WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Congresswoman Cori Bush is a leader of a multiracial coalition of female lawmakers who on Tuesday launched the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
“It has been 100 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first drafted and introduced in Congress, and more than a half century since both chambers passed it,” Bush said at a press conference outside the Capitol.
“That is far too long for women, Black and brown folks, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups to wait for constitutional gender equality — and we refuse to wait any longer.”
Joining Bush as a caucus co-chair is Ayanna Pressley [D, Massachusetts.]
Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.) and Summer Lee (D-Pa.) will serve as vice chairs.
“I’m thinking a lot about my 14-year-old daughter, Cora, and how I do not want her to continue to live in a country in a world where we have so conflated and normalized the disparate treatment and outcomes and disparate access and the second-class status it is to be a woman in this society,” Pressley said.
“I look forward to the day when calendars will say and on this day in history, the ERA caucus was established, but I really look forward to the day when our calendars will say on this day in history, the ERA was passed.”
Many Americans have forgotten that the move to create an Equal Right Amendment never officially ended. As Bush stated, five decades have passed since the ERA was passed in Congress, but it hasn’t been affirmed as the 28th Amendment because Congress set a deadline that 38 states needed to ratify the ERA by 1982.
It wasn’t until 2020, under the leadership of then-state senator McClellan, that Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA.
McClellan, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Virginia, said it is “poetic justice” that her state is the one to “put the ERA over the top.”
It is symbolic that the ERA Caucus celebrating its founding during the last week of Women’s History Month.
“For the last 100 years women of color have led the fight for constitutional gender equality," said Rep. Rebecca Balint of Vermont.
“Equality shouldn’t be controversial. But women and LGBTQ Americans know the fight is as urgent as ever.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Texas, who has served since 1995, called the ERA, “a cornerstone of the gender equality movement and gave women a critical legal tool to combat the discrimination we face every day—especially women of color.”
This includes pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and sexual and domestic violence. Explicitly putting gender equality in the Constitution is a long overdue measure that will have broad and transformative impacts on the lives of all women.
Bush addressed racial disparities in the workforce, saying women of color are paid far less than male counterparts.
“On average, women make 77 cents on the dollar in comparison to men. We’ve heard that over and over again. So, as striking as this statistic sounds, it only really became real to me when I sat down and I actually did the math for myself in my own life and I realized exactly how much was missing,” she said.
Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment members include Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08); Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01); Andre Carson (IN-07); Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Sara Jacobs (CA-51); Ro Khanna (CA-17); Kevin Mullin (CA-15); Jerrold Nadler (NY-12); Donald Norcross (NJ-01); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Ilhan Omar (MN-05); Jill Tokuda (HI-02); Fredrica Wilson (FL24).
According to the caucus members, its goals will be to:
Ensure that Congress does everything in its power to finalize the ERA and assure it is officially recognized as the 28th Amendment.
Educate Members of Congress about the history of the ERA and help them understand the contemporary issues surrounding the effort to finalize it;
Raise awareness among our constituents and the American public that the fight for the ERA is alive and well.
Collaborate with other Members of Congress, caucuses, and organizations to advance the ERA and ensure that it is fully implemented.
Expand the vision of who the ERA will most directly benefit to include women of color, queer and transgender people, people seeking abortion care, and other marginalized groups and communities.
Build support for an ERA Policy Platform that will use the power of the Equal Rights Amendment to pass reforms perceived as unconstitutional without the ERA, now that the constitution has been altered to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex; and
Provide a structure to coordinate the efforts and enhance the ability of Members of Congress to accomplish those goals.
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