Following this week’s Supreme Court Wal Mart decision which dealt a blow to women’s equal pay protection, a House Democrat wants to try once more to enshrine gender protection in the U.S. Constitution.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California held a press conference Wednesday to re-introduce the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would ensure equality of rights based on gender would become a cornerstone of U.S. law.
“It is with great pride that I stand with this bipartisan group in support of the long-overdue Equal Rights Amendment,” Woolsey says. “I can’t help but think of the words of our former colleague and feminist pioneer Pat Schroeder, when she was asked if being a mother would get in the way of her duties as a Member of Congress. She said: ‘I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.’
“I thought that summed it up pretty well. Close to 40 years later, we’re still facing the same obstacles, the same glass ceiling, the same unfair treatment,” she adds. “Whether we ‘use both’ or not – for women who have children and those who choose not to — gender discrimination is persistent and pervasive.”
Led by its conservative members, the Supreme Court on Monday blocked a massive lawsuit brought by women workers alleging discrimination by the world’s largest employer, Wal Mart.
A member and former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Woolsey addressed the Wal Mart decision in her remarks.
“We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to pass the Equal Rights Amendment,” she says. “Not when women still -– still -– have to work almost through the weekend in order to earn what a man makes Monday through Friday. Not when women’s health care is under assault, as we saw earlier this year with the attempted de-funding of Title X and Planned Parenthood. Not when the Supreme Court of the United States is throwing out class-action lawsuits from women claiming years of pay discrimination on the job.”
The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923. But most Americans recall the measure from the period when it was approved by lawmakers in 1972, marking its high-water mark toward enactment. The amendment died, however, because it failed to gain the needed ratification in the states prior to a 1982 deadline.
Members of Congress have re-introduced the ERA at other times since then, with little success.
Although Woolsey may find a particularly steep climb in her current effort given the fact the House currently is controlled by conservative Republicans, she feels the ERA actually should enjoy unanimous support.
“Here’s the text of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, Section 1: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.’
“Replace the word ‘sex’ with ‘race,’ and there would not be a single dissenting vote in the entire United States Congress,” she adds. “It’s as simple as that. Let’s pass the ERA once and for all.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.