The way forward to the ERA in Arizona

A year ago I posted that a Bipartisan group of Arizona legislators support passage of the Equal Rights Amendment: Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) has introduced HCR 2016 (.pdf), a resolution recommending the ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It has bipartisan support among its cosponsors.

I pointed out that:

ERA-1The ERA has been stalled since 1982, 3 states short of the 38 required to ratify a Constitutional Amendment. This unjust delay is largely due to an arbitrary deadline that was placed on ERA ratification. Joint Resolutions—SJRES15 and HJRES43—to remove the ERA’s ratification deadline, allowing time to gain the support of 3 of the 15 un-ratified states, was introduced on May 9, 2013 in Congress.

I commented last July:

There is no reason why a companion ERA Amendment could not be added to the Arizona Constitution as well, which would afford women the same constitutional protections. The legislature can refer the amendment to the voters, or a citizens initiative can put the measure on the ballot. I would encourage our Democratic Caucus in the state legislature to pursue this state constitutional amendment. It is long past time to finish the long civil rights struggle to grant women equal rights under the Constitution.

Despite speaking with legislators about this, a ballot measure for an ERA Amendment to the Arizona Constitution never materialized. Now it is 2016.

It appears to me that advocates for women’s equal rights are satisfied to pursue feel good bills that die in the Tea-Publican controlled Arizona legislature rather than to pursue the difficult task of passing it by a ballot measure.

At least that is what I am taking away from this opinion in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) by Dianne Post and Kaitlin Ford. It’s time Arizona recognizes equal rights for women:

Most Americans have heard of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). What most Americans do not realize is that the ERA did not pass and is not a part of the U.S. Constitution. How can this be when between 91 percent to 96 percent of American adults polled believe that men and women should have equal rights, and 72 percent already think that men and women have equal rights guaranteed by the Constitution (ERA Survey)? How can this be when the U.S. imposed the ERA language on other countries in 1945 and encouraged it in its foreign assistance in all the former Soviet Union countries in the 1990s? How can this be when the Republicans were the first to endorse the ERA in the party platform in the 1940s with the Democrats shortly following suit?

Yet it remains that America is one of few countries that does not guarantee women equal protection of rights under the Constitution. In fact, corporations received equal rights under the 14th Amendment before women did. U.S. Supreme Court justices have made it clear that the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sex. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment. I think we have achieved that through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

The ERA was born in 1923 after women won the right to vote. It was introduced every year in Congress until finally, in 1972, the ERA was passed by Congress and by 1984 ratified by 35 states of the 38 needed. The ERA is the only proposed amendment that had an expiration date on it – a practice many challenge. Since then, it continues to be introduced in Congress every year and a new movement has arisen to see it passed by 2020 because there still is an urgent need for the ERA in today’s society.

The ERA will help improve the lives of men and women by making equality a Constitutional principle as well as a law, as it is now in some areas. The U.S. falls behind many other countries in measures of women’s equality from the number of parliamentarians to maternal deaths to response to domestic violence. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights found recently in the Jessica Gonzales case that the U.S. violated the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man by failing to protect victims of domestic violence.

Currently women make on average 83 cents on the dollar compared to men performing the same job. Women also are less likely to have benefits at work such as insurance and pensions. These are only a few examples of how the ERA will improve the lives of all American citizens now and in the future.

Arizona did not pass the ERA in the 1980s. In fact, the state donated $10,000 of taxpayer money to the Mountain States Defense Fund to defeat the ERA. But women in Arizona still demand equality. State Rep. Rebecca Rios will be introducing the ERA again this year. It has been introduced many past years but leadership refused to assign it to a committee, let alone have a hearing. The women of Arizona deserve better. Arizona was once a beacon for women’s rights. Women could vote in Arizona in 1912, and Rachael Berry, from Apache County, was the first woman legislator elected in Arizona in 1914 before women in the rest of the country could even vote. Isabel Greenway was Arizona’s first congresswoman and only representative from 1933-1935. Arizona holds the record for the most women governors (four, three in a row) and having women hold all state offices at the same time (1998). The first woman appointed to the Supreme Court came from here.

Arizona needs to reclaim its place in the march toward equality by ratifying the ERA today and moving toward that day that all discrimination will end.

Then you had better focus on amending the Arizona Constitution because it ain’t happening in Congress. That’s a pipe dream. I previously posted in Three ballot measures to preempt Cathi Herrod and CAP:

Rep. Victoria Steele earlier this year sponsored a resolution that the state of Arizona approve the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Her resolution, of course, went nowhere in the Tea-Publican legislature.

I explained to Rep. Steele the other day that what is needed is an Equal Rights Amendment to the Arizona Constitution, something far easier to accomplish by citizens initiative. It should incorporate key language of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example:

The State shall not make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of Arizona on account of a person’s sex; nor shall the State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What this will accomplish is that it will require the courts to apply the strict scrutiny standard of review to legislative acts to determine whether there is a compelling state interest that outweighs a woman’s individual liberty rights. [Note: The standard of review can be expressly required in the ballot measure.] Much of what the Tea-Publican Arizona legislature does on behalf of Cathi Herrod and the CAP in treating women as second-class citizens, mere incubators for a fetus possessing superior “rights,” will not survive the strict scrutiny standard of review. This is a game changer.

If women want their equal rights then they have to step up and fight for their equal rights! No one is going to do it for you. Seize the initiative with this Equal Rights Amendment to the Arizona Constitution.

Time is wasting. File these three initiatives. Do it soon.

I’m still waiting for a citizens initiative.

2 responses to “The way forward to the ERA in Arizona

  1. I still have my stainless steel ERA bracelet from MS Magazine.

  2. Right on, Linda! I worked behind the scenes with Victoria on the ERA for the past 2 years. I also authored a resolution supporting the ERA at the state party level, which passed unanimously in 2015. I had hoped to be appointed to the Legislature so I could propose the ERA in 2016, but the appointment was given to a party insider instead. Equal rights and paycheck fairness are part of my platform. Now I am waiting to see who will fight for women in the Legislature. Good article.