Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill
July 21, 2009
The National Organization for Women welcomes the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment and the renewal of a national dialogue regarding women’s equality. We applaud Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) for her dedication and commitment in working tirelessly to help women achieve constitutional equality.
Throughout the history of this country, women have faced systematic and purposeful discrimination. Women were conspicuously absent from the U.S. Constitution when it was drafted more than 200 years ago, and today, women still have no explicit legal guarantee of equal protection. While the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is commonly believed to be a source of protection for women, the amendment was not drafted to ensure legal protection from sex discrimination, and the 14th amendment does not provide women with sufficient legal remedies for sex discrimination. As such, we know the ERA must be ratified to ensure meaningful and lasting equality for all women.
Women have been and continue to be the disadvantaged subjects of a privileged male system. As a result, we face many more hurdles in the fight to attain consistent and non-prejudicial applications of justice in the legal system. The recent appointments of conservative judges throughout federal courts have compounded these difficulties.
We hope that progressive leaders will join NOW to begin in earnest an important dialogue among our elected representatives, legal scholars, women’s rights advocates, and the public. This national dialogue should seek to determine the many ways in which an application of an equal rights amendment can resolve sex-based discrimination — as it is much more than a problem of unequal pay and bias in hiring and promotion. In fact, the broadest possible application of this constitutional amendment is critically important as we go forward.
The National Organization for Women has a long and intimate history with the ERA, having mobilized one of the largest grassroots advocacy campaigns in history in support of ratification during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. We can and will undertake the same effort as we believe that the time is long overdue for a constitutional guarantee of equality between the sexes.