Iowans can’t be blamed for puzzling over the controversy going on in Washington regarding the Equal Rights Amendment.
After all, Iowans voted to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex by ratifying the original ERA when they passed it on March 24, 1972. Unfortunately, at that time not enough states joined in supporting equal rights for women and that proposal fell short of the 38 states needed to see it become the law of the land.
As recently as 1998, Iowans again voiced their support of equal rights by passing Amendment 1 — the Iowa ERA — by an overwhelming 80 percent majority. Elsewhere in America, other states continued to work on ratifying the congressional proposal and this past January the state of Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA.
With Virginia’s ratification, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution removing the Amendment’s original ratification deadline, which was then introduced in the Senate on February 13 as Senate Joint Resolution 6.
Iowans are now being asked to renew their support of equity for all citizens by letting their U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst know we expect them to vote to remove the ratification deadline. Our senators need to verify that equality does not have a time limit and that Iowans want the deadline removed so equality can become law.
Equal rights under the law is vital if America is to end systematic discrimination that commonly reveals itself in the form of unequal pay, workplace harassment and domestic violence.
There is no doubt that significant progress has been made for women throughout the years, but we are not there. Sad to say, Iowa women continue to earn just 77 cents for every dollar Iowa men make, putting our state at 40th among the 50 states for pay equity.
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National surveys show that desire for the ERA has grown in the past few years and is now greater than ever with over 94 percent of Americans supporting the ERA.
Our senators need to help enact a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equality because the Constitution is a much stronger mandate than state legislation or any type of legal precedent. The ERA will pave the way for further legislative progress toward gender equality and will allow the courts to closely scrutinize sex-based discrimination.
The League of Women Voters of Iowa asks all voters to join with us in imploring Sens. Grassley and Ernst to vote yes on S. J. Res. 6, so that we may stand united in affirming equality under the law.
Terese Grant is president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa.