California Feminists Still Fighting for Women’s Equality

RESISTANCE WATCH

RESISTANCE WATCH--Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.-- The Equal Rights Amendment or ERA 

Just days after Nevada became the 36th state of the required two-thirds state’s ratification required to add a Constitutional amendment, feminists of all ages gathered in Pan Pacific Park for the First Annual Rally and Walk for Women’s Equality. A sister march was held in Palo Alto. 

Girls Learn International leaders and alumni rallied the drive to support ratification in the final two states along with former CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, Feminist Majority’s Carol Ann Leif and Sarah Bradshaw, former officeholders Wendy Greuel and Abbe Land, Congresswoman Judy Chu and LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis. Actor/activists who shared their personal stories and sent a strong message to the crowd included the comedic team of Frangela, Dan Bucatinsky (Scandal, 24:Legacy), Heather Thomas, Curtis Armstrong, Donna Mills, Jason George, as well as Kamala Lopez, Award-winning director of Equal Means Equal. 

As Donna Mills shared in her speech, many of us were unaware that the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was still under consideration for ratification or even that the amendment, which saw a resurgence as a heated topic during the seventies but now that Nevada’s state legislature has ratified the amendment, only two more states are needed. 

The goal of Sunday’s rally and walk was to raise awareness and mobilize support for the final drive to ratify the ERA. Nevada became the first state to ratify the amendment since 1982 on March 22 on the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Senate approval to be forwarded to the states. 

As I wrote in my last column, the ratification of the ERA is now more crucial than ever. Currently, women must fight for equality law by law, state by state. If the GOP push to repeal ACA and strip six “essential” health care benefits had succeeded, policies would no longer have to cover maternity benefits or contraception. Originalists like SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch, following the path of Justice Scalia, believe in an interpretation of the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers in 1789 when women were chattel, property of fathers and husbands. 

California was a trailblazer -- the 1879 Constitution of California was the first to include equal rights provision but even so, limits those rights to “entering or pursuing a business, profession, vocation or employment.” 

Opponents to the ERA often ramble that American women have more rights than anywhere else in the world but as Kamala Lopez reminded rally attendees, women in the U.S. still face discrimination in education, employment, wages, insurance benefits, scholarships, Social Security, violence against women and more. One in four female college students will be raped and every few minutes, a woman is a victim of domestic violence. 

Under the Trump Administration, the protections President Obama strengthened to protect transgender students under Title IX have already been rolled back. Through judicial appointments, Cabinet nominations and executive directives, Trump can force the hand of colleges and universities to return to a system that favors accused rapists and removes liabilities for universities and colleges that fail to investigate sex crimes. 

The recent Nevada ratification and efforts in other states are part of a grassroots three-state strategy that rejects the time limit for ratification, which Constitutional scholars believe makes the amendment subject to extension or removal by a vote in Congress. 

The movement to continue the fight has been revived with support of California’s representatives. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) is the chief sponsor of HJ Resolution 53, a joint resolution in the House that would remove the time limit and allow for ratification. The resolution currently has 135 co-sponsors, including Congresswoman Judy Chu.  Companion legislation in the Senate was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD.) 

What’s next? 

Through fundraising and activism, the drive is to get two additional state legislatures to ratify, as well as to remove the deadline. The states that did not ratify the ERA prior to the 1982 deadline are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. With the Nevada vote, only two additional states will need to ratify, pending the extension of the 1982 deadline. 

For more information on how you can help, visit the Feminist Majority Foundation website.  

Girls Learn International (GLI) is a program of the Feminist Majority Foundation that “supports the empowerment of U.S. students as they discover that through their own creative initiatives, dedication, and passionate leadership, they can create real solutions that address the obstacles facing girls and women in the U.S. and around the world. Student-to-student and student-to-parent, GLI is building a movement of informed advocates for universal girls’ education and a new generation of leaders and activists for social change. -- Girls Learn International. 

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(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist … covering women’s rights and other inequality issues … for CityWatch.)

-cw 

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