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The United States Women’s National Soccer Team is a voice of change in America — 60,000 fans in a French stadium, 30,000 people at a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and hundreds of thousands of digital fans around the world are shouting, tweeting and echoing the message of equal pay.
Sound familiar? Soccer fans will remember the team’s 1995 boycott of Olympic training for the Summer Games in Atlanta, which shined a light on pay inequality within the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Unfortunately, not much has changed. In 2019, this shouldn’t be a fight that women still have to wage. But let’s also remember that women still don’t have equal rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.
The Equal Rights Amendment would change that, setting the principle in stone that women have equal rights — including the right to equal pay for equal work.
We are now just one state away from the 38 states required by the Constitution for ratification of an amendment. In April, the first congressional hearing on the ERA in 36 years took place. On July 25, the Senate held a briefing regarding the pending legislation in Congress to remove the 1982 deadline from the amendment, a deadline not required by the Constitution.
When the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team “finished the job” on the global stage, we recognized their defiance and achievement as a common thread for all women. Together we can lead the charge against pay inequality, gender-based violence, and all other forms of sex discrimination that degrade the fundamental idea that women are entitled to the same treatment as men.
The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world — the others are Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and the small island states of Palau and Tonga — that have not ratified the international bill of rights for women. We can be a true global leader for women’s rights; we just need the political will to do it.
One of the biggest challenges of the ERA Coalition is the public information gap on constitutional equality. We found that 94 percent of Americans polledsupport a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal protection of the sexes. And 80 percent of people think it already exists. That makes this a perfect time to join this movement.
When Alice Paul wrote the ERA in 1923, she did so as a natural next step from the women’s suffrage movement. Women won the right to vote but never suspected it would take 96 more years for suffrage to regain traction — nearly 100 years for a simple, commonsense sentence of 120 characters. The entire amendment can fit in a tweet with room to spare: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The Equal Rights Amendment will not immediately deliver equal pay for women across the board, but it is a first step towards real change. It will send the message at the highest level of our law that, as a matter of fundamental human rights, women are equal. And it will provide legal avenues of recourse that are more effective for women seeking justice for all forms of sex discrimination.
In the words of soccer star Megan Rapinoe: “The conversation is no longer about should we have equal pay, or should we be supporting women. It’s how do we support not only athletes but women in general.” This amendment isn’t about one issue or one group of women; the ERA is protection for all. It is proof that the U.S. government values everyone — equally.
Jessica Neuwirth is a founder and co-president of the ERA Coalition and author of the book “Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment is Now.” She directs the human rights program of The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. Follow her on Twitter@JessicaNeuwirth.
Carol Jenkins is an award-winning writer, producer and media consultant and co-president of the ERA Coalition. She was founding president of The Women’s Media Center, a national nonprofit, and former chair and current board member of Amref Health Africa, an African health organization. Follow her on Twitter @CarolJenkins.