The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) sits in an extremely precarious and historically unprecedented position at the moment. It is the most confusing and ridiculous display of institutionalized sexism, gaslighting, and proof of the ineffectuality of our current political system imaginable.
Basically, the ERA is being held up from being published as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution due to a technicality: a Trump/Barr technicality — a memo that went to the then and now current National Archivist, who is soon to retire. The memo was sent in 2020, when Trump was still president, telling the archivist not to sign the ERA into law based on an arbitrary — and I say sexist — deadline put into the fine print by opposition to the ERA in the 1970s.
However, instead of simply overturning the Trump/Barr memo that recognized the false validity of that arbitrary timeline, President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland kicked the issue to the Senate, of all places. If Voting Rights haunts you, women’s and LGBTQ rights sit in the same place, stymied by missing Republican — and maybe even rogue Democratic — votes.
SJ Res 1 has not yet made it to the Senate floor. It asks for removal of the arbitrary timeline on the ERA. Congress can remove the deadline, but will they? It’s a nail-biter of a conundrum, keeping American women frighteningly close to permanent second-class status in the United States, dependent on the will of Republican Senators, and even Democratic ones, who so far have not agreed to a vote. The suspense is literally killing us. Google the statistics on how many women and trans people die in this country every day.
The good news? Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have signed on to SJ Res 1. That’s two Republican senators. Apparently American women need eight more equality- and justice-minded Republican Senators to vote Yea to SJ Res 1 for women and LGTBQ people to be seen as equal to men in this country and enjoy full protection under the highest law in the land. But that’s if the politicians in control bring it to the Senate floor and if it gets the requisite 60 votes.
I saw a friend last month and said, “I am working on the ERA … ” and she said, “The ERA. We have that. Right?” Wrong. Not yet. Has it been passed by Congress? Yes. Has it been ratified by the requisite 38 states? Yes. Has it been published, so that when you pull out your pocket Constitution you see it listed as the 28th Amendment? No.
Do American women have full equal standing to men under the law in this country? No. Are crimes against women and trans people met with strict scrutiny under the law like religious or racially motivated crimes are? No.
American women remain, at this moment, woefully second class. Black women, women of color, and gender nonconforming people remain even further discriminated against and bear the brunt of this failure.
What can we do? Get the Senate to vote on SJ Res 1 and to pass it. Apparently, even if you are not a constituent, you can call Republican senators from any state and say, “Please vote yes on SJ Res 1 to remove the arbitrary timeline on the ERA.” If they ask if you are a constituent, say, “I am calling from a sister state.” If you say you are an individual voter that’s one point; if you say you belong to a group (League of Women Voters or the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, for example), that would be a point for each group; a business owner would be another point. Supposedly, with enough “points” on any given subject, it turns into a “hot-button issue” and moves up the political food chain in recognition and eventual action.
Speech has an amendment. Guns have an amendment. It’s past time that American women and gender nonconforming people have an amendment. It will mean discrimination and crimes based on sex will be illegal. Finally.
There is no deadline on equality. Remove the insult. Remove the arbitrary timeline that is blocking the publication of the ERA. Now.