What’s the Equal Rights Amendment and how come I’m only just hearing about it?

If you’ve taken a U.S. history class, you’ve probably heard of the Seneca Falls Convention, the 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York where women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott rallied for women’s suffrage. You also probably know that the efforts of these women and other activists resulted in the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote in the United States.

However, what many people don’t know is that this movement didn’t end there. In 1923, a women’s rights activist named Alice Paul proposed the Lucretia Mott Amendment, which would come to be known as the Equal Rights Amendment. This amendment stated, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

For almost a century activists have been trying to pass this amendment. It was introduced at every session of Congress from 1923 until 1972, when it passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives but failed to be ratified by enough states (only twenty-two out of the necessary thirty-eight), and has continued to be proposed every year since.

There is no time limit on the Equal Rights Amendment, which means that whenever it is ratified by thirty-eight states, it will be added to the constitution. Over the years, more and more states have passed the proposed amendment, and in May of this year, Illinois became the thirty-seventh state to ratify it.

Now, with only one more state needed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to get it ratified, we are closest we have ever been to passing this bill, ninety-five years after it was first proposed. But what would ratifying this amendment really mean for men and women in America?

One instance in which the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would be most influential is in court cases related to gender discrimination. Currently, men and women have to fight long legal battles when it comes to cases involving discrimination based on sex, as there are no clear standard for what counts as discrimination, and there are often inconsistencies. With the Equal Rights Amendment, these cases would have clearer legislature to go off of and would proceed more quickly and consistently.

Additionally, the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment would simply secure rights that have already been attained. In the last century, women have gained many rights in the United States that they have never before has access to, including the right to purchase birth control (1960) and the right to have a credit card under their own name (1974). The Equal Rights Amendment would protect these rights, so they could not eventually be revoked or diminished in any way.

For nearly a century this amendment has been a contentious topic in America. Many people do not support this proposed amendment because they have conservative views regarding the role of women in society or related to specific issues such as reproductive rights. But how do students at Leigh feel about the Equal Rights Amendment?

Interview with freshman Anna Liv Myklebust

Do you consider yourself to be more politically conservative or liberal?
I don’t know, I don’t really think about that kind of stuff.

Have you heard of the Equal Rights Amendment?
Yes, I’ve heard about it, I don’t really know much about it.

Do you believe it needs to be passed? Why or why not?
Yeah, I do think this should be passed, just from like hearing about it. Cause I think that it would be good.

Do you believe that we have gender equality in America?
Not really, just cause I feel like everyone tries to, you know, make it seem like that. But I feel like in a way when you look at it, women don’t have as many rights.

Why do you think it has taken almost one hundred years to come close to passing this amendment?
Honestly, I think that men at the time were just super stubborn.

Interview with junior Sanketh Santhosh

Do you consider yourself to be more politically conservative or liberal?
I consider myself to be somewhat [more] liberal than conservative.

Have you heard of the Equal Rights Amendment?
Yes, I have. I read [about] it a few week ago on Yahoo News.

Do you believe it needs to be passed? Why or why not?
Well I believe that it’s been a struggle since [for]ever. And passing like a simple act that just makes equal rights happen sounds kind of impractical because if it’s been like fought for this long, then a consensus should have been reached a while ago, so I don’t think it will make any difference whether it’s passed or not.

Do you believe that we have gender equality in America?
I don’t. I believe that there will be someday. But examples, such as in sports, are women’s sports versus men’s sports. I’ll give an example. Women’s basketball, the WNBA, there’s not that much coverage on that compared to the NBA, and there are multiple teams on the WNBA which are just as good or even better than some NBA teams and they don’t get much coverage. So that’s one example.

Why do you think it has taken almost one hundred years to come close to passing this amendment?
Because I believe there has not been much radical push towards change. It’s just been like people sitting in government debating. For example, the Civil War. That was over slaves, and that solved the problem whether we should have slaves or not. And so I’m not saying that we should have a war over women’s rights or gender equality, but [we need] a movement that actually brings change to every single person in America or international[ly.] [S]omething that brings change to literally everyone on the planet will be a force for change, not just like let’s say for example like the Women’s March. It doesn’t affect everybody, it just affects the people watching and the people participating, but the Civil War, it also involved kids, it involved old people, cause everyone was a factor for change or conservatism.