Send Sen. Eddie Farnsworth a Valentine message, requesting a hearing on the ERA


With Valentine’s Day this week, it’s a good time to catch up on what is happening with the status of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on behalf of the women in our lives.

37 states have now ratified the ERA, just one short of passage. In January, the Virginia Senate passes federal Equal Rights Amendment:

The GOP-led state Senate voted Tuesday to make Virginia the 38th and final state to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, with seven Republicans joining Democrats on a 26-to-14 vote. The measure faces tougher odds in the House of Delegates[.]

Bow howdy, did it ever! The ERA got caught up in a concurrent ugly fight over abortion rights in the Virginia House of Delegates, where it was derailed in the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee on a party-line vote. Now the state of Virginia is embroiled in a constitutional crisis with demands for its top three elected officials to step down over scandals.

Also in January, our own state Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley and state Sen. Victoria Steele filed ERA resolutions  for this session. Powers Hannley sponsored an ERA resolution last year, but Republicans in the House refused to allow debate on the measure. Will Arizona be crucial 38th state to ratify Equal Rights Amendment?

ERA supporters, who held a rally at the state Capitol complex [on Friday, January 18], said the momentum for this year’s legislative session has moved in their favor.

Powers Hannley said she feels a “change in the air” this session given Democrats picked up seats in the November election and there are new Republican members. At least two Republican female legislators support it.

“It’s time for us to make history,” Powers Hannley said Friday as she spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of about 100 women, many wearing purple-white-and-green ERA sashes. “There is no time limit on equality.”

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Democrats hold more seats in the Arizona House than they have since 1966, with a 31-29 split. They picked up four seats, so they only need to sway two moderate Republicans go along for ERA ratification.

Meanwhile, the score is even closer in the Senate.

Two new state senators, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, and Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, previously co-sponsored the resolution when they were in the House. Both switched chambers this year.

Their move means the Senate is at least split 15-15 on the ERA, so only one moderate Republican is likely needed to pass it there.

Key role in revived national fight

In other words, advocates nationwide will be watching Arizona’s debate, given that it could be the linchpin for ratification.

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Opponents of the ERA argue the debate is pointless because Congress’ self-imposed deadline for passage has passed. However, supporters argue that this isn’t a barrier because the Constitution sets no deadline for ratification of amendments (and does not provide for rescission of approval of amendments).

If Arizona becomes the 38th state, that issue will likely be fought in court or in Congress.

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Critics of the ERA contend the measure isn’t needed because other areas of federal law already prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. Among them is state Sen. “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee, where it likely would be heard.

“If you have people that are paying less money based on gender, they are already breaking the law,” Farnsworth said when the bill was debated last year. “Enforce the law.”

Farnsworth, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, is expected to block the bill from being heard in his committee.

E.J. Montini of The Republic writes, Will Sen. Eddie Farnsworth kill the Equal Rights Amendment, again?

The fact that the Equal Rights Amendment can be killed by a single man – just one — proves just how much the ERA is needed.

This has happened in the Arizona Legislature before, and it could happen again this year.

Last session, then-Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, who was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to give a hearing to a couple of resolutions urging the lawmakers to ratify the ERA.

A committee hearing is the first step on a bill’s path toward a full legislative vote.

That’s all the sponsors of the ERA bill were asking for – a vote.

They wanted their brothers and sisters in the Legislature to take a stand, one way or another, on the issue of equal rights for women.

Republican leaders in the Legislature wouldn’t let that happen.

Instead of the 18th century American ideal of “one man, one vote,” what we have in Arizona in the 21st century is one man … no vote.

And the same situation could happen this year.

This is the same corrupt “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth who uses his position in the legislature to line his own pockets with public money in his $13.9 million (with more to come) charter school fraud. He gets “rich off taxpayer funds in a way that would land administrators in traditional public schools in jail.”

[This] could mean Democrats and ERA supporters must use a procedural move to try to force a floor debate. Powers Hannley did that last year, on Equal Pay Day, April 10, the day on the calendar when the average woman’s earnings catch up to what a male peer earns.

Farnsworth argued during floor debate that the ERA could have unintended consequences and be used to remove abortion restrictions.

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Sen. Ugenti-Rita, an anti-abortion conservative, said she was initially wary to take up the ERA fight, knowing it would lead to attacks from within her party, evidenced by her bitter primary race last year.

