Drafted by a suffragette in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has been stirring up controversy ever since. Many opponents considered it dead when a 10-year ratification push failed in 1982, yet its backers on Capitol Hill, in the Illinois statehouse and elsewhere are making clear this summer that the fight is far from over.
In Washington, congresswomen Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., are prime sponsors of two pieces of legislation aimed at getting the amendment ratified. They recently organized a pro-ERA rally, evoking images of the 1970s, outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Recent Supreme Court decisions have sent women's rights back to the Stone Age," said Speier, explaining the renewed interest in the ERA. The amendment would stipulate that equal rights cannot be denied or curtailed on the basis of gender.
Participants in the July 24 rally directed much of their ire at the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling. In a 5-4 decision, with the majority comprised of five male justices, the court allowed some private businesses to opt out of the federal health care law's requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge.
"They could not have made the Hobby Lobby ruling with an ERA," Maloney said.