Today I would like to address the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and Oregon. My dear friend and social justice advocate, Nancy Campbell Mead, was kind enough to visit with me and talk about how the ERA benefits all Oregonians. I have known Nancy for five years and I am consistently amazed and grateful for her voice and dedication for social justice. Nancy stands in solidarity with those who face oppression. I was elated to learn that she has now taken up the torch for the ERA. The message of equality for women is especially timely and poignant given that the House of Representatives just voted against equal pay for women.
Nancy, what will the ERA do for Oregon?
The language of the proposed ERA is simple:
(1) Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on a count of sex.
(2) The Legislative Assembly shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section.
(3) Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this Article or any other provision of this Constitution.
Equality for women is not currently expressly guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution. Nor is it guaranteed in the federal constitution (The federal ERA, though passed in both houses of Congress, was only ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states; there is currently a renewed effort to get it ratified). By passing the ERA we can make certain that Oregon women and girls have their equality written into the state’s constitution. Twenty-two (22) states have ERA’s; Oregon does not. Oregon women do have substantial protections through legislation and caselaw, but neither provide the security that the Constitution provides. Both legislation and caselaw are much more “fluid” than is the Constitution; legislation and caselaw are constantly changing, but it takes a vote of the people to modify the Constitution. Explicit constitutional guarantees of sex equality provide legislators and judges a mandate to treat sex-based discrimination as highly suspect and provide the framework under which laws are written and court cases are decided.
How can we get this on the ballot for November of 2014?
In order to qualify for the ballot we need 116,284 valid signatures by July 3, 2014.
We need everyone’s help NOW in making sure we have enough valid signatures to qualify. With our statewide polling at over 82% support from Oregonians we know the ERA will pass if we get it on the ballot!
Here is how you can help us achieve this goal so all Oregonians have equality expressed in the constitution:
Collect signatures, host house parties, speak to your organizations… For more on how you can volunteer, email: Info@VoteERA.org
Nancy, what else would you like to share with people regarding the ERA? How is this a social justice issue?
Having an ERA in Oregon’s Constitution is important. How important? Just read these quotes from three of our nation’s leaders:
Former President Jimmy Carter: He calls the treatment of women and girls “worse than any war we’ve had in history.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment… I think we have achieved that [equality] through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.” Nancy added that: Bader Ginsburg was referring to the U.S. Constitution, but certainly the same argument can be made in favor of an ERA in the Oregon Constitution.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Some people say, ‘It’s [the ERA] only symbolic,’” Clinton said. “Well, yes, but symbolism is important, and it can also be a great message and even lead to actions that further equality, so I think if you can have that kind of debate here in this state [Oregon], you might be starting something beyond your borders.” Nancy added that: While I do not for a minute think the ERA is “only symbolic” I do agree with Clinton that “symbolism is important”. Because it has been many years since any state has approved an ERA, Oregon passing a state ERA will hopefully serve as an impetus to get the federal ERA “rolling” again. As Clinton said, we “might be starting something beyond your[our] borders.”
Having the Equal Rights Amendment in Oregon’s Constitution is important because it will mean future generations of women and girls can read our constitution and know that the people of Oregon believed that their rights were important enough to secure them in the constitution which can only be changed by a vote of the people. The legislation and caselaw we currently have are generally good, but they are subject to being changed by the legislature or a judicial decision. Expressly stated constitutional protections are much more secure.
I want to thank my friend Nancy for taking the time to visit with me and talk about the ERA.
Call to Action: Please click on the links above to get involved and stand in solidarity.