Data

General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Social Welfare
Labor & Work
Specific Topics
Gender Equality & Equity
Location
United States
Scope of Influence
National
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Protest
Advocacy
Social mobilization
Spectrum of Public Participation
Inform
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Women
Religious Groups
General Types of Methods
Protest
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
No
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Informal Social Activities
Listen/Watch as Spectator
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Protests/Public Demonstrations
Traditional Media
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Activist Network
Social Movement
Funder
Special Interest groups, the general public, individuals, etc
Type of Funder
Activist Network
Faith-Based Organization
For-Profit Business
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Changes in public policy
Implementers of Change
Stakeholder Organizations
Lay Public
Elected Public Officials
Formal Evaluation
No

CASE

American Equal Rights Amendment

12. Dezember 2023 higgi
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Social Welfare
Labor & Work
Specific Topics
Gender Equality & Equity
Location
United States
Scope of Influence
National
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Protest
Advocacy
Social mobilization
Spectrum of Public Participation
Inform
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Women
Religious Groups
General Types of Methods
Protest
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
No
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Informal Social Activities
Listen/Watch as Spectator
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Protests/Public Demonstrations
Traditional Media
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
Individual
Activist Network
Social Movement
Funder
Special Interest groups, the general public, individuals, etc
Type of Funder
Activist Network
Faith-Based Organization
For-Profit Business
Staff
No
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in people’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior
Changes in public policy
Implementers of Change
Stakeholder Organizations
Lay Public
Elected Public Officials
Formal Evaluation
No

The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed to create equality of rights between men and women. This amendment was proposed in 1971, and passed in Congress by 1972. It failed to ratify by the time the deadline passed in 1979 (Cohen & Codrington, 2019).

Problems and Purpose

The Amendment process itself in the United States is an old innovation, but the means used by groups in favor of and against it was even more innovative. A referendum must be passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate and in the state legislatures. The great deal of time that takes place between passing Congress and passage in the state legislatures gives the public an opportunity to persuade their state legislators, whom they are typically closer to. As ratifications are assigned a deadline by Congress, passing an amendment often means pressuring states to bring up the amendment's ratification (Harry S. Truman, n.d.). The Equal Rights Amendment saw its supporters try to persuade state legislators to bring up the amendment and vote for it. Those opposed to the amendment tried to persuade legislators to avoid bringing it to the floor or to vote against it if it should be brought up. 


Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment wanted to ensure the equality of the sexes in the United States Constitution.  According to the Equal Rights Amendment website, “Without the ERA, the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex”(Equal Rights Amendment, n.d.). The Equal Rights Amendment was intended to guarantee equality of rights based on sex. According to the National Archive, the specific matters supporters were concerned with were “divorce, property, [and] employment”(National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). 


Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment expressed concern about its ulterior motive, which they found problematic. Phyllis Schlafly thought the Equal Rights Amendment was intended to “undermine the family”(Bill of Rights Institute, n.d.). She thought the amendment would make women vulnerable to disadvantageous divorce laws, force women into the military draft, and unisex bathrooms (Bill of Rights Institute, n.d.).

Background History and Context

In the United States, the Constitution is the law of the land, and the only way to change it is through the amendment process. Article Five of the United States Constitution allows the Constitution to be amended with “two-thirds of both Houses” and “three-fourths of the several States”(U.S. Senate, 2023). The states most often ratify amendments through State legislatures but could be ratified by a convention. This bar to amend the United States Constitution was set deliberately high (Harry S. Truman, n.d.). 


In the United States, there is a precedent for public involvement in the amendment process. While many of the amendments have originated from above, that is amendments have often been the preoccupation of an elected official or officials (Whicker, Strickland, & Moore, 1987). However, there is a long history of citizen participation in the amendment process in the United States. A decade before the height of the Equal Rights Amendment movement was the ratification of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. The Twenty-Fourth Amendment, an amendment which ended discriminatory poll taxes for voting, can be seen as a result of the Civil Rights more generally(National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.-a). Even earlier, the Eighteenth Amendment, an amendment that banned the sale of alcohol, resulted from a vast prohibitionist movement and largely went over the heads of the elite, who were generally not in favor of prohibition(Moore & Gerstein, n.d.). 


