Editorial: A long way?
Posted on Feb 12, 2014 - 02:58 PM Printer Friendly View
The Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution proposed by Congress in 1972 never became law. It did not win ratification by a sufficient number of states, and this failure, some three decades ago, was a huge setback for women’s lib.
With or without gender protection from the Constitution, women have forged ahead in many arenas, breaking the corporate glass ceiling in some cases, and seeing their pay catch up, although rarely exceed, the compensation made to men for performing the same work.
Still, when a legislature dominated by men repeatedly turns down the ERA, as happened in the Virginia General Assembly a generation ago, one wonders if our elected representatives are really putting themselves in the shoes of all their constituents. Specifically, the shoes of their female constituents.
The Virginia Senate this month took up the ERA again—it also did so in 2011 and 2012—and voted to support its ratification. “Every Democratic senator voted for the measure,” according to a news release by Danny Friedman of Virginia Democrats. The release continued, “Eight senators voted against the measure and seven senators refused to vote. All 15 were Republican men.” (Supporters couldn’t blame it on the Republicans in the 1970s, however, as Democrats still controlled the legislature.)
The obvious political spear-thrusting aside, we are astounded that any elected representative in the United States could oppose guaranteeing equal rights for half of Americans. We are sure they offer many plausible and reasonable arguments for negative votes. Many argue that equal protection under the law is already guaranteed by the 14th Amendment … but violations have been found repeatedly by the Supreme Court, meaning no guarantee is perfect.
Better late than never. We hope the Republican-dominated House of Delegates will take up the ERA and vote to ratify it, but we are not holding our breath. Even if the unlikely were to happen, the 10-year deadline for its implementation passed 31 years ago and the process would have to start over again.
A commercial for Virginia Slims cigarettes, which were introduced in 1968 and targeted female consumers, was way ahead of the curve when it trumpeted “You’ve come a long way baby.” All other social and economic advances aside, politically speaking, women have a long way to go.