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Return to roots of equality would Make Arizona Great Again


A resolution in Congress to extend the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) H.J.Res 38 has five co-sponsors from the Arizona delegation: Rueben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Greg Stanton, and Tom O’Halleran, all Democrats. The rest of the Arizona delegation have not co-sponsored the extension resolution: Debbie Lesko, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, and Andy Biggs, all Republicans.

The Senate has a corresponding resolution S.J.Res 6 and though Sinema signed the resolution when she was in the House, neither she nor McSally have signed in the Senate.

The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 and required ratification by three-fourths of the states or 38. A seven-year deadline, later extended to ten, was put in the preamble. Legal scholars battle over the legality and meaning of both the deadline and the extension. In 1982, the ERA fell three states short.

Dianne Post (Photo by Martha Lochert)

Dianne Post (Photo by Martha Lochert)

Renewed interest in the ERA came when Nevada ratified it in 2017 and Illinois in 2018. The Virginia Senate has voted five times to ratify it, but the House has killed it including in 2019 with a vote of 50-50. Virginia has legislative elections in 2019 and the 51-49 Republican majority in the House is expected to change.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the constitutional amendment on October 12, 1971, by a 324-24 vote. The ERA was passed by the Senate on March 23, 1972, with only eight negative votes. Both of Arizona’s U.S. senators voted no: Republicans Paul Fannin and Barry Goldwater.

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first legislator to introduce the ERA in Arizona in 1974. That measure failed. From 1982-1996, the ERA was not introduced in the Arizona House. In 2005, from 2007-2009 and from 2014-2019 it was introduced in the House, but held in committee or never even assigned to a committee.

It was introduced in the Arizona Senate from 1974-1982 (except 1981). In 1977 and 1979 it failed in Committee of the Whole. It was not introduced again in the Senate until 1993 and then in 2007-2010 and 2016-2019, with every bill held in committee or never assigned. An OH Predictive poll in Arizona in 2019 found that only 27% of people knew the ERA was an issue in the Legislature.  When they were told what it was, 63% were in favor.

In 2018, members of both parties introduced ERA resolutions. In 2019, 17 supporters in the Senate and 30 in the House introduced bills, but again they were not assigned or buried in committee. In 2019, debates took place in both houses on procedural motions, including a discharge petition which is what Martha Griffiths used in 1971 to get the ERA voted on in the House. Both resolutions failed.

Women could vote in Arizona in 1912, and Rachel Berry, from Apache County, was the first woman legislator elected in Arizona in 1914 before women in the rest of the country could even vote. Isabel Greenway was Arizona’s first congresswoman and only representative from 1933-1935. Arizona holds the record for the most women governors (four, three in a row) and having women hold all state offices at the same time (1998). The first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court came from here.

It is way past time for Arizona to go back to its roots and support the equality of women. The delegation in Washington D.C. needs to sign on the Senate and House resolutions and the state Legislature needs to listen to the will of the people and ratify the ERA in 2020.

Dianne Post is an international human rights attorney with 37 years of experience, and serves on the board of State NOW and ERA Task Force Arizona.

One comment

  1. The ERA is unnecessary. There is no provision in the Constitution authorizing discrimination under the law against women. On the contrary, the Supreme Court has applied the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to overturn the all-male admission requirement so women are permitted to attend the Virginia Military Institute (United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 [1996]).
    There are also many laws protecting gender equality including the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Equal Pay Act, Title IX, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
    The wording of the ERA is so vague, I fear it isn’t a vote for equal rights, it’s a vote for a question mark because we don’t know how it will be applied or misconstrued, particularly by judges. Modifications are needed to the amendment to include reasonable exemptions such as personal privacy and combat exemptions.
    When Congress proposed the ERA, they ultimately gave it a 1982 ratification deadline. The Arizona Legislature should avoid spending time on obsolete proposals.

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