Our Letter to Senator Hagan about the ERA

Dear Senator Hagan:

We are writing on behalf of Equal Rights Amendment North Carolina Citizens Task Force (ERANC-CTF), a grassroots organization dedicated to ensuring that the ERA becomes part of the U.S. Constitution.

In particular, our members urge you to introduce in the Senate a resolution similar to HJR 47 by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, which will eliminate the deadline for ratification and make the ERA part of the Constitution when three more states ratify , thus completing the required  total of 38.

Our organization is working to win ratification in North Carolina in 2013. Some of us have worked for equal rights for women for decades: Roberta for more than 40 years in Louisiana and North Carolina, and Nancy, more recently, for the past four years as President of the Henderson County League of Women Voters.

Your consistent support of equal pay legislation is deeply appreciated. A major example of why women need bedrock constitutional protection is the persistence of gross pay inequities. Over the last several decades, women have averaged only around three-fourths of what men with the same education and the same jobs have earned. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling against women in the Wal-Mart case underscores that we have no constitutional protection.

Another example is the unequal treatment of women in the military. It is unfortunate that Senator Sam Ervin, who otherwise served our nation honorably, succeeded in blocking the amendment in our state. He had opposed it while in the Senate, proposing an amendment to exempt women from the draft (the amendment overwhelmingly failed). When it came before the General Assembly here, he used his influence to defeat it, calling it “the height of folly to command legislative bodies to ignore sex in making laws.”

Opponents of equal rights for women often relied on Ervin’s argument about the draft. What they ignored was that Congress has always had the power to draft women. In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal years 1992-93, Congress rescinded female combat exemption laws, after which the Clinton administration opened a quarter million previously closed combat positions to women.

The Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard provide these figures: as of September 30, 2010, a total of 213,823 women were in active duty (14.5 percent of the total), while 72,182 served in the Reserve and National Guard (15.2 percent). More than 40,000 women served in the war in Iraq, and the Marine Corps awarded 23 women the Combat Action Ribbon for service in the Persian Gulf War because they were engaged by Iraqi troops. And North Carolina has 69,617 women veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

How sadly ironic that these women bravely serve our nation, but they do not enjoy equal rights. In February of this year, a landmark lawsuit was filed against the Defense Secretary and his predecessor, alleging that the military created a culture where violence against women was tolerated. According to the Department of Defense’s own statistics, one in three women reported having been sexually violated while serving in the military. Female soldiers are much more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed in combat. Yet the military has been slow to respond. Only 8 percent of 2,212 sexual assaults were referred to courts martial, as compared to 40 percent of civilians arrested on such charges who are prosecuted.

We believe that the Equal Rights Amendment would require that the military should not be immune from laws regarding rape, sexual discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Women’s Equality Day is coming up on August 26, and we think it would be wonderful if you would announce on that day that you have introduced the resolution to eliminate the ERA deadline. We will bring women from across the state for the announcement.

The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in 1923. Eighty-eight years later, it is past time to guarantee equal rights to women–more than half our citizens. We hope that the long term effect of an Equal Rights Amendment would be to bring about social change to demonstrate a strengthening of partnerships between men and women, a heightened respect, a gradual lessening of the ancient programming that deems women as inferior and all that philosophy has manifested over hundreds of years.  The ERA is a movement in the right direction…it is the right thing to do…and its time has more than arrived.

We look forward to your response.

Yours truly,

Roberta M. Madden
Nancy Glowacki

Equal Rights Amendment North Carolina Citizens Task Force

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