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March 28, 2023

Pressley, Bush Launch First-Ever Congressional Equal Rights Amendment Caucus

The Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment aims to affirm the ERA as the 28th amendment and establish constitutional gender equality as a national priority

Last Night, Pressley, Bush, Colleagues Spoke About ERA History on House Floor

Photos | Press Conference Video

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) were joined by Representatives Becca Balint (VT-AL), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Judy Chu (CA-28), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Summer Lee (PA-12),  Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) in launching the first-ever Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment. 

This caucus was launched exactly 100 years after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced in Congress in 1923 to commemorate the centennial of the struggle for constitutional gender equality. The caucus aims to affirm the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th amendment to the Constitution; raise awareness in Congress to establish constitutional gender equality as a national priority; partner with an inclusive intergenerational, multi-racial coalition of advocates, activists, scholars, organizers, and public figures; and center the people who stand to benefit the most from gender equality, including Black and brown women, LGBTQ+ people, people seeking abortion care, and other marginalized groups.

“For far too long, women and LGBTQ+ folks have been relegated to second-class legal status in America – our contributions ignored, erased, or rendered a footnote in history – and it’s high time we change that,” said Founder and Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment Co-Chair Rep. Pressley. “I am proud to launch the ERA Caucus with my sister-in-service Congresswoman Bush to affirm the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution, establish gender equality as a national priority, and center our most vulnerable and marginalized communities, who stand to benefit the most. Congressional intent is powerful and Congressional caucuses are powerful. It’s long past time we codify the dignity and humanity of all.”

“It has been 100 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first drafted and introduced in Congress, and more than a half century since both chambers passed it. That is far too long for women, Black and brown folks, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups to wait for constitutional gender equality — and we refuse to wait any longer. I am proud to join forces with my sister-in-service and Founding co-Chair, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, as well as our incredible Founding Vice Chairs and members, in launching the first-ever congressional caucus aimed at recognizing the Equal Rights Amendment as part of our constitution,” said Founder and Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment Co-Chair Rep. Bush. “Through this caucus, we will make sure constitutional gender equality is a national priority and that we continue to honor the long legacy of women and activists, especially Black women leaders, to build an inclusive multi-generational and multi-racial movement that guarantees the rights of all people in our country once and for all. Because equality is overdue.”

Last night, both Congresswoman Pressley and Bush, in coordination with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), led members on the House floor to speak out about the ERA, and specifically Black women’s contributions in drafting, advancing, and organizing to get the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution, and ratifying state-level ERAs. Earlier this year, Rep. Pressley and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), alongside Congresswoman Bush and their colleagues, unveiled a bicameral, joint resolution to affirm the ratification of the ERA and take a critical step toward enshrining gender equality in the United States Constitution.

“For the last 100 years women of color have led the fight for constitutional gender equality. I’m proud to join Reps. Bush and Pressley as a Co-Chair of the ERA Caucus to finally get this amendment across the finish line,” said Rep. Balint. “Equality shouldn’t be controversial. But women and LGBTQ Americans know the fight is as urgent as ever.”

“Over 50 years ago the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced to guarantee gender equality in this country. 38 states have ratified this essential piece of legislation, but the Amendment is still not part of the Constitution. Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the attacks on women’s rights, which disproportionately harm Latinas and women of color, making the ERA even more important. I am proud to be a Vice Chair of the new Equal Rights Amendment Caucus and to continue the fight for equality for all Americans regardless of gender,” said Rep. Barragán.

“A century after its introduction and more than a century after women obtained the right to vote, we still need the Equal Rights Amendment because—from pregnancy discrimination to disproportionate rates of sexual violence to the pay gap—women in America are not equal. I am extremely proud to join my colleagues as a Vice Chair of the ERA Caucus as we continue fighting to enshrine equal rights for all, regardless of gender, in the Constitution,” said Congresswoman Chu.

“Words matter—and we must be explicit in our constitution: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,’” said Congresswoman Dean.  “The 19th amendment left far too many Black and minority women out – the Equal Rights Amendment will leave no one out. Equality for all should not be a catch phrase but a reality for everyone in this nation. Thank you to our chairs, Congresswoman Ayana Pressley and Cori Bush, for your leadership and commitment to this century-long fight and the enduring legacy of Congresswoman Shirley Chislom and others before us. I look forward to serving with other members of this caucus as we bring the Equal Rights Amendment to actualization.”

“For more than two centuries, women in this country have fought grueling political battles just to win the rights that men take for granted,” said Rep. Frankel. “It’s past time that equal rights for women are enshrined in the Constitution, and I’m honored to be joining this caucus to make that goal a reality.”

“It has been 100 years since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced, 51 years since Congress passed it, and 6 years since Nevada ratified the amendment. It is time to stop denying equality under the law for everyone regardless of gender and make the 28th amendment a reality. I’m proud to serve as a Vice Chair for this effort and will work to see this amendment become a part of our great constitution,” said Congressman Horsford.

“I am beyond proud to stand beside my colleagues to launch the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove. “A Caucus such as this comes at a vital moment in our American Story. Launching one-hundred years after the ERA, this Caucus will have the intent of highlighting and uplifting those who have the most to benefit from true gender equality, and it is fitting that it is spearheaded by Black Women. At a time when women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights are being sabotaged and undermined by extremist ideology, we are here to serve as a reminder that marginalized communities have advocates in Congress. We will continue to fight for the right to access an abortion – especially for Black and Brown women – an end to discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, and the enshrinement of the Equal Rights Amendment into the United States Constitution once and for all. I’m honored to be the Vice-Chair of this Caucus and will do my part to be a voice on these issues for my constituents and those around the country.”