She said she joined the cause anyway because she realized apprehensions about the ERA are misconceptions.

“It’s a little scary for Republicans to get on this issue … you may get vilified in your own district,” Ugenti-Rita told ERA supporters. “We want to give them that space and walk them through that.”

She said the ERA’s actual language isn’t remotely controversial to most Republican women she’s talked about the issue with.

Ugenti-Rita said she wants to return to the days when the ERA was part of the Republican Party’s platform, before it was removed in 1980. (First Lady Betty Ford, a leading advocate for the ERA, photo right).

Maybe “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth, who is Mormon, will listen to a Mormon woman on the ERA (or maybe not). Mormon woman pushes for passage of Equal Rights Amendment, hoping her church will come around:

Anissa Rasheta is a married Mormon stay-at-home mother of three who lives in east Mesa, never misses her kid’s cross country meets, and makes dinner every night.

She’s also an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, heading up Mormons for ERA in Arizona, a group about 50 members strong, and serving on the board of ERA Task Force AZ, a coalition of groups lobbying for passage.

Rasheta knows advocating for the ERA puts her at odds with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She could face consequences for speaking out.

“I’d be willing to take them,” she said. “I’m a good person so I’m not worried about it.”

Sonia Johnson, a Mormon Virginia woman who co-founded Mormons for ERA in 1977, was excommunicated in 1979.

Times have changed, Rasheta said.

Rasheta doesn’t believe the ERA conflicts with her faith which teaches, “All are alike unto God.”

It’s the message she stresses when she talks to lawmakers, particularly those who are Mormon. She thinks they meet with her because of their shared faith.

“They are curious,” Rasheta said. One of the first questions they ask is, “How are you supporting this if you are Mormon?”

Only one state is needed to cross the 38-state threshold required to put the ERA into the U.S. Constitution. Rasheta believes it could be Arizona.

Three bipartisan bills, two in the Senate and one in the House, with 33 co-sponsors, have been introduced this session.

After Rasheta met with newly elected Sen. Tyler Pace, a Mesa Republican who’s Mormon, he spent days digging into the issue. “We got him really excited about it,” she said. On Jan. 25, Pace signed as a co-sponsor of one of the bills.

Six days later, he pulled his name from the bill.

But Pace wasn’t done. He invited Rasheta to join him at a public meeting on Jan. 31 in Mesa to talk about the ERA.

Pace told the 50 people in attendance that he called church leaders in Utah about the ERA. He said he was told the church, which has opposed it in the past, was neutral on the issue.

Rasheta explained the ERA would provide a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination, since courts are inconsistent with such claims. “We can do better,” Rasheta said.

Younger women in the church hear her out. Older women tend to oppose it.

Rasheta was like that, too. “If the church had a stance, I was done. I accepted it. I didn’t look into it,” she said.

Some concerns are moot. Abortion is legal. Gay people can marry. Women fight in combat.

They contend, “We already have all our rights,” (80 percent of Americans think the ERA already passed) or, “I feel equal.” The women often are middle to upper income and not grappling with issues of pay equity, sexual harassment or violence.

But equality is not a feeling.

In today’s economy, few families can get by on one income, and 40 percent of women are the head of household. The pay gap hurts their families.

Rasheta is not surprised. Some of the loudest opponents of the suffrage movement were women.

“I’m just going to work my tail off to get this to passed, knowing that in 100 years people will wonder why the fuss,” she said.

“The energy around it is way different,” she said of the renewed debate. Women’s marches have increased donations and volunteers. Public support is high.

Until then, she’ll keep talking about it.

“I’m using my voice to help my sisters,” Rasheta said. “Until all of us are equal, none of us are.”

I’m going to suggest that everyone in Arizona send Sen. “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth a Valentine message this week on behalf of your mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, wife or woman you love, or female friends, and request that he schedule a committee hearing on SCR1009 and demonstrate the respect for women that they deserve for their imminently reasonable request simply to be heard, and hold a vote. Sen. Farnsworth’s legislative Email and phone number (602) 926-5735.

Learn about the ERA by going to the website (h/t graphic) and please call, email, schedule an appointment with your representatives to schedule a committee hearing and vote. This is about fairness. All Arizonans deserve the right to be heard.