This expert brief was presented at the Brennan Center’s 2018 Equal Rights Amendment Symposium with NYU Review of Law & Social Change.
A robust national campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment conceded defeat in 1982 when ratification fell short by three of the 38 states needed to prevail. But in 2017, the Nevada legislature cast its vote to ratify the ERA, followed by Illinois in 2018, marking a revival. Now national movement leaders and legislators in several states—notably, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia — are rallying to achieve the 38-state threshold.
Over the nearly four decades in between, of course, much has changed in American life and law. The fight for gender equality under the law has made significant headway — from the evolution of Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence in sex discrimination cases, to advances in employment and economic policies, to the now vibrant and potent era of activism defined by campaigns like #MeToo and #TIMESUP.
Well beyond the symbolic significance of enshrining gender equality in the Constitution, there are lingering legal and policy inequities the ERA would help rectify — among these, workplace discrimination, including on account of pregnancy; paid family leave; and increased protection from violence and harassment. Other benefits include the ability of Congress to enforce gender equality through legislation and, more generally, creation of a social framework to formally acknowledge systemic biases that permeate and often limit women’s daily experiences.
There is one issue, in particular—an emerging area of U.S. policymaking — that falls squarely at the intersection of these goals and outcomes, but is largely absent from ERA discourse thus far: menstruation and the emerging movement for “menstrual equity.” This essay describes the progress of that agenda through policy advocacy, litigation, and social activism, and explains why menstrual equity belongs in discourse about — and will be an invaluable asset for — the campaign to ratify the ERA.
Read the full essay: