In honor of International Women’s Day, lawmakers and activists gathered at the state Capitol on Thursday to push for federal and state Equal Rights Amendments guaranteeing equal rights under the law regardless of gender.
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a DFLer who lives on Nicollet Island, is the chief author of a House bill calling for a state constitutional amendment ensuring gender quality in Minnesota.
“I was in my first term when Minnesota ratified the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Kahn, who was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1972. “That was at a time when they only allowed one of the six women serving in the House to be co-authors on ratification. It’s been too long for Minnesota and our country to not join every other advanced country and guarantee equal rights under our constitution. The citizens of our state and country deserve to have this important principle, the equal treatment of persons based on gender, enshrined in our constitutions.”
The activists and lawmakers are also lobbying for passage of a resolution calling on Congress to remove the deadline for ratification of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
First proposed by suffragist leader Alice Paul in 1923, the ERA was introduced during every session of Congress between 1923 and 1972 — the year it passed. It was then ratified by 35 states, including Minnesota, but fell three short of the total number of states needed to add it to the Constitution by the 1982 deadline.
The 15 states that haven’t ratified the proposed federal amendment include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
“An equal rights amendment will set forth the principle of general equality and offer women and men a more effective avenue of legal recourse against discrimination on the basis of sex,” said Betty Folliard, founder of ERA Minnesota.