House committee holds first hearing on Equal Rights Amendment in over 40 years
Washington DC – The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sex and guarantee women's equality in the US Constitution, received its first full House committee hearing in decades on Wednesday!
"Discrimination against women is a persistent problem; yet our country's fundamental document does not guarantee equality," said House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney at the start of the hearing.
"That is why I have introduced the ERA 13 times during my career in Congress."
Exactly 50 years ago, the US House overwhelmingly voted to pass the ERA, which was first proposed in 1923. One year later, it passed in the Senate with 84 votes.
In recent years, women's marches and the #MeToo movement gave new momentum to the push for equal rights, with Virginia voting to ratify as recently as 2020.
Now the ERA has enough states on board to certify the amendment, but there are hold-ups over a past congressional deadline, which said 3/4 of states had to vote in favor of the amendment by 1979. When that date was extended to 1982, there still weren't enough states in agreement.
ERA supporters argue that the time limit was not included in the amendment itself, and the House passed a resolution in March of this year to remove the deadline from consideration.
"This is purely ministerial duty, which should be done automatically, but under Trump, the Department of Justice issued an opinion advising the archivist not to certify the ERA," Maloney explained, referring to the government official charged with administering the ratification process.
"There is no time limit on equality," she added.
Testifiers go into reasons why we need the ERA
Kentucky Rep. James Comer, a Republican, also issued remarks at the start of the meeting. He argued that the ERA is "simply unnecessary" and "redundant of protections that already exist."
He even reverted to anti-trans rhetoric, saying that passing the ERA would endanger women's ability to have same-sex bathroom facilities and prevent female athletes from having fair competition in sports.
His remarks were subsequently rebuffed by the women who appeared to testify.
Those speakers attested to the historic and "intentional" disenfranchisement of women since the original European settlers arrived in America, which was further cemented when women were left out of the Constitution.
That legacy remains to this day, they said, naming the gender wage gap, pregnancy discrimination, lack of justice in cases of sexual assault, and loss of reproductive rights as reasons justifying the continued need for the ERA.
They also noted the disproportionate impact this discrimination has on women of color.
Several insisted they didn't want to pass on the struggle for women's freedom to yet another generation of young Americans.
Actor Alyssa Milano, who also serves on the ERA Coalition board of directors, said, "The lack of constitutional protections for anyone who is not a cisgender man is a blemish on the very idea of Americanism. As long as the Constitution allows gender-based discrimination, the United States can never achieve the greatness to which it aspires."
Carol Jenkins, President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women's Equality, testified, "As the grandmother of two biracial children who have two mothers, I want this country to reflect their lives. I don't want them to be ashamed of who they are. I want their ability to be recognized, and I want the Constitution of the United States to be true."
"I believe the only way that can happen is by enacting the ERA," she stated.
Cover photo: collage: IMAGO / MediaPunch & IMAGO / UPI Photo