The Equal Rights Amendment sprung from previous attempts to use amendments to advance feminist causes and gradually gained steam. Early feminist tried to suggest to the courts that the Fifteenth Amendment gave them the right to vote, but this line never advanced(U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d.). The Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote nationwide in 1920 (Perusek, 2021). Soon after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment began. Alice Paul, founder of the National Women’s Party, presented a draft of the Equal Rights in 1923 (Perusek, 2021). This proposal caused a split between feminist as some thought the Equal Rights Amendment would take away certain privileges that women have (Cott, 1984). The issue would remain dormant for some time. A revision to the proposed amendment of Alice Paul in 1943 would spark interest again (Equal Rights Amendments, n.d.). The Republican National Convention would include its support of the amendment from 1944 to 1980 (Frum, 2007). The Democratic National Convention would support the amendment from 1972 onward (Frum, 2007). Republicans generally supported the amendment up until the 1970s and Democrats remained divided until after the ratification period (Frum, 2007). The advances of women’s rights in statute during the 1960’s increased interest in the amendment. 

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

When the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed in 1971 and applied to the states from 1972 to 1979, two big-tent factions developed: one for the passage of the amendment and one against the amendment(1). Both factions had diverse organizations and subgroups supporting them. 


The coalition in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment was very large. The congresswoman who proposed the Equal Rights Amendment was Rep. Martha W. Griffiths (Johnson, 2022). She is considered the “mother of the ERA,” showing she was a significant leader of the Equal Rights Amendment. Eleanor Smeal, President of the National Organization for Women, created several large demonstrations in favor of the amendment; specifically, she would hold large demonstrations (Johnson, 2022). Another very important organization was the ERAmerica which was specifically created to bond organizations together and raise money for the ERA. The ERAmerica was led by Liz Carpenter, a Democrat, and Elly Perterson, a Republican. The ERAmerica would raise money at large conferences to support pro-ERA candidates(The New York Times, n.d.). 


The coalition against the Equal Rights Amendment was also very large. The primary figure for the ERA’s opposition was Phyllis Schlafly and her STOP ERA organization. STOP ERA stood for Stop Taking Our Privileges Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly held demonstrations before the legislature and rallied women to persuade legislators to oppose the amendment in strategic states. Schalfy’s biggest contribution was reframing the Equal Rights Amendment as a threat to women’s privileges (Johnson, n.d.). STOP ERA was heavily financed by special interest groups such as the Insurance industry as well as a variety of right wing organizations. STOP ERA was assisted by the John Birch Society, labor organizations, and religious organizations(Critchlow & Stachecki, 2008). 

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Everyone who wants to either support or hinder the attempts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment could join their respective causes. For those who supported the Equal Rights Amendment, like the feminists Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, there were active campaigns to pass the amendment ( A&E Television Networks, 2021). These campaigns had the support of some US House Representatives like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm (National Organization for Women, n.d.). The National Organization of Women started supporting the ERA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They continue to support the amendment and accept almost everyone as member so long as they pay their membership dues and support their causes. They are a grassroots group whose only benefit is the fact a person is in the group. They seem to rely on social media and their multiple chapters to find new members (National Organization for Women, n.d., National Organization for Women, n.d.-a). There was an overall group that was composed of multiple organizations. The ERAmerica was a coalition of more than 200 groups that supported the ERA passage (Suddreth, n.d.).


The most famous opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment was Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist who campaigned against the ERA. She was opposed to “feminism, abortion, and gay rights” and regularly used the idea of “family values” to promote her causes (Bill of Rights Institute, n.d.). She had hosted a group called “STOP ERA, the Stop Taking Our Privilege, Equal Rights Amendment,” since 1972, and had also created the group known as the Eagle Forum to help further that campaign (The Phyllis Schlafly Report, n.d., Blakemore, 2018) The Eagle Forum specifically targets people with “conservative and pro-family values” (The Phyllis Schlafly Report, n.d.). The group is volunteer-based and requires a membership fee to stay in it, and seems only to offer the fact a person is in the Eagle Forum as a benefit. They currently rely on social media, word of mouth, and their brochure to spread the word about their organization and gain members (The Phyllis Schlafly Report, n.d.).

