It’s been four decades since the Equal Rights Amendment almost passed, and “almost” is still a key word when the topic is gender equity. Women earn almost as much as men for the same work; girls have almost as many opportunities to play sports as boys; women are CEOs at almost 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
OK, that last one is a bad example, but women in 2017 have it better than ever, so we’re all good, right?
Maybe not. Activists are pushing for a new Equal Rights Amendment, or for Congress to extend the deadline on the original, which fell just three states shy of passage. In our latest poll at HeraldNet.com, we asked if there’s still a need for an Equal Rights Amendment, given that times have changed and we just almost elected a woman president.
Out of more than 1,000 votes, our poll was almost dead even. Just over half said there’s no need, since women already have the same rights as men. You’d think that would be true, but it’s not explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution, aside from voting rights. Instead, we have a patchwork of state laws and court decisions. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued there’s nothing in the Constitution that prohibits sex discrimination. If the court ever had five Scalias (and we’ll soon have about three), that point of view could prevail.
The other half in our poll said we need an Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equality. Several U.S. senators recently endorsed it, but advocates will have to overcome the arguments that doomed the original ERA: that women could become eligible for military drafts; that fraternities and sororities might be integrated; that all bathrooms would become unisex; that pubs could no longer offer ladies’ nights and mass hysteria would reign.
We could get stuck on the details, or we could use some common sense, say everyone is equal under the law and call it a day. It’s almost a no-brainer.
Maybe if more people had fully-funded educations, things like getting an Equal Rights Amendment would be a no-brainer. Speaking of which…