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On January 27, almost 100 years after the presentation in the United States Congress of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by suffragist Alice Paul, congressmen and feminist groups affirmed that it is already part of the Constitution. Indeed, two years after a total of 38 states approved it, the amendment was to become the law of the country. However, although the necessary legal steps have been taken, it has been the subject of political dispute and has not been formally published. The prolongation of this centuries-old struggle illuminates the complexity of the legal labyrinths in the United States and, above all, the extreme politicization of women’s rights in an undermined and threatened “democracy”.

The struggle of women for their rights has never been easy. Achieving constitutional equality has been even more difficult than obtaining the vote; it gives a right but does not protect against discrimination and inequalities. Thus, the United States is one of the few countries whose constitution does not include a gender equality clause.

Passed by both Congress and the Senate in 1971, the ERA was only ratified by 2/3 of the states in 2020. Its publication has since been prevented by a Trump administration Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Opinion that determined that its ratification period had expired. This resource to torpedo constitutional equality was based on the preamble that specified a term of 7 years to do so, which lawyers and feminists consider absurd because that term is not in the text and other amendments have not been discarded for that reason. Against this stumbling block that the nation’s archivist has used as a pretext for not publishing it, prosecutors from three states filed legal appeals and the Biden government has issued a new legal opinion that contradicts the previous one.

On January 27, President Biden expressed his support for the ERA in an official statement, called on Congress to ratify its validity (although strictly speaking it is not necessary), clarified that the most recent legal opinion (of his administration) states that there is no impediment to publish it and stated that: “No one should be discriminated against for reasons of sex and we, as a nation, must defend the complete equality of women.”

The stone in the shoe of legality in this process is the Senate, dominated by Republicans, which has not yet voted on the resolution that recognizes the baselessness of the argument of the ratification deadline. Since Biden’s initiative to end the lengthy filibuster sabotage failed, it is unlikely that the Senate will soon vote in favor of the amendment. The easiest way would be for the archivist to publish it and thus formalize its inclusion in the constitution, taking into account its approval half a century ago and the ratification of the necessary states. The underlying problem is that conservatives oppose equality for women.

Who is afraid of inscribing equality in the constitution? First, the anti-rights groups and representatives, because they know that this amendment will hinder the laws that criminalize abortion; economic agents see it as a threat. The conservative Supreme Court has also failed to prioritize gender equality.

For feminists, the ERA is essential to strengthen labor equality and so that protection against misogynistic violence does not depend on the Act against Violence against Women, whose validity expired in 2018 and was only renewed in 2021.

In light of the lukewarmness of Congress and especially the Republican Party in the face of Trump’s dictatorial aspirations, feminists represent an example of the permanent struggle for rights and true democracy, which includes women on an equal footing.

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Lucia Melgar

culture criticism

transmutations

She is a professor of literature and gender and cultural criticism. Doctor in Latin American literature from the University of Chicago (1996), with a master’s degree in history from the same university (1988) and a bachelor’s degree in social sciences (ITAM, 1986).




www.eleconomista.com.mx

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