It's time America put equal rights for women in the US Constitution.
Some members of Congress are looking to do something long overdue: pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Recently renamed the Women's Equality Amendment, it would grant equal constitutional rights to women – something we have yet to achieve. This simple concept had the blessing of both political parties until the Republicans struck it from their platform in 1980, with the Democrats following suit in 2004.
Why is the amendment needed? Twenty-three countries – including Sri Lanka and Moldova – have smaller gender gaps in education, politics, and health than the United States, according to the World Economic Forum. America is 68th in the world in women's participation in national legislatures.
On average, a woman working full time and year-round still makes only 77 cents to a man's dollar. Women hold 98 percent of the low-paying "women's" jobs and fewer than 15 percent of the board seats at major corporations.
Because their private pensions – if they have them at all – are lower and because Social Security puts working women at a disadvantage and grants no credit for years spent at home caring for children or aging parents, three-quarters of the elderly in poverty are women. And in every state except Montana, women still pay higher rates than similarly situated men for almost all kinds of insurance. All that could change if we put equal rights for women in the US Constitution.
Some say action isn't needed because the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment already guarantees rights for women. It would be great if that were so. But courts have failed to hold sex discrimination to the same level of scrutiny under the 14th Amendment as is applied, for example, to race discrimination, meaning that many discriminatory practices – barring women from certain military jobs, establishing boys-only public classrooms and schools, and open discrimination against women in insurance programs, to name a few – are still legal.