In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment which proposes that civil rights may not be denied on the basis of one’s sex. In 1975, North Dakota became the 34th state to ratify the ERA. Forty-four years later, we sit one state shy of the three-fourths state majority needed to add the ERA to the Constitution.
It’s hard to believe that it’s 2019 and women’s rights still aren’t equally protected under the supreme law of our country. It’s a blatant reminder that though much progress has been made by way of women’s rights, women remain second-class citizens. Our status has been only modestly improved by advancements that remain at the mercy of a simple majority vote.
I’m not sure what’s more surprising, that North Dakota was on the right side of history with its early ratification of the ERA, or that decades later, the Legislature seems to be working backwards. HCR 3037 is through the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The resolution proposes that ND rescind its ratification of the ERA. The reasoning? The 1975 ratification is no longer valid since the 1979 deadline for ratification has been eclipsed. OK, then why go through the effort to nullify the state’s ratification? Even if the state’s ratification is no longer valid - which there’s debate as to whether that’s the case - it symbolizes the state believes there should be no legal distinctions between men and women. However, if HCR 3037 were to pass, it would symbolize the state’s dismissal of the ongoing progress made on behalf of women’s rights.
Some argue that the country has achieved equal legal rights for women through alternative means without the ERA. However, we unfortunately still have a society standardized by men. We have a long way to go towards equal pay, protection of rights in the workplace and public spaces, reproductive rights, and the ability for women to live free of all forms of violence against their bodies.
The truth is, legislators behind this bill are afraid that if adopted, the ERA would transfer power away from the state to the federal government denying North Dakota the ability to legislate control over women. With a record-breaking number of women in Congress following the 2018 midterm elections (127) there’s a push to finalize the ERA’s ratification, and that scares some of our legislators.
The revivification of the ERA could result in what they view as irrevocable consequences that would challenge their power and could result in broader abortion and LGBTQ rights. A lapse in validity alone is simply not what’s behind this resolution.
Every North Dakotan should be offended by this resolution as it undermines and belittles the role women play in the prosperity of our state. If it should pass, it would be a direct message to the women of our state, and any woman considering making North Dakota her home, that in North Dakota, the patriarchy rules. Call your senators and urge them to oppose HCR 3037.
Danz is the manager of Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo and a member of The Forum’s Reader’s Board. This column was submitted for consideration in The Forum's search for "the next great columnist."