One hundred years later women found suffrage2 — and with a growing number of women in the workforce, holding elected positions, and striving for the presidency — a period of constitutional amendment that clearly guarantees equal rights without sex is out of date.3 Alice Paul, Crystal Eastman, and others in 1923 and later revised, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or restricted by the United States or any other state on the basis of sexual orientation. “Nascent’s efforts to pass the ERA have grown with the realization that the commitment to equality enshrined in the US Constitution could not be fully realized without a clear, meaningful commitment to equality regardless of gender. Now, as women and people of all genders increasingly face increasing attacks on their rights and independence, the current repression of the ERA is a constant reminder that empty speeches and measures that they want to support and empower are completely insufficient.
At the time of the writing of the ERA, the status of women in American society was often viewed as inferior to that of men. Legal restrictions – such as a ban on voting and property ownership – combined with long-held views on women’s roles meant that women were demoted to certain positions and could not be considered full citizens. In particular, many women of color were also hampered by the cold effects of racial, ethnic, and gender-based discrimination, and strengthened the social position in which they were degraded compared to white women. Although the ERA remains unconstitutional, many of the attitudes and practices that promoted its first proposal have long been rejected. The broader impetus for gender equality has gained momentum over the decades, and, apart from the ERA, women and people in all gender sectors have made great efforts to uplift their status, protect vital legal protection, and access opportunities in society as a whole. But there is still work to be done to ensure that women and people in all sexes are treated equally and have the power to live their lives the way they want. The absence of a clear prohibition against gender discrimination in the Constitution remains one of the main obstacles to the fight for gender equality and the advancement of women in general – and the ERA is an important tool in achieving this progress.