The Text of The Equal Rights Amendment
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged
by the States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the United power to enforce,
by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date or ratification.
Equality of Rights
The Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) would amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. It would give women the same protections afforded men and allow women to use the courts to advocate for full equality.
Legal Status of Women
The U.S. Constitution was adopted under the influence of English Common Law that did not regard women as “persons” but merely the property of their fathers and husbands. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, provides that no state shall “…deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Yet, it goes on to appoint voting districts in terms of “eligible male voters.” Consequently, the U.S. Supreme Court said, in effect, the amendment did not apply to women and hence the Court denied women the right to vote, practice law, serve on juries, and to have equal employment opportunities. Statutes and court decisions now give women these rights. Nonetheless, it took 72 years for women to gain the U.S. Constitutional right to vote with the 19th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme court has not declared “sex” a suspect classification as are race, religion, and national origin. Therefore, full equality under the law cannot be expected to be derived from the 14th Amendment.
History of the E.R.A.
Resolutions proposing an Equal Rights Amendment were introduced in every session of the U.S. Congress beginning in 1923. The E.R.A. passed the U.S. House in 1971, and the U.S. Senate the following year. A seven-year time-limit for ratification was imposed. This meant that ratification by three-fourths (38) of the states were expected to be completed within that timeframe. The U.S. Congress later decided that the time limit was a flexible guideline and extended the timeframe an additional three years from 1979 to 1982. The Equal Rights Amendment fell three states short of the required 38 for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment.
Resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment
In late January 2004, the Rev. Katrina Martha Van Alstyne Welles Swanson, who was one of the “Philadelphia Eleven”, (a group of women “irregularly” ordained as priest in The Episcopal Church against canonical law, then retroactively recognized them at the “Washington Four” at the 1976 General Convention of The Episcopal Church, making them the first women priest in the U.S.A.), requested that Helene de Boissière, her daughter-in-law, continue with the family ministry of promoting the full inclusion of women in the Church and in Society – in particular promoting the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.). The following year on the night a hurricane bearing her name hit New Orleans, which was also Women’s Equality Day, Katrina passed away. During the days that followed Helene, her husband William Swanson, father-in-law the Rev. George Swanson, and the Rev. Robert T. Coolidge (retired archivist of the Monticello Association) founded Katrina’s Dream. Then a family team consisting of George, Robert, William and Helene, and their sons Robert “River” and Harold “Harry” went to the 2008 Lambeth Conference to garner support for the budding ministry.
Following the 2008 Lambeth Conference, George, William, and Helene began knocking on the doors of the U.S. Congress. It was during that time that Zoe Nicholson, a lifelong member of the National Organization for Women and a member of the Veteran Feminists of America directed Helene to speak with the U.S. House Sub-committee on Judicial Affairs who then redirected to speak with the office of U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin. It was at Baldwin’s offices that she learnt of the efforts to resurrect the E.R. A. under the three-state strategy approach drafted by Carolyn Cook and several others of United 4 Equality. It was during that time that Rep. Tammy Baldwin requested Helene to reach to the Episcopal Church for support. Katrina’s Dream had an exhibitor’s booth at the 2009 General Convention of The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, where they promoted the passage of Resolution D042 titled Renew Support for Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment which was first crafted by Roberta W. Francis author of the website EqualRightsAmendment.org, and API’s ERA Education Consultant and Founding Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and authored by Delegate Rev. Dianne Clark of the Diocese of Newark to House of Deputies, a resolution passed on the Consent Calendar.
On March 8, 2011, citing support from Katrina’s Dream and other organizations, U.S. Representative Baldwin chose International Women’s Day to introduce legislation to pass the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution, removing the deadline – the “Three State Strategy” that resurrected the E.R.A. It was at the 2011 Veteran Feminist of America’s conference held in Ft. Worth, Texas, that Helene first met Kamala Lopez who went on to make the documentary Equal Means Equal. The documentary has inspired and educated many women in the renewed efforts to pass the E.R.A.
On March 8, 2014, following the death of her husband and with the support from Monalisa Wallace of the San Francisco NOW Chapter and Toby Blome of Code Pink, Helene embarked on a pilgrimage to Washington D.C., leaving from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. It was in Salt Lake City, Utah, that Portia Boulger, a grassroots activist and Co-Founder of ERA Action, reached to assist her and initiated helping organize meetings with members of the U.S. Congress’ District offices. At the meeting with U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, she was joined by constituents Kate Kelly of Ordain Women, Chelsea Shields Strayer of Mormons of the Equal Rights Amendment, Mark Barnes, a well-noted law professor from a founding family of the Mormon Church, and several others who joined in telephonically.
