Some Florida women are determined to fight for what they say is a guarantee for equal rights in the law.
Advocates want Florida to ratify the U.S. Equal Rights Amendment gathered at the Capitol this week to fight for the legislation. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment earlier this month, which is the number of states needed to change the U.S. Constitution. But the deadline for the ERA ratification by the states passed decades ago.
Democrats Rep. Fentrice Driskell is sponsoring the House bill (HCR 239) while Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson is sponsoring the companion bill (SCR 392). Neither have been heard yet in committee.
What’s giving the Florida activists hope is the action of three Democratic state attorneys general who have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice after it said it would not move to certify the ERA’s adoption.
Barbara DeVane, a lobbyist for the Florida National Organization for Women, said there’s no deadline on women’s equality.
“We’re going to keep it alive in Florida,” she said. “We do want to be the 39th state.”
There are bills filed in Congress to do away with the deadline, which could allow the amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution. It’s likely the House will vote on the legislation this year.
DeVane said the U.S. House is scheduled to vote on HJR 79 on Feb. 10, but it’s likely the U.S. Senate will not hold a vote because of the highly partisan nature of the issue.
But it’s also not a male-versus-female divide either. Many women believe current anti-discrimination laws already protect them. Some women say the ERA would actually make women less equal.
The deadline was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982. The attorneys general argue it’s not binding. The Justice Department has ruled the amendment process has to start again.
The ERA states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”