The Equal Rights Amendment: A Step Toward Racial Justice

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee equal rights and protections under the law for all citizens, regardless of gender.

Although the amendment has not yet been added to the Constitution, its connection to racial justice is an important aspect to consider.

Hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee, February 28, 2023. Photo credit: Steve Barrett/ERA Coalition

The ERA was first proposed in 1923, and it was reintroduced in every session of Congress until it finally passed in 1972. However, in order to become a part of the Constitution, it needed to be ratified by 38 states - a time limit in the amendment's preamble also included an arbitrary deadline for ratification.

While 35 states ratified the ERA almost immediately, the final three states required only recently ratified in the last handful of years.

The Senate recently held a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment this past February 28th, 2023; the fight toward equality for all continues.

To date: The Equal Rights Amendment has met ALL requirements set forth in Article V of the Constitution, though it has yet to be published.

Why the ERA Matters for Women of Color

One of the reasons why the ERA is related to racial justice is because of the intersectionality of oppression. Intersectionality is a term used to describe how different forms of oppression, such as racism and sexism, can overlap and reinforce each other.

Women of color, for example, face discrimination based on both their gender and their race.

 “Black women, historically, have been doubly victimized by the twin immoralities of Jim Crow and Jane Crow.”

- Pauli Murray
Hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee, February 28, 2023. Photo credit: Steve Barrett/ERA Coalition

The ERA would help to address the gender-based discrimination that all women face, but it would be particularly impactful for women of color who face a unique set of challenges.

In addition to the intersectionality of oppression, the ERA is intertwined with racial justice because of its potential to impact issues related to economic justice.

Women, and especially women of color, are more likely to live in poverty than men. The ERA could help to address this issue by providing women with greater protections in the workplace, such as equal pay for equal work.

Reproductive Justice and the Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment would help to address issues related to reproductive justice. Women of color are more likely to experience barriers to accessing reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortion.

The ERA could be used to help ensure that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, regardless of their race.

The ERA would also help to challenge systemic discrimination. The amendment would provide a legal framework for challenging laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of gender.

Featured in the above screenshot from the ERA 101 town hall is (clockwise from top left): Bettina Hager, Michele Goodwin, Jennifer Carroll Foy, and Julie Sulk.

This could have an impact on laws and policies that disproportionately impact Women of Color, such as voter suppression laws and policies related to the criminal justice system.

Join us for our virtual town halls where we discuss all the ways the ERA connects to our lives and our intersecting identities, and what we can do to ensure equality for all now and in the future!

You can even watch recordings of previous town halls here.

The Equal Rights Amendment is related to racial justice because of the intersectionality of oppression, its potential impact on economic and reproductive justice, and its ability to challenge systemic discrimination.

While the ERA has yet to be added to the Constitution officially, its potential impact on issues related to racial justice highlights the importance of continued advocacy for its publication.

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Check out these resources for a little more background on the ERA:

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