People Hold Signs in Favor of the Equal Rights Amendment

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People Hold Signs in Favor of the Equal Rights Amendment

Photograph

By: Peter Keegan

Date: November 3, 1975

Source: Keegan, Peter. "People Hold Signs in Favor of the Equal Rights Amendment to the New York Constitution at a Rally in Bryant Park, New York City." Getty Images, 1975.

About the Photographer: Peter Keegan is a contributing photographer to the Hulton Archive at Getty Images, a leading world provider of visual content materials to such communications groups as advertisers, broadcasters, designers, magazines, new media organizations, newspapers, and producers.

INTRODUCTION

The late 1960s and early 1970s brought forth a wide array of protest movements in the United States and throughout the world. Scholars continually debate which, if any, movement can be considered the most influential, but all agree that one of the more significant movements from the era was Women's Liberation. Women's Liberation sought a variety of reforms for the treatment of women, and one of the movement's more heated battles concerned the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The premise of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is that equal rights could and would not be abridged because of a person's sex. The ERA passed in the U.S. Congress on March 22, 1972, after decades of struggle. The U.S. Constitution maintains that three-fourths of the states must ratify an amendment before it can be added to the U.S. Constitution. Congress placed a deadline of March 22, 1979 for ratification, which was later extended to June 30, 1982. Even though Hawaii ratified the amendment within thirty-two minutes of Congress registering its approval, and several other states passed the ERA shortly thereafter, it failed to achieve ratification by the necessary thirty-eight states. By the time the deadline passed, only thirty-five states had ratified the ERA.

A wide array of Hollywood actors and actresses publicly supported the amendment, and they sought to counter sensationalized claims that the ERA would force men and women to have to use the same bathrooms, take away maternity leave, and other extreme beliefs. At the heart of the movement to prevent the ERA from ratification was female lawyer Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly adamantly campaigned against the amendment by stating that it would lead to women being drafted into the military, increased federal power, increased taxpayer expense, and that it would lead to state-funded abortions. She took the same social beliefs that had permeated society since women began publicly voicing their opinions, demanding rights, obtaining the vote, and forcibly creating social change. Many critics argue, however, that Schlafly captured the American public with her claims because she was well educated (a Master of Arts Degree from Harvard and a Juris Doctorate in 1978). How and why she obtained enough support to stop the ERA's passage can not be fully qualified, but the fact remains that her actions—combined with others—stirred controversy, outrage, and stopped an amendment.

Feminist organizations, men and women, and some male organizations joined the fight for the ERA. They carried signs declaring their support, and some added to the contemptuous atmosphere surrounding the ERA. Groups like the National Gay Task Force and the Feminist Communist Coalition fought for the ERA, and their presence also increased the fears that counter-activists like Schlafly conveyed to the public. These groups threatened the perceived moral authority of the United States, and communist-affiliated groups still were associated with the Red Scares of the 1950s and the fight in Vietnam.

PRIMARY SOURCE

PEOPLE HOLD SIGNS IN FAVOR OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

See primary source image.

SIGNIFICANCE

The ERA has been reintroduced into Congress every session since the 1982 expiration, and on March 15, 2005, both houses of Congress nodded at the passage of the ERA by sending it to the Committee of the Judiciary for consideration, but as of June 2006 Congress had not reenacted the ERA. Some supporters of the ERA argue that even though the deadline for its ratification has passed, the ERA should become part of the Constitution if it is ratified by three more states. They point to a precedent set in 1992 when the "Madison Amendment" passed 203 years after its presentation to the states. The Madison Amendment concerns congressional pay raises.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Becker, Susan D. The Origins of the Equal Rights Amendment: American Feminism Between the Wars. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981.

Masbridge, Jane J. Why We Lost the ERA. Urbana and Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Web sites

The Equal Rights Amendment. 〈http://www.equalright-samendment.org〉 (accessed March 18, 2006).

National Organization for Women. "Equal Rights Amendment." 〈http://www.now.org/issues/economic/eratext.html〉 (accessed March 18, 2006).

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People Hold Signs in Favor of the Equal Rights Amendment

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