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ERA Minnesota Presentation (2107)


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A brief history of the effort to get an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into the United States Constitution and/or into the Minnesota Constitution. A look at why we need an ERA and some strategies to accomplish our goal of getting an ERA in the US and/or MN Constitutions.

Created by M. Kathleen Murphy (

Published in: Education
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ERA Minnesota Presentation (2107)

  1. 1. CONSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY: STATE & FEDERAL INITIATIVES M. Kathleen Murphy, Founder of MN C.A.F.E. Coalition now ERA Minnesota
  2. 2. CONSTITUTIONAL EQUALITY: I. History II. Why? III. ERA Strategies
  4. 4. I. HISTORY 1800’s: Constitutional Amendments 1920: Suffrage 1923: Introduction of ERA 1970’s: Trying to Ratify the 27th Amendment 1982: Defeated
  5. 5. 1868: 14th Amendment • Created broad definition of citizenship • Adopted after the Civil War (July 9, 1868) as one of the reconstruction Amendments • The word “male” was introduced for the first time
  6. 6. 1870: 15th Amendment “The right… to vote shall not be denied or abridged… on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Women are not included.
  7. 7. 1920: 19th Amendment A 50 year fight finally won women their only Constitutionally guaranteed right — the right to vote.
  8. 8. 1923: Alice Paul Proposes the Equal Rights Amendment 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. The 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.
  9. 9. 1960’s: ERA Movement begins again The late 1960’s and early 1970’s brought a resurgence of the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment - led by many great women, including activists & authors Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Gloria Steinem and bell hooks.
  10. 10. Supreme Court rulings 1961: In Hoyt v. Florida SCOTUS upheld sex discrimination. Caused President Kennedy to create the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. 1971: In Reed v. Reed “In the absence of a firm constitutional foundation for equal treatment of men & women under the law, women seeking to be judged on their individual merits will continue to encounter law-sanctioned obstacles.” - Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Dorothy Kenyon, legal counsel to Sally Reed in Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 1971.
  11. 11. Supreme Court rulings “The ACLU and NOW maintained that sex was a suspect classification for the same reason race was: Both were natural traits that the dominant culture has treated as a badge of inferiority and stigmatized legally, based upon inaccurate stereotypes about the group defined by that trait.” In Reed, SCOTUS was unanimous that arbitrary discrimination existed, but left these other arguments unaddressed. 1973: Four justices argued for strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause in Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 1973.
  12. 12. ’71 & ’72: Overwhelming Support In June of 1971 the Amendment easily passed the House of Representatives, and through the Senate in March of 1972. 0 100 200 300 400 Vote in US House: 354 to 24 Yes No 0 23 45 68 90 Vote in the US Senate: 84 to 8 Yes No
  13. 13. Minnesota was the 26th state to ratify in 1973. By 1977: 35 states, out of the 38 necessary, had ratified the ERA Ratified Passed in 1 body Not ratified Ratified in May!
  14. 14. • ERA original 7 year deadline: June 1979 • Congress extended deadline: June 30, 1982 • Arbitrary timeline, only 2 amendments have had a time constraint • 27th Amendment ratified in 1992 took 203 years for 38th state to pass DEADLINE for RATIFICATION
  15. 15. 1979: UN adopts CEDAW Treaty • The United Nations General Assembly adopts CEDAW: the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. • Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states. • U.S. signed on, but has refused to ratify. • Only 7 countries not signed on: USA, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, (“Survivor” islands) Nauru, Pelau, and Tonga.
  16. 16. WHAT HAPPENED?
  17. 17. (I. History continued) What happened? • Why didn’t enough states ratify the ERA? • Why wasn’t CEDAW ratified? • What were the opponents’ arguments? - Scare tactics - Insurance lobby - Feminist backlash - Change in politics - Connection to abortion politics
  18. 18. Scare Tactic #1 • Equal rights would force women to work outside the home. • (It was actually WWII that forced more women into the work force. Many liked being valued & getting their own paycheck.)
