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When will N.C. ratify ERA?

To the Editor:

In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). First introduced in 1923, the ERA finally received bipartisan congressional approval in 1972.  It then went to the states for ratification. The required three-quarters of the states (38) have finally ratified, making the ERA qualified to become the 28th Amendment. 

Now it sits on the desk of the National Archivist, who was instructed by the previous administration not to certify Virginia’s ratification stating the “deadline had expired.” Congress extended the deadline for the ERA in 1978. Congress can do it again. Despite the delay, ERA proponents expect our new pro-equality administration to publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment in 2021.

And, yet, here sits North Carolina! Our lawmakers filed bills in the General Assembly to ratify the ERA in the late 70s only to be thwarted by an Illinois outsider and anti-ERA activist, Phyllis Schlafly. Our own Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. allowed Schlafly’s STOP-ERA group to use his name in its mailings. Indeed, the anti-ERA movement specifically targeted Southern states which had not ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. That remains women’s only right in the U.S. Constitution. 

North Carolina did not ratify the vote for women until 1971, 51 years after it had become part of the Constitution. 

N.C. lawmakers have filed bills to ratify the ERA every year since 2015, but no bill has been brought to the floor for a vote or even allowed a committee hearing. When a state does not ratify an amendment, it sends a powerful message to its citizens and to other states, whether it’s voting to abolish slavery, giving African-American men the right to vote, or giving women equal rights. 

In the case of the ERA, that message is: “We do not believe that the 4.2 million women in N.C. deserve full constitutional equality,” a noticeably clear directive to businesses thinking of locating in North Carolina as well as to women and men considering a college or a career in our state. It feeds an inequality mindset laying bare two cultural Americas for women in ERA-ratified and non-ratified states. 

When the Equal Rights Amendment is published as the 28th Amendment, upon which side of history will North Carolina be standing?   Will we wait another 50 years as we did to ratify women’s right to vote, or will our legislators finally affirm their belief in the full constitutional equality of more than half our citizens?  NCGA-please do not let any more time pass before ratifying the ERA. Our daughters deserve the same protections under the law as our sons! 

Leila Tvedt Hyde

Member, ERA-NC Alliance

Bryson City

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