Can The ERA Save Our Democracy?
March 22, 2022. March is Women’s History Month. A time to celebrate generations of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. Unfortunately, this March, we are watching the progress made by American women towards equality disappear. And that has a devasting impact on our democracy.
As noted by Secretary Blinken on International Women’s Day:
Full and equal rights for women are key to a stable and thriving society. The data is clear: countries are more secure, peaceful and prosperous when people of all genders can participate fully and equitable in every sphere of public life. . . . And countries with high levels of gender equality have stronger and more resilient democracies. That’s why fighting for the rights and dignity of Women and girls everywhere is critical to so much else that we want to achieve at home and around the world.
Sadly, gender equality in the U.S. lags far behind. In fact, as of 2020, the Constitutions of 168 of 195 countries contain a provision guaranteeing equality for women and girls, but not the U.S. – the only developed nation without such a provision.
Unfortunately, most Americans do not realize it - mistakenly believing either that the Constitution already provides equality for women and girls or that existing laws adequately protect them. That cannot be further from the truth.
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Congress passing the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) and sending it to the states for ratification. On January 27, 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, triggering the obligation of the US Archivist to publish a new Constitution with the ERA as the 28th Amendment.
Yet that has not happened. First blocked by President Trump, now by President Biden. Despite the fact that, as admitted by the Biden Administration, the Executive Branch’s sole role in the Constitutional Amendment process is ministerial and it lacks the authority to determine the validity of any amendment. And the Biden Administration continues to fight against the ERA in court.
Women’s rights are more expansive in democracies, and as Secretary Blinken noted, democracies are stronger in countries with greater gender equality. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, the U.S. has been listed as a backsliding democracy, predominantly due to violations of fundamental rights. Hardly surprising given the lack of equality and widespread attacks on long-existing reproductive rights (at a time when most other countries are expanding such rights).
Here we are, purportedly the leader of global democracy, fighting against tyranny abroad. Bipartisan support for democracy and freedom for the people of the Ukraine. As we should. Yet we do not fight for it here at home. The hypocrisy is astonishing.
Our democracy is in grave danger, and we are headed in the wrong direction. Attacks on women, people of color and voting rights. Worsened by the events of January 6, 2021, the related narrative that has called into question the validity of our elections, and lack of accountability for the powerful people involved.
Publishing the ERA, the first crucial step towards equality for 167 million women and girls, would not only eliminate the hypocrisy and improve our credibility around the globe, but it would strengthen our democracy at a time when we need it most.
Time for President Biden to direct the Archivist to publish the ERA and fight to save our democracy.