The Equal Rights Amendment is one state away from U.S. constitutional ratification, and Louisiana may be the state to do it.
The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and did not receive passage until 1972. The amendment had seven years to be amended by 38 states. Only 35 states ratified the amendment by the deadline in 1979.
Since then, two more states have ratified the amendment. However, 38 states, which is three-fourths of all states, are required to ratify it in order for it to be amended in the U.S. constitution.
About 100 citizens from across the state gathered at the Louisiana State Capitol on April 8 to raise awareness to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Louisiana. The activists marched to the Capitol from the State Library of Louisiana to lobby legislators.
“We’re not going to ask because this is ridiculous,” said political science junior Ashley Sheffield. “We’re not asking — we’re demanding that they see us as true citizens, and if they don’t, then we will remember that at the polls.”
Activists wore white in support of the cause, carrying signs saying, ‘ERA YES’ and ‘FEMINIST MAJORITY.’ Senator J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, author of the resolution to ratify the amendment, spoke to activists.
Morrell said he was happy to see the support for the amendment, as legislators typically underestimate the amount of support for a resolution if citizens do not confront them directly.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” states the amendment, first drafted in 1923 by Alice Paul.
Proponents of the amendment argue it would give women the same legal protections as men. It would also redefine sex discrimination as a constitutional violation, helping end sex discrimination in the workplace, academics, athletic programs, divorce, property, rape defense and more, according to LA Ratify ERA.
Proponents at LA Ratify ERA also argue that, most importantly, the amendment would help end the gender pay gap, in which women on average only earn 70% of what their male counterparts make.
“Women are now the primary breadwinner in half of our families,” said volunteer advocate Julie Schwam Harris. "How can young girls and boys in these families grow up in a calm, secure environment if their mothers are not making what they would normally make if they were men?”
Morrell filed a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment at the start of the legislative session on April 8. Robby Carter, D-Amite, also filed a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment that day.
Opponents of the amendment believe it is now unnecessary, as modern culture supports women and already has laws that protect against sex discrimination in the workplace and out.
“This amendment won’t ensure that women will receive equal opportunity in the workplace or that they will be free from the objectification of advertising companies and the porn industry,” wrote National Review writer Alexandria Desanctis. “No amendment can do that — only a culture can.”
Many pro-life opponents argue that the amendment would guarantee legalized abortion.
Critics also argue that the deadline to ratify passed in 1979, and therefore makes any states’ ratification moot now.
In addition to this, Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky and South Dakota rescinded their ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. However, it is not stated in the U.S. constitution whether or not a state can withdraw ratification.
Apparel design junior Mattie Tiggleman said she believes this is an important issue for both men and women and encouraged more college students participate in the movement.
“I just cannot believe that this is still having to be protested,” Tiggleman said. “It affects every one of us. It affects every single female on campus, and it affects every male on campus, too. It affects the society we live in and the culture that we live in. It needs to happen. It should have happened years ago.”