In 2014, Portia introduced Helene to her daughter, Tammy Simkins, Co-Founder/Co-Director of ERA Action. Tammy had been working on the “Three State Strategy” since February of 2012 and was the co-author–along with Luanne Smith of ERA NOW– and coordinator of the successful 2013 E.R.A. “We The People” White House Petition, which got the Obama Administration’s support of the E.R.A. on the record by collecting the necessary 25,000 signatures in the required thirty days and led to the formation of ERA Action. Portia on behalf of Katrina’s Dream and Sandy Oestreich, Founder of the National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance staffed Katrina’s Dream Exhibitor’s Table at the rally organized by ERA Action, Progressive Democrats of America and We Are Woman in Washington D.C. on Constitution Day in 2014. Cathy Kaelin, a Co-Founder/Co-Director of ERA Action continued to facilitate the teleconferences. Helene arrived in Washington, D.C., on August 26, 2015, covering over 7,000 miles.
Many organizations were represented as they rallied at the Upper Senate Park at the National Mall such as ERA Coalition, Unite Women and Women Matter, ERA NOW and the National Organization for Women.
Helene continued to hold rallies for the next two years walking from St. Stephen’s and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington D.C., passing by the White House where they would gather at the Upper Senate Park. At these events, many came together forming a collective of like-minded people speaking to the need for passing the E.R.A. They are: Dr. Kimberly S. Adams, Adams Political Research & Consulting and Professor of Political Science at East Stroudsburg University; Delegate Angela M. Angel, Maryland General Assembly; Ms. Triana Arnold-James, Reigning Mrs. Georgia, Founder of The Susan Jolley Awareness Program; Eileen Davis, Women Matter; Sharon J. Hill, National Women’s Political Caucus, National First Vice President of Development; Jacqueline Nantier Hopewell, We Are Woman; Sabrina McKenzie, Legislative Clergy Council, Dancing Preachers International; Tammy Simkins, ERA Action; Nevada State Senator Patricia Spearman, Pastor Dr. E. Faye Williams, National Congress of Black Women; Portia Boulger, Appalachians Rising; Holly Joseph and Linda Smith of MD NOW and ERA Action; Senator Roger Manno – Maryland State Senator; Don Christensen, Colonel USAF (Ret). – President of Protect Our Defenders; and Kylie Narantsin – Vice president of U.S. China Chamber of Commerce to name a few.
During that time the 2015 Nevada General Assembly introduced their first bill calling for Nevada to ratify. Helene’s’ pilgrimage was cited as the inspiration. The following legislative session many organizations came together through the auspices of Janette Dean to move the 2017 Nevada General Assembly. Nevada then ratified the Equal Rights Amendment and it was accepted by the National Archivist and Records Administration (N.A.R.A.). On May 30, 2018, Illinois followed suit with the help of Jeanne Marie Dauray and Andrea Miller of People Demanding Action, Michelle Flattery of Illinois NOW. That too was accepted by the NARA, On January 15, 2020, through the organizational efforts of the ERA Coalition, Equal Means Equal, VA Ratify the ERA, and so very many more Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the E.R.A.
Sharon J. Hill who joined the program The Call in the summer of 2017 to become one of the three hosts who have consistently call upon the U.S. Congress to procedural remedy retroactively remove the deadline on the E.R.A. as authorized under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Freeda Cathcart of By the Women for the Women Vote pinched hit as a co-host from time to time. The Call has been held continuously since the historic pilgrimage with Guest Speakers from who represent a diverse group of folks from across the nation. It was Sharon’s efforts to move members of the U.S. Congress from Georgia to ratify that pushed the necessary 218 co-sponsors to hold the house vote. U.S. Representative Jackie Speier along with U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney continued to push forward inching each step of the way. On April 30, 2019, Helene’s written testimony was entered into the record at the U.S. House Judiciary’s U.S. Constitutional Sub-committee Hearing. Then the following February 13, 2020, the U.S. House held the vote on HJ Res. 79 and with a resounding YEA votes it crossed over to the U.S. Senate.
Senators Ben Cardin and Lisa Murkowski Lead Sponsors of the companion bill SJ Res 6 in the U.S. Senate are working together to bridge both sides of the aisle to come together on the principles this country was founded upon.
