On March 8, International Women’s Day, Rep. Julie von Haefen and Sen. Natalie Murdock announced their reintroduction of NCGA bills to make North Carolina the 39th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Equal rights, under the law, shall not be denied or abridged,
by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
- Rep Eric Ager (District 114) 919-715-2013
- Rep Lindsey Prather (District 115) 919-733-5746
- Rep Caleb Rudow (District 116) 919-715-3012
- Sen Julie Mayfield (District 49) 919-715-3001
Yes, we said “reintroduce.” Our General Assembly has voted down adding the ERA to the US Constitution several times. And it’s been 100 years since suffragists Alice Paul and Chrystal Eastman wrote the amendment. (Susan B. Anthony’s nephew, Republican Daniel Anthony, sponsored the bill in the House.)
A Bit of History
It didn’t pass in both houses of Congress until March 22, 1972 — and then 38 states had to ratify it, within, ultimately, 10 years.
The ERA was wildly popular in the early ‘70s. It was on the platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Twenty-two states ratified it in 1972, eight in the first half of 1973.
And then ERA ran smack into Phyllis Schlafly’s STOP ERA. She toured nationwide to tell women that the ERA would take away their right to stay home with their children, among many things. (She also told them to greet their husbands at the front door from time to time wearing nothing but Saran Wrap.) The amendment’s momentum sputtered. Three states ratified in 1974, one in 1975, one in 1977. Three shy of the 38 required by the Constitution.
Then nothing for 40 years. So why should we imagine the North Carolina legislature will ratify the ERA now?
Where We Are Now
In 2017 the ERA came back to life, with Nevada ratifying that year, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia in 2020. The magic 38 required for addition to the Constitution! But long past the 1982 deadline imposed by Congress.
Why are states ratifying ERA decades after the deadline?
The short version: Someone unearthed an amendment that was proposed in 1789 and was passed, ratified and certified to the Constitution in 1992, more than 200 years later. ERA champions saw this as encouragement to fight on, and worked towards adding three states for the next 25+ years.
And yet, the ERA is not ratified. It is up to its knees in the quicksand of a 2020 legal opinion written by the Office of Legal Counsel in Bill Barr’s DOJ.
But Congress can still remove that darn deadline. The dozens of Senators and Representatives sponsoring The Senate Joint Resolution to Affirm the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment plan to do exactly that.
ACTION: Ask your Congressional rep and both of your U.S. Senators to remove the ERA deadline and affirm its ratification. In WNC, contact Rep. Chuck Edwards (House District 13) and Sens. Thom Tillis and Ted Budd. Here’s an online form that makes that easy.
North Carolina matters because we ALL matter
Von Haefen, Murdock and their co-sponsors of H302 and S231 are armed with research showing that North Carolinians’ support for the ERA is growing. In a recent Meredith Poll, 71.5% of respondents supported the General Assembly passing the bill to ratify the ERA.
The ERA makes sense economically, too. “If working women in North Carolina were paid comparably to men, the average earnings increase for women would be $6,628, equivalent to a raise of 19%,” said Jimmie Cochran Pratt, co-president of the ERA-NC Alliance. “The increase would reduce the poverty rate among working women by more than half while impacting the income of the entire family and North Carolina’s overall economy, a reason for both parties to support ERA!”
And now there’s been a groundswell of momentum nationally. In the ‘70s, the ERA floundered after Phyllis Schlafly wrapped herself in tradition and vowed to stop it and the Moral Majority (not!) put Reagan in office. Lately, it’s no coincidence that Nevada, Illinois and Virginia all ratified the ERA during the Trump years, which also gave rise to the Women’s March on Washington and the #MeToo Movement. A record number of women were elected to Congress and state legislatures in 2018 and again in 2020. A new record for women governors sitting simultaneously was set in 2022.
About eight in ten US adults (78%), including majorities of men and women, Republicans and Democrats, favor adding the ERA to the US Constitution.
- 1847 The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY. One of its 12 resolutions called for voting rights for women.
- 1867 A federal women’s suffrage amendment was introduced in Congress. (Spoiler alert: it was rejected.)
- 1873 Susan B. Anthony was convicted for voting for Ulysses S. Grant for president.
- 1912 Theodore Roosevelt’s Moose Party supported women’s suffrage.
- 1916 Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Woodrow Wilson said the Democratic Party will support women’s suffrage.
- 1917 Alice Paul and other picketing suffragists were arrested and imprisoned. During a hunger strike, Paul was force fed.
- 1919 Woman Suffrage Amendment was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.
- 1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified as law.
- 1923 Alice Paul and Chrystal Evans wrote the Equal Rights Amendment. Rep. Anthony and Sen. Curtis introduced it into Congress, where it is rejected.
- 1923-1970 Through the efforts of Alice Paul, the ERA was introduced in each session of Congress.
- 1967 The newly founded National Organization for Women (NOW) pledged to fight tirelessly for the ERA.
- 1970 In February, twenty NOW members disrupted hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, demanding that the ERA be heard by the full Congress. In May, the ERA reached the Senate floor. In June, the ERA was heard by the full House of Representatives.
- 1971 The House approved the ERA by a 354-24 majority. The National Education Association and United Auto Workers endorsed the amendment.
- 1972 On March 22 the full Senate approved the ERA, 84-8. Twenty-two states ratified it. Phyllis Schlafly established the National Committee to Stop ERA.
- 1977 Alice Paul, suffragist and ERA author, died at age 92.
- 1980 Ronald Reagan became President, the first to officially oppose the Equal Rights Amendment.
- 1982 After two extensions of its initial arbitrary seven-year deadline, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states. No more extensions were granted. Several states tried to rescind their ratification, but the Supreme Court ruled against them.
- 1983 – 1992 The ERA was introduced in every session of Congress and held in Committee.
- 2017 Nevada ratified the ERA.
- 2018 Illinois ratified the ERA.
- 2020 Virginia ratified the ERA, the 38th state to do so.
- 2023 North Carolina reintroduced the ERA into the North Carolina General Assembly.
…we persist — and bend the arc further toward justice…
Twenty-two states have their own equal rights amendments. Four are in the process of ratifying state-level ERAs.
Nevada just added the most inclusive ERA in the country to its Constitution, ensuring equality for all, “regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin.” Minnesota legislators have introduced a similar amendment to their state constitution. New York is close to ratifying an inclusive amendment.