December 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm
More than 90 years after the women’s suffrage movement in the United States culminated with the Nineteenth Amendment — giving women the right to vote — Florida Rep. Lori Berman (D-Lantana) has renewed a push to extend equal rights protections to women under the United States Constitution.
Authored by Alice Paul and first introduced to Congress in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972.
It failed to become the Twenty-eighth Amendment after three states of the needed 38 states failed to ratify it.
Berman, elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2010, has set out to make Florida the 36th state to ratify it — despite uncertainties over whether too much time has passed for the proposed amendment to still be viable.
“There is precedent for it going on,” Berman said. “I’m sure if that if Florida was one of those states we could make sure that it could become an amendment to the Constitution.”
Earlier this month, Berman filed HCR 8001, legislation that would provide for Florida to ratify the ERA.
“The Equal Rights Amendment will offer Constitutional protection to a woman’s right to equality,” she said. “I have always been a strong advocate and proponent for women’s rights in all arenas and this is an inherent part of being an American.”
Berman said President Abraham Lincoln, who pushed for the end of slavery in 1864, used the Thirteenth Amendment to lock in the end of slavery.
Supporters said the ERA would improve conditions for women in the workplace and, possibly, guarantee equal pay.
In 2011, women — on average — earned 77 percent of what men made, according to the U.S. Census.
Sheila Jaffe, a South Florida resident and retired nurse, said discrimination was common in the workplace.
“It was very acceptable for employers to discriminate against women, saying, “well, they’re going to leave the workforce and they’re going to have children and that’s why we can pay them less,” she said. “It would be better for our country if women were given equal rights.”
For all the progress the United States has made as a nation, Tom Duncan, the president of Northwood University, said the push for equality could lead to unintended consequences.
“A lot of people are going to look at that and say, “well, you know, we want equality when it comes to pay, to jobs, to employment, to lending — across the board — [but] if you ask people in the United States, “do you want to draft women in case of a major war,” you might get a different answer on that.”
This week, a petition was created on The White House Web site, to encourage the administration to campaign for the ratification of the ERA.