Editorial: ERA is long overdue
Sarah Palin’s and Hillary Clinton’s elevation to the top of their respective political parties has made headlines this year for its historical significance in the ongoing struggle among women for equal rights with men.
And while they certainly have helped hammer “8 million cracks” into the invisible barrier that has kept female workers a step below men throughout American history, it is undeniable that the glass ceiling still exists. It is way past time to shatter that shameful obstruction.
There is no doubt women have made enormous progress in the quest to achieve equal footing with men, highlighted by Palin’s vice-presidential candidacy and Clinton’s near miss at becoming the first female presidential nominee. More and more, women are working side-by-side with men in traditionally male-oriented professions such as police work, firefighting, construction and politics. Some — like Cathleen Lyons Moniz, a deputy chief in the Fall River Police Department — are rising to the top of the ranks, taking on leadership roles previously denied to them.
But for all the progress women have made — and the existence of such supposed protections as the Equal Pay Act, Title VII and Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act — women are still held back. “There are challenges we continue to work on today, both internally and externally,” Moniz said. “There are factions of the public that don’t see women officers as equal.”
The same is true in most every profession. Regardless of their talents, qualifications and experience, women nationally and in Massachusetts continue to be paid less than men for the same work. Women in the commonwealth earn less than men in every county, an average of 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. That number is right in line with the national average: Women are paid on average about 23 percent less than men.
It has to stop. The legislative protections are worthless if they are not enforced, if they are not backed by Constitutional rights. The Equal Rights Amendment would add specific language to the Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women, a clause that should have been added decades ago. Proposed in 1923 by suffragist leader Alice Paul, the ERA was finally approved by Congress in 1972, but still has not been enacted. Just 35 of the 38 states needed to approve a Constitutional amendment have ratified the ERA. Fifteen mostly Southern, traditionally conservative states have not seen fit to grant women equal rights in the Constitution.
The push is on again to pass the ERA, led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who reintroduced the amendment last year. There is no deadline to acquire state ratifications attached to the amendment.
Denying equal rights to women — as well as rights to minorities, homosexuals, people with disabilities and all other discriminated groups — prevents the country from becoming the modern, progressive, fully free society it has always longed to be. The ERA must be ratified.
The Herald News