Kevin Fisher in 2018

Kevin Fisher

“It’s Time For South Carolina to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Says Lawmaker” — Free Times, Mar. 4

Yes, it certainly is. Past time. Over 40 years past time.

That lawmaker is Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter (D-Orangeburg) and she made her case both superbly and succinctly with this comment: “Quite frankly, to me it’s a no-brainer. I don’t understand what the opposition could be.”

Neither do I. And to those who say women now have equal rights in spite of the ERA never having been enacted, Cobb-Hunter added: “Well if that’s the case, then what’s the problem with passing it?”

Indeed, what is the problem?

There should be none, and South Carolina has a unique opportunity to put the long-delayed measure into the U.S. Constitution. This is a chance for our state to be celebrated for a history-making move (and not one we’ll be criticized for over the next 150 years), as the Equal Rights Amendment is now one state away from the 38 it needs in order to be ratified.

Wouldn’t it be something if South Carolina put the ERA over the top? The national attention could be both high-profile and helpful.

Among other positive effects, the state would benefit from the favorable public relations impact, and economic development efforts would be enhanced.

But most of all, we would show the nation and the world that South Carolina is reclaiming the prominent place it held as a leader during the founding of the country in the 18th century with a belated but bold move to put the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution in the 21st century.

This is something we should do, and we should do it quickly before somebody else does. Only one state is going to provide that 38th ratification, and that could come at any time.

While there may be a court challenge as to whether states can still ratify the ERA, Nevada in 2017 and Illinois in 2018 and became the 36th and 37th states to do so. Any of the remaining 13 states is now able to be the one that seals the deal.

Fortunately, there seems to be some momentum for ratification in the South Carolina Legislature, with actual bipartisan support emerging.

In addition to Cobb-Hunter, I’m happy to say other Democrats co-sponsoring the measure include Richland Reps. Beth Bernstein, Seth Rose and Kambrell Garvin.

And I’m even happier to say that on the Republican side, cosponsors include Richland Rep. Kirkman Finlay. Bipartisan support is a must, and Finlay is stepping up to provide it. Moreover, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Charleston Rep. Peter McCoy, is a cosponsor as well.

Finally, while we’re still talking about this issue in 2019, for me it brings back memories all the way from the 1970s when I worked for Marvin Chernoff. The firm had been hired to develop a TV campaign for the National League of Women Voters in support of the then fledgling ERA, and Marvin nailed it.

Demonstrating the power of simplicity in advertising, the spot merely quoted the proposed amendment. Against a visual background of the U.S. Constitution, the voiceover said:

“‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’ That’s it. All of it. The Equal Rights Amendment. Isn’t it time this basic statement of equality was put into our Constitution?”

I always told Marvin that was his best political ad, to which he would reply, “Yeah, but it didn’t get the job done.”

Perhaps supporters of South Carolina becoming the decisive 38th state to ratify the ERA should put that ad up on social media or even back on the air in a campaign to push the Legislature to act.

While I no longer have a copy of the spot (we’re talking about something that was shot four decades ago on 16 mm film), maybe Rick Silver has a digitized version that was transferred at some point.

It would be a great way to support passage of the ERA. And a great way to remember Marvin.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics. Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

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