  19. 19. Scare Tactic #2 • Men would not be required to provide for their families. Scare Tactic #3 Fraternities & Sororities Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts Same-Sex Public Bathrooms • The government would require forced gender integration into things such as:
  20. 20. Scare Tactic #4 Women soldiers are now in nearly all areas of our military, including combat. They fight and die for our country. What they don’t get is medals of honor when they die –side by side– with the men. • Women would be forced into military combat.
  21. 21. Scare Tactic #5 So called “protective” labor laws actually prohibit opportunity. Women have been led to believe that current law held us up on a pedestal to ‘protect’ us from hard work or conditions. Reality: we are still being kept from high wage jobs for this reason. • Women would lose “protected” status in the workforce.
  22. 22. Why was ERA defeated? Insurance Lobby Insurance companies spent millions of dollars on lobbying in Illinois, Florida and Missouri. Lobbying Expenditures by Insurance Companies $160 M $128 M $96 M $64 M $32 M $0 M
  23. 23. Why was ERA defeated? Feminist Backlash Claims made: • ERA is anti-family & anti-American • Alimony & child support laws would be ignored • Women are not REALLY being discriminated against
  24. 24. Why was ERA defeated? Change in political atmosphere 1980: the election of Ronald Reagan meant change. • 1st U.S. President to ever openly oppose equal rights • Equal rights were removed from the Republican party platform Constitutional equal rights had been supported by every U.S. President since Teddy Roosevelt first supported them in 1914.
  25. 25. Why was ERA defeated? Connection to abortion A state ruling in 1981 suggested that the state’s ERA was partially responsible for eliminating a ban on public funding of abortion. Anti-abortion groups insist on an “abortion-neutralization amendment” to any federal ERA. The amendment would add to the ERA the sentence, “Nothing in this article [the ERA] shall be construed to grant, secure, or deny any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.”
  26. 26. Now jump ahead 20 years… 2001 Public awareness poll shows 72% of Americans believe the “Constitution makes it clear that male and female citizens are supposed to have equal rights.” 88% replied the Constitution SHOULD make it clear that all citizens have equal rights.
  27. 27. Most recent polling… June 2016 - Americans — by 94% — overwhelmingly support the Equal Rights Amendment
  29. 29. 1. Equal rights are not fully guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause. 2. Judicial standards need to be stricter and clearer. 3. Protection from rolling back significant advances over the last 50 years. 4. Prevalence of gender violence is endemic. 5. United States needs to prove its commitment and be an international leader. WHY?
  30. 30. Why necessary? 1) Equal Rights are not fully guaranteed. • Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the Minnesota Constitution explicitly guarantees that all of the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex. The only right that either Constitution specifically affirms as equal for women and men is the right to vote.
  31. 31. Case #1: Equal Pay for Equal Work. Lilly Ledbetter began her career at Goodyear Tire with the same starting salary as her co-workers. Over 19 years in a supervisory role, she helped to train a number of new hires (all men) and in 1996 she received a “Top Performer” award for her contribution to the company. But over time she was paid much less than all her male counterparts. Why necessary? 1) Equal Rights are not fully guaranteed.
  32. 32. Compared to the lowest paid male for a random month she made $3,727 to his $4,286 - that is $.87 to his $1.00 (or 13% less) - in a year that added up to $6,708 less -- - over 15 years $100,620 less (assuming no increases for her or him) Compared to the highest paid male she made $3,727 to his $5,236 - that is $.71 to his $1.00 (or 29% less) - in a year that added up to $18,108 less -- in 15 years $271,620 less (assuming no increases for him or her) This was actual salary; it doesn’t include the loss in pension, retirement accounts and bonuses. Why necessary? 1) Equal Rights are not fully guaranteed.
  33. 33. Case #2: Women’s Healthcare Under Attack • Family planning funding to be eliminated • Emergency reproductive care could be entirely eliminated • Men’s healthcare needs are covered by insurance, including Viagra & Cialis • Women pay more in premiums Why necessary? 1) Equal Rights are not fully guaranteed.
  34. 34. • The Courts hold sex discrimination to a lower standard than discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin. • Court decisions are inconsistent in applying current law - adding to confusion about how to review sex discrimination claims. • A Constitutional amendment would send the message that our state and our country has zero tolerance for all forms of sex discrimination. Why necessary? 2) Need for a clearer & stricter judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination.
