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The Fight for Equality 100 years on, Why We Still Need the ERA

On July 21, 2023 – exactly 100 years after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was unveiled – supporters of equality gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, where suffragists like Alice Paul once stood, to honor the 100-year-long fight for equality in the United States, and reaffirm their determination to see the ERA incorporated into the Constitution. 

Today, the ERA movement looks different than it once did. In the same small red-brick church with stained glass and wood paneling where the ERA was first announced, an inclusive group of activists representing the next generation of young and young at heart activists, LGBTQ+ folk, black, brown, women, men, and other minority groups gathered to strategize, march, and inspire one another for the next, and hopefully final steps in the fight for constitutional equality.

Why is the Equal Rights Amendment so important?

The original drafters of the U.S. Constitution were all white, landholding (and many slave-holding) men. Women were never part of “the people” they envisioned in the Constitution. Today, women and other marginalized groups are witnessing an unprecedented rollback of their fundamental human rights, making it clearer than ever that legal protections anchored in the highest law of the land are essential so that everyone in the United States can have equal protection under the law, regardless of sex. 

The ERA is the 28th Amendment; it provides protection for women and other marginalized genders by putting their rights directly into the United States Constitution. The entire text of the proposed amendment is:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

During the centennial celebrations, many of the nation’s legal minds, leading on the fight for equality, re-avowed their commitment to exploring all possible avenues to ensure the enshrinement of the Equal rights amendment in the US Constitution. 

Rep. Cori Bush, Sen. Pat Spearman, Attorney General Letitia James, Governor of NY Kathy Hochul gave truly inspiring speeches and extended a hand to a younger generation of future leaders who are working to shape the next phase of the movement, which will be youth-led and representative of all backgrounds, experiences and age groups.

“Don’t let anyone ever ever ever tell you that equality under the law is not a reason to stand up or step up, don’t let them shut you up. My generation got the first half of it done, and you all at Generation Ratify are going to get the rest of it done! I am not going to quit until we get the rest of it done,” Senator Pat Spearman.

Together, the ERA Coalition members have produced this write-up of collective values to govern the next stage of the ERA movement:

Abortion is a human right. Abortion is healthcare and should be safe, legal, and accessible to all regardless of race, class, gender, age, disability, economic status, or geographic location. The ERA will help secure bodily autonomy and reproductive healthcare for all. The ERA is queer, and must center transgender lives. The definition of “sex” is not limited to the gender binary. Queer and transgender people deserve affirmation, safety, justice, freedom, and full protection under the law. The ERA would protect queer and transgender communities and guarantee fundamental human rights to healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and more. The ERA movement is affirming of all, regardless of sex or gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The ERA is intersectional and committed to anti-racism. The ERA movement must courageously confront and challenge the historical and persistent racial disparities that plague society, through intersectional approaches that recognize the unique ways in which individuals bear the weight of multiple forms of discrimination simultaneously. We condemn state violence against marginalized communities, including mass incarceration, gentrification, and displacement of Native peoples and vulnerable populations.

Economic justice is gender justice. We recognize the economic disparities that plague our communities and advocate for providing equitable access to opportunities. Economic independence and security are key to the feminist project. We support redistribution of societal resources and support one another in times of need.

The ERA respects and protects religious pluralism. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right that should be upheld and protected for all individuals, regardless of their race, sex, gender, or any other characteristic. We respect diverse religious practices and beliefs. We believe freedom of religion must also include freedom from religion.

The ERA movement must be disruptive in our actions and challenge discrimination against all. The ERA will offer protection against discrimination on the basis of sex. To secure those freedoms and more we must be loud and disrupt the comfort of those who have obstructed our rights for 100 years. We must challenge discriminatory policies and question existing social norms to ensure we live in an inclusive and progressive society. We will not be compliant or silent. 100 years is too long to wait to be included in our nation’s most basic document.

As a partner in the ERA Coalition, Equality Now is committed to helping secure the ERA’s passage through Congress. We are dedicated to providing resources and forums for members of the public to learn more about this critical gap in the U.S. Constitution and how it can be remedied.

Join our Campaign 

Tell us why you need the ERA

Take action with the ERA Coalition

More about recent progress toward the Equal Rights Amendment

Bill (Gillibrand, Bush) (Pressley dispatch petition) Senate Vote

Read more in our press release.