By Linda Cicoira
More than 53 percent of Accomack and Northampton residents who participated in a survey conducted last week by the Eastern Shore Post want Virginia legislators to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment when the General Assembly meets later this month.
Twenty percent were opposed and about 27 percent were born after the ERA was first debated and were unaware of it. Some simply had not yet made up their minds.
The ERA was “designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex,” according to equalrightsamendment.org “It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.”
Petula Dvorak, a columnist for The Washington Post, stated in a November 2018 article, “The Equal Rights Amendment, a simple rule to give the majority of this nation’s population equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, has been futzed, fiddled with and fought over for 95 years.”
“It is a disgrace that women still aren’t guaranteed constitutional rights,” wrote Linda Nicola, of Onancock. “All the fears that previously derailed the ERA are settled, women serving in the military was a big one that I remember. There is no excuse to not ratify the ERA.”
Bruce MacMaster Jr., of Onley, saw it differently. “Honestly, in my humble opinion, and speaking here from my kitchen, it wouldn’t make a difference. Anyone who has taken the time to read the ERA document should see that it does not do anything for women, minorities, or any other group. Everything named in the ERA document everyone in the commonwealth can do under the protection of the law today … the ERA serves only as a political football when the politicians have nothing else to throw at each other.”
Angie Crutchley, of Exmore, was born six years after the amendment was reintroduced and wasn’t familiar with it. But age really doesn’t matter. Robert Doughty, of South Chesconessex, is retired and has had time to consider it. Still, he stated, “The jury is still out on that one.”
Beverly Lynch, of Painter, was opposed. The “ERA is flawed. Besides, we already have equal rights under the constitution.”
“I don’t see how that would give any more rights than those that already exist,” said Anthony LoFaso, of Onancock. “I’m afraid of loopholes that may appear to take advantage of the law and expand it to cover persons beyond the intent of the bill.”
Other men and women simply answered, “Yes,” or “Of course.” Still others wanted to investigate it before they decided.
Accomack Supervisor Reneta Major brought the amendment up at a meeting of her peers in December and is hoping to get unanimous approval this month to send positive thoughts in a letter to Richmond. The Cape Charles Town Council passed a resolution supporting the amendment (see related story on Page 2).
The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, three years after women won the right to vote. In 1972, the amendment was reintroduced and passed. But it had to be ratified by 38 states and it took nearly 47 years to get 37 states to endorse it. Bills that would ratify are set to go before legislators in Virginia and North Carolina this year.
But with the deadline for ratification along with an extension having long passed, it could be a battle.
One issue of the ERA is equal pay for equal work. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal in the U.S. for men and women working in the same position for the same employer to get different salaries. “The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content, not job titles, determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.”
According to the National Women’s Law Center, “Women in the U.S. who work full time, year-round, are paid … 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger. Women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels — and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress.”
By Linda Cicoira