  35. 35. • The courts & the legislature have the power to replace existing laws by a mere majority vote. • Judicial precedents can be eroded or ignored. • With an ERA in place, progress already made in eliminating sex discrimination would be much harder to reverse. Why necessary? 3) Protection from rolling back significant advances over the last 50 years.
  36. 36. Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire reversed 40 years of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws Citizens United v. FEC reversed 63+ years of campaign laws Corporate personhood Why necessary? 3) Protection from rolling back significant advances over the last 50 years.
  37. 37. According to the 2013 “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership” report, women’s advancement across 10 working sectors has stalled at 18% across the board. Why necessary? 3) Protection from rolling back significant advances over the last 50 years.
  38. 38. Endemic = the norm, to be expected Femicide reports (21 in 2016, 28 people in 2010 in MN) Reported rapes (average 6 per day reported in MN, but only 16% are assumed to be reported = 38 per day or 13,687 per year, 84% know the attacker) Why necessary? 4) Gender Violence
  39. 39. Gender Violence. “Sexual violence is a clear indicator of gender inequality. The single greatest risk factor for becoming a victim of sexual assault is being a woman.* Violence against women is a systemic, and literally deadly, expression of a fundamental gender inequity. Sexual violence, and all violence against women, not only reflects this fundamental inequality but moreover perpetuates it.” - Kate Ravenscroft, 10 Reasons We All Need to Care About Sexual Violence Why necessary? 4) Gender Violence
  40. 40. What any form of sexual violence against women shows is an essential lack of respect for women. It fails to see that women have full and equal rights and that any sexual activity needs to take those rights into account. To put it bluntly, it refuses women the right to not only choose, accept and initiate sexual activity as they see fit, but equally to refuse any sexual activity at any time, under any conditions, according to their own desires. A culture that doesn’t value a woman’s voice, that does not listen to women, will have trouble respecting a woman’s right to choose when, where, how and with whom she engages in sexual activity. Such a culture, as we know only too well, perpetrates violence against women at alarming levels. - Kate Ravenscroft, 10 Reasons We All Need to Care About Sexual Violence Why necessary? 4) Gender Violence
  41. 41. • Many other countries - including Iraq, Japan, and emerging nations since the 1970‘s - specifically affirm legal equality of the sexes in their governing documents. • CEDAW has been ratified by all but 7 countries in the world: Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and the USA. If the US is a leader--what are we saying? Why necessary? 5) The United States needs to prove our international commitment to equality.
  42. 42. But is a State ERA necessary? • Minnesota Laws: 116 statutes with gender classifications have been overturned in MN since 1972 (current laws not protected) • A Constitution is the foundation on which all laws are based. It states the fundamental beliefs and principles of our state. • The MN Constitution protects hunting, fishing and a state lottery... WHY NOT WOMEN?
  43. 43. 22 states have added Equal Rights Amendments to their own Constitutions ERA adopted in the 1800’s ERA adopted from 1972-1982 ERA adopted in 1998 Sex discrimination protection
  44. 44. Benefits for men… • Acceptance of men in non traditional work • Acceptance of pay equality • Cultural shift • Paternity leaves for men • Parental custody issues
  45. 45. Benefits for LGBT… • States with ERAs adopted were 4 times more likely to have accepted marriage equality before it was decided at the Supreme Court • Acceptance of gender identity and gender expression • Cultural shift • Affirming that discrimination of any kind is not acceptable under the law
  46. 46. III. STRATEGY
  47. 47. Minnesota Strategy: Legislation & Ballot Initiative • Grassroots: community by community education, awareness & citizen lobbying • TWO bills: 1) Memorialize Congress to act on the Federal ERA 2) Pass an ERA for the Minnesota Constitution
  48. 48. National Strategies: • Three-State Strategy: - Now only 2 more states need to ratify - Congress needs to pass a bill to reinstate the timeline • Start Over: - Rewritten, reintroduced, passed with 2/3 majority & sent back to the states for ratification - New amendment that is explicit and makes clear that race is included - Similar to other constitutions around the world
  49. 49. Join Us! Spread the word, Volunteer, or Donate
  50. 50. Thank You! For more information: or