Celebrate International Women’s Day, Support Constitutional Equality for Oregon Women
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate all that women have accomplished politically, socially and economically, and a day to reflect on the challenges we continue to face. Women have made many positive gains, but the world and even Oregon are still not equal, which is why VoteERA.org is spearheading an effort to get a state Equal Rights Amendment into the Oregon Constitution (www.VoteERA.org).
“Women’s voices and experiences need to shape every aspect of policy-making, including democracy, rule of law, good governance, and social sectors including education and health, and the economy.” The World Affairs Council recognizes this and is including Oregon’s VoteERA.org as part of its 2014 International Speaker Series – “Women Changing the World”, with the comment: “Could an Equal Rights Amendment be the next feather in the cap of Oregon’s tradition of bold global leadership?”
In the United States, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, have only a fraction of wealth that men have (Mariko Lin Chang, Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It), are poorly represented in governing bodies such as Congress and state legislatures, and have never held the presidency. Women have a 20 to 48 percent chance of being sexually assaulted if serving in the military.
In The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap report, ranking 134 countries for gender parity, the United States came in number 23, a point lower than 2012. The United States is the only industrialized nation that refuses to ratify the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which puts us in the company of Sudan, Somalia, and Iran.
Equality between men and women is guaranteed in the Constitutions of more than 139 countries and territories (UN Women, Pursuit of Justice, 2011-2012 Progress of the World’s Women); there is nothing in the United States Constitution that guarantees women the same rights as men. The federal Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which was first introduced in Congress in December, 1923, is still three states short of passage.
Twenty-two states explicitly guarantee equal rights for women in their constitutions; Oregon does not. Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution states that “no law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.” On the surface this appears to apply equally to men and women, but that was not its intent when ratified in 1859. It was many years before women had the rights to vote, own property, and many other rights enjoyed by men. Over the last 150 years Oregon women have made tremendous strides legally via statutes and case law, but we are still not expressly granted equality in the state constitution.
VoteERA.org is leading a petition signature drive to place a state equal rights amendment to Oregon’s Constitution on the November 2014 ballot. The language of the proposed amendment is straight forward: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.” The amendment has bi-partisan support and has been endorsed by both former Republican Governor Vic Atiyeh and former Democratic Congresswoman Darlene Hooley.
VoteERA.org needs 116,284 signatures to place it on the November ballot. Celebrate International Women’s Day by SIGNING and mailing in the e-petition today at www.VoteERA.org. VOLUNTEER to help gather signatures, and, if you can, DONATE. In the words of Alice Paul, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”
Nancy Campbell Mead
President, Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)