A legal manifesto to revive the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ERA came so close to ratification so long ago that some readers might think it has already been passed, while others might wonder whether it’s still necessary. As the founder of Equality Now, Neuwirth writes, “The goal of this book is to help women and men get fired up enough about the absence of this fundamental human right to put it into the Constitution once and for all.” She shows how much momentum the movement originally had and how close it came to passage (three states short of the necessary 38 by its 1982 deadline, after Congress had passed it to overwhelming public support in 1972) and how conservative resistance raised fears of things that have already transpired even without the ERA: “What were the fears at the time? Fear of women in combat, fear of unisex bathrooms, fear of gay rights, and the unimaginable prospect of same-sex marriage all fed the flames.” Yet the disparity of wages for workers of different genders doing the same work has yet to be corrected, and pregnancy remains cause for employment termination according to some courts. Furthermore, violence against women, hardly a focus of the original campaign, has become even more of a hot-button issue. This book is mainly a summary of court decisions, in the states and at the Supreme Court, which isn’t likely to get readers fired up about much of anything, and the conclusion finds the author admitting that “the way our Constitution works, we cannot say with certainty what exactly the ERA will or won’t do for women who are hoping it will end sex discrimination.”
Neuwirth makes a good case that ratification is the right thing to do, but her matter-of-fact style won’t do much to rally the troops.