A joint OpEd by Gloria Steinem and Steve Andersson

PORTMAN SHOULD SUPPORT EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

by Steve A. Andersson and Gloria Steinem

I, Steve, am a Republican, and I, Gloria, am a Democrat. We also are different in our lifetime occupations, from working as an attorney-at-law and former Republican member of the Illinois State House of Representatives to being a freelance writer and organizer of the women’s movement here and in other countries.

But we write now with the good news that we have come together on a principle that is basic to our democracy. So have nearly eighty percent of Americans, from both political parties, and from all geographical and racial groups. We are all part of the huge majority that supports the Equal Rights Amendment and equality for women equal under the U.S. Constitution. 

Indeed, one of the barriers for the ERA has been the assumption of many Americans that women are already equal under the Constitution. Yet this is not true. When the Founding Fathers wrote, “All men are created equal,” that’s exactly what they meant. And that’s what has endured.  

If we want to protect both men and women from injustice, the U.S. Constitution must make clear that government cannot discriminate against any citizen on the basis of sex. The reality of our democracy depends on it.

Because both of us are proud Midwesterners, and also because your Ohio Senator Rob Portman has himself called for unity, we are asking that you who live in Ohio and are reading these words make sure that Senator Portman votes for the ERA, and that he uses his great political skills to guide its passage into law. 

Senator Portman would not be alone as a Republican supporting the ERA. This bill already has cosponsorship from his Republican colleagues in the House and the Senate, including Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins who are in the leadership of conscience. They have taken the first step by articulating a clear vision for the ERA as a bipartisan and unifying bill. Now it is time for Senator Portman to stand in partnership with them, and give the ERA his public and strategic support. 

We write because you who are reading this are his constituents. He himself has said that we need more bipartisanship and unity in our politics. Yet he cannot demand of others what he is not willing to offer by his actions. Only his vote to support the Equal Rights Amendment can put action, heart and meaning behind his words. By asking that he do this, you are proving that democracy is, like a tree, a reality that can only grow from the bottom up.

And remember, the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced nearly a century ago in 1923. Also as required of all amendments, it has passed both houses of Congress, and been ratified by the necessary 38 states. All that remains to provide equality under the Constitution is a vote to remove an arbitrary deadline, something that has been imposed on no other Constitutional Amendment, and make equality the law of the land. 

Indeed, Ohio has already voted to support the ERA by ratifying the Amendment in 1974. Yet the reality for women in Ohio does not match up to these shared values. In a 2020 study, Ohio ranked 9th worst in the country for women’s equality. Women here are more likely than men to live in poverty

Ohio women earn, on average, nearly $11,000 dollars less than Ohio men even though women are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in 67 percent of Ohio families. And this has not even taken into account the pandemic, which has left millions of women around the country unemployed or unable to work because of caregiving responsibilities. One study identified this uniquely challenging impact of the pandemic specifically on women in Northeast Ohio. Study after study shows the damage done to our economy — and the harm caused to our families — when women are not treated equally. 

That’s why the biggest business leaders in the country, from the NFL to PepsiCo, have already declared their support for the ERA. They know it’s good for business and good for women and families. 

As the GOP4ERA organization clearly articulates, the ERA reflects core Republican values of individual rights and responsibilities, limited government intervention in the lives of our citizens and a huge boost to our economy.    

The ERA will create real avenues of legal recourse for people who face discrimination under the law on the basis of sex, and ensure that the Supreme Court applies the same standard of review for sex discrimination cases as it applies to cases of discrimination based on race and national origin. 

We urge all who are reading these words to contact Senator Portman, and ask him to stand with his colleagues and support the Equal Rights Amendment. We who are writing these words are also Midwesterners — Steve, from Illinois, Gloria, from Ohio — and this will make us proud.

Gloria Steinem, a Toledo Native, is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. Among the many organizations she co-founded are the Women’s Action Alliance, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Media Center, Voters for Choice, and Choice USA. She was the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women. She also co-founded Ms. Magazine and helped to found New York magazine. Follow her on Twitter @GloriaSteinem.

Steve Andersson is the Executive Director of the GOP for the ERA and a Commissioner of Human Rights for the State of Illinois appointed by Illinois’ Governor JB Pritzker. He is also a retired member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Follow him on Twitter @Illinois_Steve.

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