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Letter: ERA expands legal protections for women

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” — The Equal Rights Amendment.

The city of Charleston Commission on Women voted unanimously to put forward to City Council a resolution showing support for the current bills in the S.C. Legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The commission also had the support of several other organizations representing thousands of women in our community and our state.

Commission members believe that women deserve full and equal rights in the U.S. Constitution. The only right guaranteed for women in the Constitution is the right to vote.

Currently, 37 states have voted to ratify the amendment. Only one more state is needed to make the amendment a reality.

There are constitutional scholars who argue both sides of the issue of a passed deadline and whether there is precedent to continue the process.

We asked City Council to support the concept of equal rights as they did a year ago when they adopted the resolution in support of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women.

Adopting the resolution in support of the ERA was the next step in supporting equal rights for women in the city of Charleston.

Most Americans believe the ERA already exists, that it’s old news. But if anything, the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, reiterating the continued second-class treatment of women in our society, shows us that the ERA is more important than ever.

As Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2011, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex.

The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”

The ERA would expand legal protections for women. The biggest impact would be to assure pay equity. The ERA would set a norm for equal pay and provide a basis for litigation and legislation to extend the same pay entitlements to women and men.

Women and their children are the vast majority of people in poverty in the United States. Despite laws guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, women on average are paid only 78 cents on the dollar compared to men — even less for African-American women and Latinas.

In South Carolina, if current trends continue, women will not see pay equity until 2088 — 69 years from now. It is time to recognize that we can do better by our female citizens.

We asked that City Council unanimously adopt this resolution, which they did on Feb. 12. Two bills are now under consideration in the General Assembly, H.3391 and H.3340.

Our thanks to Mayor John Tecklenberg and the members of council for their support.

Jennet Robinson Alterman

Chair

Charleston Commission on Women

Queen Street

Charleston

Carol Jackson

Vice Chair and Council Member

Charleston Commission on Women

Patterson Drive

Charleston

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