U.S. Reps. Ben McAdams and John Curtis are true examples of how bipartisan representation in Washington should work. This week, both voted in favor of removing the deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment. They put party politics aside and stood up for women, men, and families. They stood up for equality.
Now, the Utah Legislature should follow their example and ratify the ERA here in Utah. Polls show that 94% of Americans and 71% of Utahns are in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. These high numbers reflect our value to be treated fairly under the law when it comes to factors beyond our control like gender. The ERA would tell the government that “We the People” want gender equality reflected in our laws.
Federally, the ERA would tell our courts and Congress that “We the People” want them to view gender equality with greater value. In the courts, it will raise the level of review for cases involving sex discrimination to “strict scrutiny” — the same level used in cases based on racial or religious discrimination.
In Congress, current and future legislation will need to align with legal equality. Laws that support legal gender equality will be protected from an administration or Congress that tries to remove them.
How would the ERA affect our current Utah laws?
Utah’s State Constitution already has a robust equal rights clause that exceeds the language of the ERA and our state laws have been updated with gender-neutral language. Old scare tactics about ERA changing laws would have come to pass by now if they were real threats, but they are not. None of Utah’s laws would change.
What would change?
The ERA would enable Utahns to share their value of equality with 25 states that don’t have such legal protections in place. The ERA would protect women traveling outside of Utah or if our grown kids move away. The ERA would bring the U.S. Constitution into harmony with our state constitution. If a Utah court case involving sex discrimination is appealed to a federal court, the Constitution would not be in conflict with our state values.
The ERA is good for Utah.
Good for women: The latest Wallet Hub poll places Utah dead last for women’s equality. Women need to know that Utah and their government cares. Ratifying the ERA in Utah would send a tangible message to women and girls that they matter.
Good for men: We don’t know what the future holds. Currently men are not as vulnerable, but that could change in the future. Protections against sex discrimination will ensure a future of fair legal treatment for our daughters and sons.
Good for families: Data shows the gender pay gap is real. White women nationally make 82% of white men. In Utah, that number drops to 70%, even further for women of color (47% for Latinas). Women need to work longer hours away from home to support their families. Men and children benefit from women being paid fairly in the workplace.
Good for the economy: The ERA would rebrand Utah as a positive place for women. Our growing economy needs talented female employees to move here. They won’t come if they think they will be treated unfairly. Ratifying the ERA sends the message: “This is the Place for Women”. “This is the Place for Equality”.
McAdams and Curtis just gave us a precious gift. They showed the country and Utah that bipartisan cooperation can be done. Utah’s ratification of the ERA is our gift to the country of how state legislators can come together for the good of all.
Amy Fotheringham Rich, Holladay, serves as the chair of the Utah ERA Coalition and is the operations director at a nonprofit for women. She enjoys an equal partnership with her husband where together they co-own a film production company and co-parent three children.