Methods and Tools Used

The main method used in supporting and opposing the Equal Rights Amendment was protest campaigns. On one side of the spectrum were the people who supported the ERA's passing. The group The National Organization of Women held protests and demonstrations in favor of the ERA, especially during the 1970s (Blakemore, 2018). The ERAmerica coalition group also held mass protests in support of the amendment and focused on important states like the Carolinas, Illinois, and Florida (Suddreth, n.d.).

Other methods used during the ERA debates were speeches, lobbying, and symbolism to further each side’s cause. For the groups that opposed the ERA, the use of speeches and symbolism were especially important. Phyllis Schlafly published her own articles, and gave speeches to both the legislatures and to the average person where she attacked the claims of the pro-ERA members. She enacted what was essentially a smear campaign, claiming that the supporters of the ERA were “radicals” and were “foreign, unappealing, and dangerous” (Blakemore, 2018). The other methods used by the opponents of the ERA  were symbolism, literature, and lobbying. The use of the color pink was supposed to make the opponents of the ERA seem more feminine, while they also published starkly anti-ERA literature. They also attempted to get on the good side of Congress by giving them baked goods (Blakemore, 2018).  The Eagle Forum has an educational foundation, a lobbying group to get their positions heard in the legislatures, and their own PAC in an attempt to get members they support into the government (Eagle Forum, 2023).

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

As mentioned earlier, the main way people could participate in the Equal Rights Amendment process was through joining their respective organizations and attending protests in support of their position. It was likely through these organizations that most people got their voices heard. Protests and campaigns supporting the ERA were held in key states like the Carolinas, Illinois, and Florida (Suddreth, n.d.22).

There were largely only two major opinions that were listened to during the debates surrounding the ERA. The two main groups either supported or opposed the ERA. They targeted the legislatures in an attempt to get them to either ratify the amendment or reject it. The legislatures listened to both groups and initially accepted the opinions that supported the ERA. The legislatures later changed sides and supported the anti-ERA side of the debate. Because there were largely only two opinions, there didn't seem to be much in the way of deliberation, as it was ultimately just an ultimatum between the two options (Blakemore, 2018). Voting on the ERA did take place in all of the states in which the amendment was proposed, and in the US Congress. While it was passed within the US Congress and most of the required states, it failed as the amendment didn’t get enough of the states to support it. Furthermore, many states started de-ratifying the proposed amendment (A&E Television Networks, 2021, Blakemore, 2018). 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Legal and Constitutional Influence of the ERA has significantly impacted legal arguments over gender equality. It questioned constitutional interpretations and pushed firmly against gender-based discrimination. This effect was vital in shifting legal discourse about gender rights, creating the framework for better legal comprehension of these issues. These two cases show how the ERA’s impact was felt despite not being fully inculcated into the legislature. 

In Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), the Supreme Court ruled that benefits given by the military to the families of military members must be provided equally to both male and female service members. Justice Brennan explicitly mentioned the ERA, which was nearing ratification. He suggested that the ERA cemented the unconstitutionality of gender-based discrimination(Oyez, 1973).

In United States v Virginia (1996), a 7-to-1 decision, the Court held that VMI's male-only admissions policy was unconstitutional. Virginia violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause because it failed to show "exceedingly persuasive justification" for VMI's gender-biased admissions policy. Virginia failed to support its claim that single-sex education contributes to educational diversity because it did not show that VMI's male-only admissions policy was created or maintained to further educational diversity. Furthermore, Virginia's VWIL could not offer women the same benefits as VMI offered men(Oyez,1996).

The political wind changed along with the social dynamics when momentum picked up due to ERA as a result of widespread action in the form of protests and debates for reducing gender inequality. The ERA resonated with many; thus, it became a household name for those who strongly aligned with gender equality, expressing their voices against gender injustice by protesting. This led to a rise in activities, be it social or political,  that were aimed at promoting gender equality.

Ruth Rosen, in her book supports the ERA and says, "At the same time a very small circle of former suffragists members of the conservative National Woman’s Party (NWP) did keep alive the dream of an Equal Rights Amendment which they had first submitted in 1923 soon after women gained the right to vote. The ERA would have given women equality in every public life arena but was opposed by labor and working women who feared it would destroy the protective legislation women enjoyed. Still, the NWP exerted little influence on the dominant culture"(Rosen,2006,p57).

