U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the lead sponsor of legislation to prohibit discrimination against women, today reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution as hundreds of thousands march in cities across the nation for justice and equality for women.
The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).
"When we deny women the fundamental right to equality, we impoverish families and our country. When we promote gender equality, we increase opportunity through education and economic empowerment. This legislation is an important step in ensuring equality in the workplace and in the economy and achieving the fundamental American belief in liberty and justice for all," Sen. Markey said.
"Protecting the rights of women and fighting against any efforts to turn back the clock is now more critical than ever," said Sen. Menendez. "We cannot tolerate living in a country where women have to work harder, longer and for less money just to get ahead. We cannot stand quietly by while women are denied the American Dream and access to health care and education. Our mothers and daughters deserve the same opportunity and respect as our fathers and sons, and that is why the Equal Rights Amendment must be enshrined in our Constitution and the law of the land."
"Close to a century ago, a New Jerseyan named Alice Paul proposed an amendment to the Constitution affirming the equal rights of women. All these years later, we have yet to unequivocally and constitutionally guarantee the equal rights of women under the law," said Sen. Booker. "At a time when Republicans in Congress and the Trump White House are threatening to undermine fundamental gains in the march towards progress and gender equality, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment has never been more important than it is now."
"It's unacceptable that American women are still fighting for the right to equal pay or the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions--and each of us has a responsibility to stand with them in that fight," said Sen. Brown. "Taking this step to protect the rights of women in our Constitution is long overdue, but as important today as ever."
"Many Americans would be shocked to find out that the U.S. Constitution still lacks a provision ensuring gender equality. Think about that: in 2017, women lack the same constitutional protections as men. This is clearly wrong and needs permanent correction," said Sen. Cardin. "America was built on the promise of equal rights. It's long past time for us to recognize the equality of women in the foundational document of our nation."
"I am proud to support a constitutional amendment that would guarantee and protect the equal rights of women in America," said Sen. Gillibrand. "It's unacceptable that many women today still do not earn as much as men, still do not have access to affordable child care and paid family leave, and are still underrepresented at all levels of government. Our country needs this constitutional amendment, I am proud to support it, and I will urge all of my colleagues to join me in working to pass it, ratify it, and make it the law of the land."
The ERA states: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex -- the ERA establishes within the United States Constitution the unambiguous and unassailable rights of women under the law."
New Jersey suffragist leader Alice Paul, who founded the National Women's Party and was instrumental in passing the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, authored the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. It passed Congress in 1972 but fell short of the 38 states required to ratify by three states.
This is the fifth consecutive Congress in which Sen. Menendez has led introduction of the ERA. Sen. Menendez has also cosponsored a separate resolution that would remove the deadline for ratification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and allow three more states to ratify and make it law.