Why President Obama should push for the Equal Rights Amendment in America

In November, the women of America spoke with a voice that was loud, clear and unified, and it is now universally acknowledged that our votes helped President Obama win the election.
President Obama and his team worked very hard to convince us that he needed more time to ''be the change''. In the end, even in the face of severe economic problems and worrisome doubt about his abilities to push America back from the brink, we gave it to him.
We even have an historic number of women in the Senate -- 20 -- no doubt also helped by women''s votes. Women have a vision of a different America: an America that shows its citizens -- by actions and not just political lip -- that every single one of us is equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of gender, race, religion, politics or sexual orientation. It is an America led by brave men and women who will step up to the plate, work to unite this divided nation and start the healing so we can rebuild our economy, create more jobs and bolster our standing in the world once again.
What''s more, we want to go to sleep at night knowing that in the morning, our bodies will still belong to us, go to work every day and get the same amount of money in our paycheck each week as our male colleagues and rest easy knowing that we are protected by the U.S. Constitution.
That''s where the payback comes in.
I don''t mean to sound ungrateful. President Obama has shown a great deal of support for women on many levels, starting with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which he signed just nine days into his first term as President. That''s a solid beginning, and women across the country applauded this bold move. However, it''s time for the President to go beyond that.
It''s time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, a simple sentence that says it all:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Why do we need the Equal Rights Amendment? Last year, I asked Rep. Carolyn Maloney (who was reelected this week also) this same question. Here''s what she told me:
Laws can be repealed. Judicial attitudes can shift. We continue to see demonstrable cases of systemic gender discrimination -- even in this day and age, when women have come so far. Establishing the clear unambiguous language of the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution would have a real impact on our national consciousness. Our democracy rests on the principle of ''liberty and justice for all.'' We need the ERA to ensure that this concept applies equal to women.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) regularly reintroduces the Equal Rights Amendment to Congress, only to see it languish.
Where does the Equal Rights Amendment stand right now? It was passed out of Congress in 1972 and has been ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states. When three more states vote yes, it is possible that the ERA could become the 28th Amendment. On June 22, 2011, ERA ratification bills were introduced in the Senate (S.J.Res. 21) by lead sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and in the House of Representatives (H.J.Res. 69) by lead sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
On Mar. 8, 2011, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced H.J.Res. 47, which would remove the ERA''s ratification deadline and make it part of the Constitution when three more states ratify. The Senate companion bill, S.J.Res. 39, was introduced on Mar. 22, 2012 by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).
There is a goal in place to remove the original deadline and have the Equal Rights Amendment become a law in the U.S. Constitution when three more states ratify by 2015. Visit www.united4equality.com and ERA Now Facebook page for up-to-date information.
We are clearly forging ahead, but it''s going to take the full and public support of President Obama to make it happen by pushing the new Congress and the Senate to support it, too. Complacency will kill any chance of passing the Equal Rights Amendment, but we also need to change the tone of the discourse. Let''s stop thinking about it in terms of ''us against them,'' ''left vs. right,'' ''conservative vs. liberal'' and ''men vs. women.'' Reframe the issue of the Equal Rights Amendment and ask yourself this question:
Should women expect President Obama to put his power behind the Equal Rights Amendment?
Surely, a president who is the leader and protector of democracy in the world, and who has implored other countries to include the word "women" in their constitutions (Afghanistan and Iraq) will want to protect the legal rights of women in his own country. No doubt he would want this to be a key component of his presidential legacy. Right?
We''re counting on it.
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Barbara Hannah Grufferman writes about life after 50, positive aging, health, and women''s rights for AARP, Huffington Post and other media. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (BGrufferman).