What “equality” meant for the founders of this country was, without a doubt, something different than what it seemed. As an American woman, it is evident that the notion that “all MEN are created equal,” which was proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson, has become more literal as times have passed, with the gender inequalities in this country becoming more and more disheartening. From unequal pay to disproportionate representation in politics, these persisting issues that women face currently show that there is still progress to be made.
Just as women today acknowledge the great degree to which gender-based discrimination exists, women in the 1970s faced the same issue and pushed for the Equal Rights Amendment to combat it. This amendment, which states that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply equally to all people regardless of their sex, was passed by Congress in 1972. Yet, with 38 states needed to ratify the amendment, only 35 voted to pass it. Interestingly, though, the ERA was looking like it was going to pass, with a whopping 22 state ratifications just in the first year. Just as the amendment started reaching its highpoint, however, a group of women, surprisingly, began to oppose it. They argued that such an amendment would actually diminish their rights, which included having a maternity leave, shorter work hours, and no chance of getting drafted. In the end, the ERA did not pass, but this did not stop feminist groups from continuing to fight for gender equity in the United States.
Although the deadline to get 38 states to ratify the amendment passed in 1982, the Virginia legislature became the 38th state to ratify the ERA on January 5th, 2020, which begs the question of what happens to the ERA now? Because the deadline has been expired for some time now, Virginia’s ratification does not cement the amendments place in the United State’s Constitution. Instead, the fate of this amendment lies in the hands of courts who will now decide what the next step should be.
If the ERA passes, the constitution will have a clear-cut statement that women are equal to men under the law. Regardless, Virginia’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment symbolizes the struggles of previous generations of women who fought for their rightful place in American society.