Despite not being ratified, the ERA's presence in public conversation sparked important legislative improvements to decrease gender discrimination. The Equal Pay Act and Title IX address pay discrimination and other forms of discrimination based on gender in education were influenced by the ERA. The strength of policy advocacy was seen when despite not being ratified, the ERA impacted the implementation of such policies. 


Outcomes of the ERA:


  1. State-Level Initiatives: In response to the Federal impasse, several states adopted their versions of the ERA, illustrating a compilation of commitments to gender equality across the United States.
  2. Awareness and Advocacy: The campaign for the ERA significantly raised public awareness about gender inequality and inspired a generation of gender rights advocates.
  3.  Judicial Influence: With the ERA, the courts have a renewed approach towards cases that are dependent on the matter of gender, with this approach ultimately affecting interpretations and ultimately the outcomes of the case.

Due to a standstill at the federal level, many states implemented ERA to their own will by bending and mending its terms to suit their needs. This showed how complex the ratification process can be but also reignited a spark of hope amongst those who demanded gender equality. Pennsylvania adopted an ERA provision in its constitution and saw great progress in gender equality in state policies, particularly in government employment and contract assigning.

The ERA campaign was vital to increasing public awareness on the topic in times when social media was non-existent. This heightened awareness and advocacy have been pivotal in shaping societal attitudes towards gender equality. This has allowed women to be more active in spheres of life where traditionally men may have been more prominent such as in the military and in politics. 

"A vibrant, multi-faceted movement for constitutional gender equality is growing. The ERA has sparked new engagement at the state level, where 26 constitutions already contain state-level ERAs"(Cheng,2023).

Analysis and Lessons Learned

ERA’s current journey from its provenance in 1923 has only been made possible due to its continued support from various people, making it an important aspect of cultural and social change today. This constant support has increased its momentum and actively changed scenarios where it previously was impossible to bring about a change, such as in the United States of America v. Virginia (1996) context. Since the process of amending the constitution is long, difficult, and very specific, the proponents of ERA must possess a deep understanding of the legality of their cause to have an effective stance. However, ERA is relevant in law and social and cultural spectrums. As ERA grew, so did the culture surrounding the inclusion of women, accepting them in roles that were traditionally viewed as those for men and also taking up the cause of equal rights in issues such as marriage and finances. This would also address the pay-scale inequality that is seen in workplaces, where if ERA were implemented, this would disappear(National Organization for Women, n.d.).

ERA emphasized the importance of education to change the mindset of some individuals who may view it negatively. 

As education would increase, so would the level of decision making abilities amongst individuals. Making the depth of ERA more vocal was aimed at potentially gathering a larger, more educated crowd who, in turn, would support policy building. The move was heavily based on door-to-door campaigns for its promotion that led to it being able to muster such widespread support, influencing policy and creating renewed public opinions.

The fifth episode of the series “Mrs. America” shows the effects of ERA and the preconceived notions held by those against it. The episode features the couple, Marc and Brenda Feigen, focusing on the institution of marriage. This episode is important as it covers the relationships of Brenda-Marc Phyllis and Fred Schlafly. The character of Phyllis Schlafly is shown to be caught between her personal and professional views where despite opposing the ERA, she decides to enroll in a law school. This shows how complex some views can get; meanwhile, on the other hand, also discusses the happy marriage of Brenda and Marc, defying the preconceived notion that feminists are incapable of happy, sustainable marriages(Patel, 2020).

