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It’s Time to Finally Pass the Equal Rights Amendment

By Rubén Vázquez, YWCA VP of Racial Justice and Public Policy
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Did you know there is no amendment in the Minnesota Constitution or the U.S. Constitution that specifically states that people no matter their gender have equal protection under the law? The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first proposed in the 1970s, but the federal amendment died in 1982 without gaining enough states to ratify it. The proposed amendment simply reads: “Equality under the law shall not be abridged or denied on account of gender.”

Equal Rights Amendment Lobby Day

On March 8, ERA Minnesota along with many other organizations and community members came together for a lobby day and rally in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. On this day, I shared a story about what it’s like to raise both a daughter and son in the world today, where we are still so far from true gender equity. Below is the story I shared.

The Future Generations – Understanding the Cause

A few years ago, I was involved in a fundraising campaign for an organization I worked for. I was discussing this at dinner and my daughter, Jasmine asked, “Papa, why do you need to raise so much money?” I told her that by raising this money, it would give us an opportunity to fight for the things we believe in. She asked what this meant.

A System that Doesn’t Pay Equitably

I told her, “Both you and your brother want to become engineers. Both you and your brother, want to attend MIT. You are both smart and I am sure you will both be very successful. Yet, we currently have a system that does not pay equitably. Simply because you are a woman, you will get paid less than your brother for doing the same type of work.” She responded by saying, “Well, that is stupid!” I said, “Yes honey, it is stupid. That is why we need this money. So we can fight and ensure that everyone gets paid the same for the same type of work.”

Joining the Fight for Equal Pay

If an 8-year-old girl can comprehend this inequity, how is it that we, as adults refuse to fix this problem? How is it that it is 2019 and we are still having this discussion?

Both my son and daughter looked at each other, they simultaneously got up from the dinner table, went into their bedrooms and came back with their piggy banks. They offered me the money they had saved – a total combined amount of $23. I said, “No, I am not asking for your money.” My daughter said to me, “You need to take this money; we want to be part of this fight.”

That night as I was putting my son to bed, he said to me, “Papa, I feel bad that I am a boy and just because of that, I will have more opportunities than Jasmine.”

Inequity is Dehumanizing to Everyone

This experience I share with you is an example of how this inequity is dehumanizing everyone. Women have to continuously fight for the same right as their male counterpart. While some men, like my son, feel guilty for gaining privileges solely based on the assigned gender he received at birth.

It’s time to stop just talking about how unfair inequality based on sex or gender is and actually start taking action. Not only for the sake of my children, but for the sake of our youngest generation.

In Minnesota, we are advocating for:

  • An Equal Rights Amendment added into our own Minnesota Constitution
  • The U.S. Senate to extend the arbitrary deadline, allowing the final three states to complete ratification

Minnesotans have a great opportunity to create a state where everyone is equal under the law by adding the ERA to our state constitution.

To join the cause for gender equity, contact your state senator to ask for their support today.

Learn more about ERA

Contact your Senator