the globe to include equality measures for women in their constitutions.”

“We have a pay gap that sees women making 79 cents, on average, to every dollar that men make. For African-American women and Latinas it’s even lower at 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively … We have a Congress and state legislators who are focused like a laser beam on attacking women’s health, including a special committee designed specifically to scare women’s health providers and researchers out of their fields. Since the start of 2016, state legislatures have already introduced over 200 anti-choice bills. We also have a Supreme Court seat at stake and issues of gender equality hanging in the balance,” she stated.

It is imperative that women receive the rights that they have been fighting for, for so long. As Congresswoman Speier so eloquently put it, “There should never be a time clock on equality.”