YOWELL: Support the ERA at U.Va.

The Equal Rights Amendment is exactly what we need, especially here at U.Va.

op-erayowell-courtesywikimediacommons

The ERA was first proposed by women’s rights activist Alice Paul in 1923.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

With momentum from the #MeToo movement, the upcoming November election and the uproar of activism across the country, especially on college campuses, the women’s movement has been a recent hot topic for discussion. This energy has culminated on the central idea that there is still more to be done. Behind all of the specifics and details, most feminists can agree on one thing: there needs to be an amendment in the United States Constitution. The 14th Amendment simply is not enough to guarantee equal rights and provide a clear, legal standard for cases of sex discrimination and inequality. Women deserve the same, clearly stated legal protection as all other citizens in this country, and now is the perfect time for students to get behind it.

As Virginia’s next General Assembly session in January is fast approaching, so is the hope that a crucial piece of legislation will finally be ratified nearly one hundred years after its conception — the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was first proposed by women’s rights activist Alice Paul in 1923, after which it was continuously shut down by Congress until 1972 when it passed in both the House and the Senate. It is made up of three sections, the most essential stating, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” meaning the highest, most respected law in our country would finally have an addition ensuring equal rights to all citizens regardless of their sex.

However, amendments require ratification in 38 states in order to be added to the U.S. Constitution. And while the deadline for ratification has passed, women across the nation are urging Congress to uphold the ratification of states both prior to and past the 1982 cut off, especially considering that 37 states have currently ratified this essential addition, leaving us one vote shy of legally recognized sex-based equality. 

Since Virginia is one of the 13 states that has yet to ratify this critical document, communities and college campuses across the state are rapidly rallying to support what can arguably be considered one of the most monumental pieces of legislation in the history of the women’s movement. This energy is finding its way to the University in the form of an ERA Bus. The “10 Days of ERA” Bus Tour will make its way throughout the state over the course of 10 days, stopping at the University the morning of Nov. 14. Movements such as these are playing a crucial role in spreading awareness, gaining support and funds, encouraging student involvement and most importantly, pressuring our elected officials. 

Thus, it is important that students know how the ERA would affect them upon ratification, so they can make informed decisions and secure the equality women very much deserve. As mentioned above, the ERA would extend the so-called all inclusive protection of the 14th Amendment by explicitly stating that discrimination on the basis of sex cannot take place on any level of the law. While some may argue that the 14th Amendment already accomplishes this by being applied to a sex discrimination case for the first time in 1971, it still does not provide the needed foundation that having a definite and precise law would. The ERA would provide a uniform standard for equal rights across the country, which would be monumental for both sexes. Additionally, the ERA could unify the bipartisan political outlook of women’s rights and link the arms of both parties. Inequality on the basis of sex in the eyes of the law affects not only both sexes, but it also affects those aligned with all political parties. After all, this is not only a democratic women’s issue. Most importantly, having an ERA amendment could finally put a foundation beneath the age old debate on sex equality, both in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of society. To quote Felicity Jones, who portrays Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the upcoming film “On the Basis of Sex,” “Changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change,” meaning the nation needs support from “the people who hold the levers,” as the Notorious RBG once said herself. 

Lying beneath all of the reasons for ratifying the ERA is the question of how we can make it happen, and the answer is students. Virginia is the state that can make the ERA a reality in our nation’s constitution. However, history is not changed overnight, and it is definitely not changed without hard work and dedication. Students have the perfect opportunity to rally behind a magnificent and much needed cause that goes beyond our school and even our state, as it would be monumental for the entire nation. The ERA is a long time coming, and students can be a part of the historical, life changing decision, which is why their involvement is essential in this process. Whether it’s through voting, protesting, tweeting or simply talking about this issue, this is a crucial moment for students, and it could be a crucial moment for our entire country.

Hailey Yowell is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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