Women’s Equality Day on August 26 marked the kickoff of ERA Minnesota’s campaign to make an Equal Rights Amendment part of the Minnesota Constitution.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court has energized women’s rights groups. Supporting constitutional amendments — such as when the 19th amendment legally guaranteed women the right to vote in 1920 — is the best way to assure that rights are not taken away by courts or politicians in the future. Laws can be revoked more easily than amendments.
The campaign kicked off in Golden Valley co-hosted by former long-time ERA Minnesota president Betty Folliard, Sue Scott of the “Island of Discarded Women” podcast, TeamWomen Minnesota founder Linda Hopkins, and Coastal Seafoods founder Suzanne Weinstein.
The campaign is focused on Voting and Electing Equality at every level of government, with the aim of having the legislature approve the state Equal Rights Amendment ballot initiative in 2023 to be added to the General Election voter ballot in 2024. This is the last step needed — to let the people of Minnesota vote.
Hopkins said at the event, “Women are the majority, and it is time we exert our voting power to get the equality we deserve.”
State Senator Sandy Pappas, State Representative Mike Freiberg, and Larry Kraft, running unopposed for State Representative in St. Louis Park, also were in attendance. Some of the supporters have been fighting for the ERA in Minnesota since 1972.
As one attendee said, “We are tired of being polite and waiting for our legislature to do something. They don’t have to vote for it. Just let the people of Minnesota vote for it.”
The work for ERA in Minnesota has been a long and frustrating challenge. From a 2017 Minnesota Women’s Press essay written by Folliard and Gail Kulick: “96 percent of Americans agree that we should all have equal rights. Yet 72 percent of citizens think that the ERA passed sometime last century. … We as a society need to acknowledge that our piecemeal approach to gender fairness laws hasn’t corrected the problems we face. Women still make 78 cents for every dollar men make doing the same job, with much greater inequities for women of color: 64 cents for African American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women. Sexual violence is still a norm in America.”
The ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972, but it needed to be ratified by 38 states and achieved ratification in only 35 states before a deadline caused the ERA to expire in 1982. Few other amendments in U.S. history had a deadline for ratification imposed on it.
From The 19th: “We are here to tell them that the Equal Rights Amendment is the key to ensuring reproductive autonomy.” Generation Ratify, a group led largely by teenagers, has linked the Equal Rights Amendment with the future of abortion access and LGBTQ+ rights — a message whose urgency has shifted after the end of Roe.