Equal Rights Amendment Re-Introduced in Congress; ACLU Says Measure Necessary to Protect Women

March 22, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Renewing a commitment to equal rights for women first made more than 70 years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union once again endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and urged Congress to once again adopt the historic measure.

“Women at all income levels are still facing barriers to advancement, and in some ways these challenges are harder than ever because there are some people who think that discrimination against women no longer exists,” said Lenora Lapidus, the Director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “Sadly, that’s just not true and the need for the Equal Rights Amendment is just as strong as ever.”

The proposed amendment was reintroduced today by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and Stephen Horn, R-CA, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA. It reads: “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 ACLU first endorsed the proposed constitutional amendment in 1970. Congress gave final approval to the amendment in 1972 and sent it to the states for ratification. Unfortunately, when the deadline passed in 1982, the ERA was three states shy of the 38 needed for ratification.

“We believe that it is finally time for Congress to give the Equal Rights Amendment another chance,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would give women of this country the constitutional affirmation of their rights for which they have long struggled.”

The ACLU joined that struggle long before the feminist revival of the 1960s. Suffragists and other women social reformers and political activists – including Jane Addams, Mary Ware Dennett, Crystal Eastman and Jeannette Rankin – were instrumental in the founding of the organization in 1920. After establishing its Women’s Rights Project in 1971 under the direction of then-Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACLU’s women’s rights docket swelled to more than 300 sex discrimination cases.

Today, working with its 55 state affiliates, the ACLU works to ensure that women have equal rights in virtually every realm of life: in the workplace, in education, in the criminal justice system, in the family, and in access to public accommodations, clubs and government benefits. The Women’s Rights Project has a particular emphasis on ensuring equality for low income women and women of color.

“During the last three decades, women have made extraordinary gains toward establishing full equality,” Lapidus said. “But without the Equal Rights Amendment, those gains are all too subject to the whims of Congress and the courts. Passage of the ERA is the next logical step toward guaranteeing equality for women.”

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