“We the People” have the power to change history

Natalie Becker, Contributing Writer

This year marks one century since the 19th Amendment was ratified and gave women the right to vote. One hundred years later, on Jan. 15, Virginia ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), becoming the 38th state to do so and meeting the threshold required in order to make an amendment part of the Constitution.  The fate of women’s rights is in our hands, and it is time to make history once again. In 1923, the ERA was proposed to Congress, stating that “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. Not until 1972 did Congress pass this amendment while adding a deadline to get the 38 states’ assent by 1979. The deadline was later extended to 1982; by that time, only 35 states had approved to ratify the ERA.

In 2017, 35 years later, Nevada Senator Pat Spearman persuaded the Legislature to ratify the amendment, despite the long-overdue deadline. This call for action revived Nevada and Illinois to approve the ERA, leaving Virginia in the spotlight to do the same after coming one vote short of ratification in 2019. For over a century, advocates have pushed for a provision to be added to the Constitution that explicitly guarantees equal rights for both men and women. Without this amendment, the Constitution solidifies men and women as equal solely under the right to vote. Men and women have never been inherently unequal, but now, more than ever, it is time to set in stone the equality of sexes in all walks of life.

Some opponents argue that this amendment would intrude on religious practices and could lead to outlawing separate men and women’s bathrooms. The ERA is not calling into question whether there should be separate bathrooms for men and women, it is advocating for women to receive equal pay in all work settings, it would allow men to get paid paternity leave, require the intervention of states in cases of domestic violence and sexual harassment and protect against discrimination on pregnancy and motherhood.

While still a victorious feat, Virginia’s ratification does not solidify the addition of the ERA to the Constitution, as the deadline to do so was nearly forty years ago. It is likely to take years to persuade Congress to either extend the deadline or repeal it entirely, so right now the fate of the amendment is in the hands of our representatives. The United States proudly holds one of the world’s oldest and shortest Constitutions, and even the Founding Fathers knew that it must evolve with time. They gave us, “We the People,” the right to determine the law, and given the chance, it is only right that the Equal Rights Amendment ends up in the Constitution. There are two endings to this story: advocates fight for Congress to extend or repeal the deadline and the ERA is written into the Constitution, or the amendment is left untouched and equality remains a fight for future generations to come. On which side of history do you want to be?

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