Katrina’s Dream held its first parallel event Let’s Pass the Equal Rights Amendment at the 63rd United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women’s conference on March 11, 2019. The attendees were welcomed by Bishop Musonda Selwyn Trevor Mwamba, and was facilitated by Helene and the panel consisted of Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of ERA Coalition; Kate Kelly, Human Rights Attorney at Equality NOW; Gilda Yazzie, Vice-President of National Organization for Women and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and Professor Julie Chi-Suk, followed by a Q & A session. A satellite event was held by the Chillicothe-Ross Valley County League of Women Voters. Sharon stood vigil at the steps of the Georgia State Capitol Building.
Katrina’s Dream was to hold its second event Going Global at this year’s 2020 UN CSW 64/ Beijing Platform 25 + Conference. Unfortunately, the event along with many other parallel events was canceled due to the covid-19 global outbreak as the health of the 50,000 + delegates, attendees and participants from across the globe are a priority. Efforts are now well on their way as many regroup. Katrina’s Dream is donating the refunded monies by UN CSW back to that organization to further support their good work.
Sharon J. Hill, Tammy Simkins and Helene de Boissière are actively engaged in the last step to pass the E.R.A. into the U.S. Constitution. That step is to get a supermajority of 60 co-sponsors to sign on to SJ Res. 6, the companion resolution to the U.S House bill. When both Chambers remove the deadline, the Equal Rights Amendment will pass into the U.S. Constitution and all will be equal under the law. Utilizing The Call program They will be calling upon the offices of U.S. Senators in the weeks to come and invite all to participate. On The Call we will be calling two U.S. Senator petition them to Co-Sponsor S.J. Res. so that U.S. Senator Murkowski can follow up with them directly. We ask that every one join the program and add their voice to effectively engage each office.
For those unavailable please see the Power of 10 for more details on how you can participate no matter where you
The Call program is a national weekly non-partisan effort to promote and educate folks on the Equal Rights Amendment and is under the umbrella of Katrina’s Dream. The program is hosted by Helene, Sharon, and Tammy and from time to time has Guest Hosts. The program follows a tight agenda. Opening with a welcoming message, then a meditation, self-introductions, guest speakers followed with Q & A. Then reports are given by various organizations from across the county and calls to actions and events are announced. After the closing thoughts. The programs flows into Salon Time where the conversation continues where together we will build friendships and networks, support wanderings, share wisdom, identify complexities, listen to frustrations, and celebrate successes. The line will remain open for those wishing to continue the conversation.
Past Guest Speakers include: Christopher Coolidge, lifetime member of the Monticello Association and member of the Libertarian Party; Erica Jong, Author: Fear of Flying; Rebecca McHood Olson, Arizona Ratify ERA; Kobby Hoffman, National Organization of Women’s E.R.A. Task Force; Bettina Hager, ERA Coalition; Melvin C. Belli, The Belli Law Office; Jeanne Sweeney, Rethinking Eve; Robert M. Rudl, real estate developer and member of the Republican Party; Fenika Miller, Mist Rising; Barbara Arnwine, Transformative Justice Network; Janis L. Frazee, League of Women Voters Leelanau County-Michigan -LWVLC; Laura Carter Callow, Michigan ERAmerica; Julie Chi-hye Suk, Dean of Masters programs CUNY and Author; Diane Post, Central AZ National Lawyers Guild; Victoria Steele, Arizona State Senator; Sheila Selkregg, Former Alaska State Director U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Professor of Urban Planning University of Anchorage Alaska; Felicia Davis, Black Women’s Roundtable, BWR Convener, Clayton County; Diane Danis, Heroes Media Group Sr. Ambassador and Lead Training/Policy Advisor; Charles Holsoppel, Project222.org; Georgia State Representative Billy Mitchell; Sherry MacQueen, League of Women Voters North Carolina; Carol Jenkins, President and CEO ERA Coalition; Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell; Virginia State Representative Jennifer Carroll Foy; Leslie Rubio, Co-Founders of Women Matter Use Your Power, Board Member Virginia NARAL; Mona Lisa Wallace, Attorney at Law; Virginia State Delegate Hala Ayala; Pastor Dr. E. Faye Williams, National Black Women’s Congress; Audri Scott Williams, Global Trustee for URI (United Religions Initiative) and Recipient of Service to Humanity Award by President Clinton; Kate Kelly, Human Rights Attorney at Equality NOW; Wendy Murphy, Attorney at Law and Co-Director of the Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Project/Center for Law and Social Responsibility; Betty Folliard, ERA MN and Former State Representative Minnesota; Former Illinois Representative Steve Anderson; Dr. Kristin Kent, 1923.org; Janette Dean, ERA Advocate and Environmentalist, Nevada State Senator Patricia Spearmen; and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.