Roughly 50 supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment gathered Tuesday outside the state Capitol, where lawmakers were wrapping up the final week of the general legislative session after, once again, not holding a hearing on whether Utah should ratify the federal amendment.
“There have been successes and losses this year for the state of women in Utah, but today I celebrate the recognition of shared ideals,” Emily Bell McCormick, co-chairwoman of the Utah ERA Coalition and founder of The Policy Project, said in a statement.
“There are many ideological overlaps that Republicans and Democrats can get behind,” she said, and that includes “constitutional equality for women and men.”
While a resolution for Utah to ratify the ERA remained stuck in committee and has not moved this session, just like in previous years, it did receive bipartisan support. Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, and Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, sponsored SJR8 this year, with Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, signing on as a co-sponsor.
McCormick also pointed to Utah Rep. John Curtis, who was one of five Republicans that joined House Democrats in voting last year to move the ERA forward.
First proposed in the 1920s, the ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Last year, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to add it to the U.S. Constitution, decades after it passed the U.S. Senate and House in 1972. But advocates expect legal challenges ahead, including over the fact that five states have voted to rescind their ratification and the efforts to remove a deadline for the amendment.
Riebe and Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, debated last month whether Utah should ratify the ERA, discussing its ties to cultural issues, including abortion and gay marriage, and the effects it could have on the Beehive State. A poll last year showed that nearly 70% of Utahns support ratification.
McCormick and others gathered Friday around a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the nation’s first female state senator, wearing “Votes for women” sashes and holding “ERA YES” signs.
“The outcome of this legislative session for ERA was not new. Nonetheless progress was made,” Kelly Whited Jones, co-chairwoman of the Utah ERA Coalition, said in a statement. “Much work has been done to better women’s lives, and we plan to continue that work in the form of ratifying the ERA, until full equality under the law is attained.”
Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.