Scanlon Leads Debate on Resolution to Remove ERA Ratification Deadline

“Madam Speaker, it has been almost 100 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress. It’s been 45 years since it was passed by Congress. In this year, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, it defies logic that we are still in a holding pattern when it comes to recognizing the equal rights of women under our constitution. Therefore, I am proud to oversee the rule for H. J. Res 79, which will remove the questionable deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

“When Alice Paul, Crystal Eastman, and other suffragists and women’s rights pioneers set out to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, they knew they had a long and fierce battle ahead of them. The first version of the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1923 and took almost 50 years for both the House and Senate to approve. When the amendment was finally approved in 1972, the preamble to the amendment contained a seven-year deadline for ratification.

“35 of the 38 required states ratified the ERA in their state legislatures during that initial seven-year timeline. The ERA had broad bipartisan support from members of Congress and Presidents Nixon, Carter, and Ford, but was unable to cross the finish line in the brief time allowed. Why the ERA did not become a constitutional amendment in the 1970s is up for debate, but it was in large part due to vicious anti-feminist rhetoric and actions by conservative activists who sought to trample on women’s rights to work for an equal wage, to control their reproductive health, to participate as equal members of society, in the name of protecting traditional values of a privileged few.

“In the years that followed, courts have recognized and protected various aspects of women’s equality under the law through interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. But, as even Antonin Scalia famously recognized, nothing in our constitution as written currently forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. Therefore, final passage and ratification of the ERA is crucial in guaranteeing equal rights to me, to my daughter, and to all women and girls across this land. We will not go back.

“The Equal Rights Amendment would permanently and explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Laws change, as do the people interpreting them, but we are a nation governed by our Constitution. The rights given to us through the Constitution are inalienable and the protections they provide us with are invaluable.

“We hear from the other side of the aisle, that discrimination against women is already illegal. This argument might be more persuasive if it were being pressed by a party that is, if anything, less diverse than it was in the 1970’s. When your party reflects a predominately white, male, and conservative voter base, it is easy to see why you might not understand the need for basic additional constitutional protections.

“Women continue to face obstacles to their full equality, including unequal pay, pregnancy discrimination, sexual and domestic violence, and inadequate health care access. One in three women experience sexual violence in their lifetime, one in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, and 56 percent of girls in grades 7–12 are sexually harassed in any given school year. Moreover, 60 to 70 percent of women face sexual harassment during their careers, with Black and Brown women disproportionately impacted.

“Women are paid less than male counterparts for equal work. Women are treated differently in job interviews and can be determined a burden for a company if they are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. And these indiscretions are only compounded when we look at women of color and women with disabilities.

“Women in general make about 80 cents to a man’s dollar. Women with disabilities make about 65 cents to a man’s dollar, and 7 cents less than a man with disabilities. Black women make about 63 cents on a white man’s dollar; native women make about 57 cents, and Hispanic women make approximately 54 cents on a white man’s dollar. And the wages for trans women fall by nearly one third after transitioning.

“A woman who works full time, year-round would typically lose $430,480 in a 40-year period. That means this woman would have to work nearly eleven years longer to make up this lifetime wage gap. This also has a serious financial impact on retirement — the average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $13,867 per year, compared to $18,039 for men of the same age.

“So, I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: if paying women less than men is already illegal, if treating women differently in the workplace and other professional settings is already prohibited by existing law, then why does it still happen?

“The answer is simple: because it is easy to navigate around existing laws that protect women. It is easy to treat women different to men in a way that is legal and in line with the law. That is unacceptable and it is why we need the Equal Rights Amendment.

“When women earn less for equal work, families earn less for equal work. If you choose to deliberately shortchange the American family and deny them financial security, then we clearly have different values.

“Although the ERA was passed with bipartisan support, and strong support from Republican women, we saw in the Rules Committee last night, and debate on this rule and bill, that the spirit of the late Phyllis Schlafly has overtaken today’s Republican Party — which now seeks to cloak deep seated misogyny in anti-choice rhetoric.

“Passing the Equal Rights Amendment is long overdue.

“I am excited to be part of the Democratic Majority that will remove this arbitrary deadline for ratification, and finally allow the states to exercise their constitutional authority in passing this critical and fundamentally American amendment.”

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Mary Gay Scanlon currently serves a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

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Mary Gay Scanlon

Mary Gay Scanlon

Mary Gay Scanlon currently serves a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

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