ERA Constitution Graphic
(Graphic by Brett Ferrin)

“I still can’t believe I still have to protest this s—,” an Equal Rights Amendment shirt states.

In honor of Constitution week here at Weber State, I decided it was a good time to discuss some of the prevalent but not-so-talked about problems, specifically women’s rights.

You’re probably thinking, “Why is she beating that dead horse?” Even with the progress made in the last 90 years or so, women still aren’t as equal as we’d like to think.

Now don’t get me wrong, the framers of the Constitution did a lot of things right. The Constitution allows a system of checks and balances so no single branch has too much power. It creates a government that gives power to the people, and divides that power between states and the federal government. However, the Constitution doesn’t allow the equal application to all persons regardless of their gender.

So where does that leave women?

The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote, but that’s basically it. Women have been fighting since then, especially during the 60s and 70s, to make sure women have equal rights, but to this day it still hasn’t happened.

In addition to women being able to vote, the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, was proposed just three years after the 19th Amendment in 1923 by Alice Paul, according to the ERA’s website. The ERA states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States of by any state on account of sex.”

Sounds pretty OK right? Well the ERA still hasn’t been ratified.

The ERA was introduced between 1923 and 1982. The original seven-year time limit in the ERA’s proposing clause was extended by Congress to June 30, 1982, but at that deadline, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states, just three states short of the 38 required to put it into the Constitution, according to the ERA’s website.

The ERA has been introduced to every Congress since 1982 and has taken two different routes. One is a traditional process outlined by article five of the Constitution, which requires passage by a two-thirds majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The other way is ratification in three more of the 15 state legislatures. Either process could withstand legal challenge and put the ERA into the Constitution, according to the website. However, there has been no progress.

The best part of this is what my own home state has done to help with the ERA—nothing.

In fact, according to Kathryn MacKay, a contributor to an online Utah History Encyclopedia, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feared the ERA interfered with traditional family values they contributed to the counterrevolution by putting a stop to the ERA. Spencer Kimball, the president of the church at the time, declared the ERA was, “a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members and as a whole.”

Really?

Being a woman with rights is not valued in the state of Utah. The LDS Church not only thought the ERA interfered with values but donations to support anti-ERA effort were solicited by ward bishops, speeches against the amendment were deemed appropriate at all church meetings and church buildings were used as anti-ERA literature distribution points, according to MacKay.

To me this is one giant step backward. Knowing that as a woman I am not legally equal to men isn’t great. What’s worse is knowing that my home state was such a huge part of the counterrevolution that was happening at the time.

Unfortunately, there has still been no progress made with the ERA. That’s why I wanted to bring this to light. If more people could become aware, perhaps we could get things to change. I mean, it’s 2014. I think it’s definitely time for a change.

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