References

Summary


  1. Cohen, A., & Codrington, W. U. (2019, October 9). The Equal Rights Amendment explained. Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/equal-rights-amendment-explained?ref=popsugar.com 
  2. The Amendment Process. Harry S. Truman. (n.d.). https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/education/three-branches/amendment-process 
  3. Why-Equal Rights Amendment. Equal Rights Amendment. (n.d.). https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/why 
  4. National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.). Equal rights amendment. National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/women/era 
  5. Phyllis Schlafly and the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment. Bill of Rights Institute. (n.d.). https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/phyllis-schlafly-and-the-debate-over-the-equal-rights-amendment 
  6. Constitution of the United States. U.S. Senate: Constitution of the United States. (2023, August 7). https://www.senate.gov/about/origins-foundations/senate-and-constitution/constitution.htm 
  7. Whicker, Marcia Lynn; Strickland, Ruth Ann; and Moore, Raymond A. (1987) "The Constitution Under Pressure: The Amendment Process," Journal of Political Science: Vol. 15: No. 1, 60.
  8. National Archives and Records Administration. (n.d.-a). Black Americans and the vote. National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/vote 
  9. Moore, M. H., & Gerstein., D. R. (n.d.). Temperance and prohibition in America: A historical overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK216414/ 
  10. U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Why the women’s Rights Movement split over the 15th Amendment (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service. https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/why-the-women-s-rights-movement-split-over-the-15th-amendment.htm 
  11. Perusek, A. M. (2021, October 21). The National Woman’s Party and the fight for women’s rights. All Together. https://alltogether.swe.org/2020/10/national-womans-party-womens-rights/ 
  12. Cott, N. F. (1984). Feminist politics in the 1920s: The National Woman's Party. Journal of American History, 71(1), 43–68. https://doi.org/10.2307/1899833
  13. Equal Rights Amendments. Equal rights amendments, 1923-1972. (n.d.). https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/336era.html 
  14. (245-246) - Frum, D. (2007). 245-246. In How we got here: The 70’s, the Decade that brought you modern life (for better or worse). https://archive.org/details/howwegothere70sd00frum/page/244/mode/2up 
  15. Johnson, P. K. (2022, October 25). 5 Visionaries of the Equal Rights Amendment. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/history/info-2020/women-leaders-era.html 
  16. The New York Times. (n.d.). Monday, March 8, 1976. The New York Times. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1976/03/08/issue.html 
  17. Johnson, A. (n.d.). Phyllis Schlafly. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/phyllis-schlafly 
  18. Critchlow, D.T., & Stachecki, C.L. (2008). The Equal Rights Amendment Reconsidered: Politics, Policy, and Social Mobilization in a Democracy. Journal of Policy History 20(1), 157-176. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/238231.
  19. A&E Television Networks. (2021, March 19). Equal rights amendment passed by Congress. History.com. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/equal-rights-amendment-passed-by-congress 
  20. The Intertwining History of now and the Era - National Organization for Women. National Organization for Women -. (n.d.). https://now.org/the-intertwining-history-of-now-and-the-era/ 
  21. Get involved: National Organization for Women. National Organization for Women -. (n.d.-a). https://now.org/getinvolved/ 
  22. Suddreth, L. D. (n.d.). Women on the Move. Women on the Move (March 22, 1993) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin. https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/93/9306/women.html 
  23. Phyllis Schlafly and the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment. Bill of Rights Institute. (n.d.). https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/phyllis-schlafly-and-the-debate-over-the-equal-rights-amendment 
  24. The Phyllis Schlafly Report. A short history of E.R.A. -- September 1986 Phyllis Schlafly Report. (n.d.). https://eagleforum.org/psr/1986/sept86/psrsep86.html 
  25. Blakemore, E. (2018, November 26). Why the Fight Over the Equal Rights Amendment Has Lasted Nearly a Century. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/equal-rights-amendment-fail-phyllis-schlafly 
  26. Eagle Forum Brochure. Eagle Forum. (2023, July 10). https://eagleforum.org/about/brochure.html 
  27. Frontiero v. Richardson. (1973). Oyez. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1972/71-1694
  28. United States v. Virginia. (1996). Oyez. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1995/94-1941
  29. Rosen, R. (2006). The world split open: How the modern women's movement changed America, revised edition (p. 57). Penguin Books.
  30. Cheng, T. T. (2023, August 26). The Era: A new foundation for equality in the United States. ALI Social Impact Review. https://www.sir.advancedleadership.harvard.edu/articles/era-a-new-foundation-for-equality-in-us 
  31. Constitutional Equality: National Organization for Women. National Organization for Women -. (n.d.-a). https://now.org/issues/constitutional-equality/ 
  32. Patel, V. (2020, April 29). Mrs. America season 1 episode 5 review. The Cinemaholic. https://thecinemaholic.com/mrs-america-episode-5/