2009 Changemaker: Kathleen Murphy

Got women’s equality?

The presumed answer might be an incredulous: Of course! Followed up by the tentative question: But wasn’t the campaign for women’s rights fought a long time ago?

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written and introduced into Congress in 1923. It was reintroduced each session until 1972 when it finally passed the Senate and the House, and was then sent to the states for ratification. A seven-year time limit was extended by U.S. Congress to June of 1982, but was left short with 35 of the necessary 38 states ratifying the amendment. It is not yet included in the U.S. Constitution.

Kathleen Murphy encountered this piece of women’s history while working on a college paper, realizing that she had mistakenly taken equality for granted but that the work was not done.

A longtime professional in the public-policy arena, Murphy works on the ERA campaign without fanfare, or even without pay in most instances; she’s in it for the bigger picture.

“Although Minnesota did its part nationally by ratifying the federal effort, our own state has never been able to get an amendment on the ballot,” Murphy explained.

For nearly 10 years, Murphy has been working on a Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment campaign, to get an amendment to our state constitution put on the ballot.

When the Federal Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in the U.S. House in July 2009, Murphy was one of the uniting forces behind the formation of the Minnesota Constitutional Amendment for Equality (MN C.A.F.E.) Coalition, a group that held its kickoff event, quite aptly, on Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day. Spearheaded initially by members of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Coalition is working to build a grassroots lobbying effort and develop a plan of action to place the Minnesota ERA on the ballot statewide in November 2010.

“We’re keeping it focused,” Murphy said. “This is not linked to other issues. We’re talking, very simply, about women being equal to men under our constitution, so that it would finally read:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied by the state of Minnesota or any of its political subdivision on account of gender.

“It’s not enough to assume equality. This is truly about cementing the rights of half of our population into our state law,” Murphy said.

“We’ve been told in the past that until people were knocking on the doors about this initiative, it just wouldn’t get a lot of attention,” Murphy said. “We need to be able to knock down their doors.”

Be A Changemaker
The ERA won’t pass itself! The MN C.A.F.E. Coalition is seeking diverse members-individuals, organizations, unions, businesses and other groups-to encourage public awareness and strategize development. Both contributions of time and money are welcome. Action teams include: fundraising, coalition recruitment, communication, education and outreach, and legislative strategy.

For additional information or to get involved:
Go to the website www.MnCafeCoalition.org
Read the blog at: mncafecoaltion.wordpress.com
Email: MnCAFECoalition@gmail.com