Why We Need the ERA

Suzann Willhite at left

The pandemic and racial protests have made it painfully clear that people are not treated equally. People considered “essential workers” have been expected to continue to work at jobs with low wages, inadequate healthcare, inflexible hours, while caring for their families. Most of those essential jobs were held by women and persons of color.

Why is there not equal pay for equal work? Whole healthcare? An embedded system of being able to care for children and families? Freedom from violence and exploitation?

These are some of the issues that the Equal Rights Amendment would remedy.

In an interview with California Lawyer magazine in 2011, then-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the U.S. Constitution does not protect women from gender-based discrimination. “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” 

The fight for legal equality for all persons continues at both the state and federal levels. Both levels are needed to create a legal foundation for equality in state and federal laws.

In Minnesota, the legislature must pass bills in both the House and Senate to put the amendment on the ballot in order for the voters of Minnesota to decide if they vote “yes” or “no.”

What is the controversy that has prevented this measure from being added to the U.S. Constitution since it was first proposed in 1923? Here is the wording:

Federal: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Minnesota: “Equality under the law shall not be abridged or denied on account of sex.

The bills have passed in the Minnesota House for several years. In contrast, the bills proposed in the Minnesota Senate have not even been given a hearing or a floor vote in those same years. Why?

In past legislative sessions, Warren Limmer has been the Republican Senator chair who decided  which bills were heard in the Senate Judiciary & Public Safety Finance Committee. Warren Limmer blocked the ERA from getting a hearing. Previously, it was Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka who did not allow a vote in the Senate. For the 2022 legislative session, the Judiciary Committee is now called the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee, where Limmer is the Vice Chair and Senator Andrew Mathews (District 15, R) is the new Chair.

What Can You Do to Support Equal Rights for All Minnesotans? 

On the federal level, multiple lawsuits will be challenging the delay in publishing the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the requirements have been met for adding the Equal Rights Amendment. The U.S. House voted and passed bills to enact the ERA. The U.S. Senate currently requires a super majority to pass bills and that requires more Republicans to support and vote for equality. 

Contact our U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to let them know you want them to push their support for the federal ERA.

Why Is the ERA Not an Obvious “Yes” for Some?

In past years, there were fears that if women (and LGBTQ+ people) were granted equality by law, it would destroy the traditional family. Some people have preferred that we not legalize gay marriage, allow women in the military, require same sex bathrooms, allow abortion rights, and require equal pay.

These old fears continue and are now mixed with new fears — about rights related to gender identity, transgenders in sports, and even whether women have the right to protect themselves from abusive boyfriends with guns, which has killed the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which has not been reauthorized since 2019.

If we were all equal in both Minnesota and U.S. law, “We the People” would refer to not only white men.

That is what bothers opponents of the ERA.

In 2022, it should NOT be difficult to acknowledge that all people are equal in the eyes of the law.

Related Resources

Are We Getting Equal Rights?

Supporting Minnesota’s Equal Rights Amendment

ERA: Unfinished Business