2013-05-15 / Opinions

Time for the final step

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin recently introduced a resolution aimed at inching America toward the final step in a long battle for equality.

His resolution would remove the deadline for state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment – the once-controversial addition to the U.S. Constitution that would make a clear and permanent statement that discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal.

The ERA passed Congress in 1972. It required that threefourths of the states ratify the amendment within seven years. The deadline was extended, and 35 of the 38 states required have ratified the document, which has been introduced into Congress every year since 1972.

This is the amendment in its entirety: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

While the necessity for such a statement seems out of date, it isn’t. Certainly American society and culture has evolved a great deal since the ERA became a topic of vehement debate in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It is no longer expected that a woman will take second place to a man in the professional world, or that she will set aside her ambitions and talents simply because she was born a woman. Thankfully, it has become commonplace to see women in positions of significant leadership – as Secretary of State, as media owners, as CEOs of major corporations.

While not all women seek or reach those high-profile positions, the girls and young women of today see professional success, and so many other things, are a possibility for them. That wasn’t always the case. And it certainly wasn’t the case in 1923 when suffragist leader Alice Paul wrote the simple words of the ERA.

It is long past time for our nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” to take the final step to officially include women in the equality that makes us stand out as a world leader.

No progress toward gender equality is finished until we can assure the girls and women of today that their rights are clearly and permanently protected by the document that guides all of our civic actions as Americans.

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