“The equal rights amendment was a cornerstone of the gender equality movement and gave women a critical legal tool to combat the discrimination we face every day—especially women of color. This includes pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and sexual and domestic violence. I’m proud to be joining Reps. Bush, Pressley, and all of my other colleagues in this effort to affirm the ERA and ensure equality for women across the country. Explicitly putting gender equality in the Constitution is a long overdue measure that will have broad and transformative impacts on the lives of all women,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Summer Lee said, “It’s not shocking that when the Constitution was first drafted, women, Black, brown, queer and marginalized folks were intentionally written out. What is shocking is that in 2023, our constitution STILL does not include equal rights regardless of sex–meaning our constitution STILL does not reflect or protect all people. To the Right-wing politicians and judges waging a full-on assault on the rights of women and queer youth, we’re not afraid and we won’t be silenced. We’re organized and mobilized to make equal rights the law of the land.”

“It is absurd that women do not have the same constitutional protections as men in the 21st century,” said Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan. “While in the Virginia General Assembly, I led the charge to make Virginia the 38th and final state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, I am ready to continue those efforts in Congress because my daughter – and yours – deserve equal protections under the law. I am honored to be named Vice Chair of the first-ever ERA Caucus, and I thank Co-Chairs Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley for their leadership. Together, the ERA Caucus will fight to ensure the Equal Rights Amendment becomes the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” 

“The fact that 100 years have passed since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced underscores the urgent need for today’s launch of the Equal Rights Amendment Caucus. The harms and injustices against women, Black, Brown and indigenous people, and LGBTQ+ people everyday in our communities is a policy choice that is preventable. I’m grateful to our Founding Co-Chairs Congresswoman Bush and Congresswoman Pressley for their leadership, and I’m proud to join them in responding to this collective call to action. Gender equality belongs in the U.S. Constitution, full stop,” said Congresswoman Ramirez.

“De Tocqueville famously observed American democracy is either growing or shrinking, and affirming the Equal Rights Amendment would place our nation firmly on the growth track,” said Rep. Raskin. “Our new ERA Caucus proves that momentum for an Equal Rights Amendment is building as more and more Americans recognize the vital importance of writing gender equality into our Constitution. I’m proud to be a founding Vice Chair of this new—and urgently needed—ERA Caucus, and thankful to Reps. Bush and Pressley for leading us in the fight for women’s rights and against gender discrimination.”

“Equal rights must never be denied under the law on account of sex. But right now, women are not guaranteed equality in the Constitution of the United States,” said Rep. Spanberger. “I’m proud to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia — the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment — in the U.S. House of Representatives. As Members of Congress, we must continue the work of the generations of advocates who have pushed to guarantee constitutional protections against sex discrimination and enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the U.S Constitution.”

Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment members include Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08); Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01); Andre Carson (IN-07); Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Sara Jacobs (CA-51); Ro Khanna (CA-17); Kevin Mullin (CA-15); Jerrold Nadler (NY-12); Donald Norcross (NJ-01); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Ilhan Omar (MN-05); Jill Tokuda (HI-02); Fredrica Wilson (FL24).

The purpose of this caucus will be to:

  • Ensure that Congress does everything in its power to finalize the ERA and assure it is officially recognized as the 28th Amendment
  • Educate Members of Congress about the history of the ERA and help them understand the contemporary issues surrounding the effort to finalize it; 
  • Raise awareness among our constituents and the American public that the fight for the ERA is alive and well;
  • Collaborate with other Members of Congress, caucuses, and organizations to advance the ERA and ensure that it is fully implemented; 
  • Expand the vision of who the ERA will most directly benefit to include women of color, queer and transgender people, people seeking abortion care, and other marginalized groups and communities;
  • Build support for an ERA Policy Platform that will use the power of the Equal Rights Amendment to pass reforms perceived as unconstitutional without the ERA, now that the constitution has been altered to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex; and
  • Provide a structure to coordinate the efforts and enhance the ability of Members of Congress to accomplish those goals.

This amendment has met the legal threshold in Article V of the U.S. Constitution to become the 28th Amendment. On March 22, 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment with more than the 2/3rds required. Virginia became the last state necessary to ratify it in 2020 as the 38th state. 27 states have state-level Equal Rights Amendments today.

Organizations in support of the caucus include ACLU, AFL-CIO, Catholics for Choice, ERA Coalition, Equal Rights Amendment Project at Columbia Law School, Feminist Majority, Generation Ratify, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Law Center, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and SEIU International.

“Whether it’s attacks on abortion access, transgender youth, or Title IX, young women and queer people understand the Equal Right Amendment is a necessary tool to defend our lives. We are ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Congressional allies as we organize for our constitutional gender equality,” said Rosie Couture, Founder and Executive Director of Generation Ratify.

“The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Caucus was 100 years in the making. We have had champions in both chambers of Congress, and I am especially grateful that this new chapter in the history of the ERA is being led by Congresswomen Cori Bush and Ayanna Pressley; two dynamic and powerful Black women,” said Zakiya Thomas, President & CEO of the ERA Coalition. “I am excited to work with Congresswomen Pressley and Bush, their fellow leaders in Congress, and the over 283 members of our Coalition representing 80 million people, to finally make the ERA law. Our Coalition is a movement of movements united in the fight for gender equality; and we’re not backing down.”

“A century after the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923, it’s long past time to make gender equality part of the fabric of our nation.  We urge Congress to leave no doubt that ‘we the people’ includes all of us,” said Ria Tabacco Mar Director, ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

“We need to focus on a permanent solution so that reproductive freedom will no longer been vulnerable to capricious courts, new Congresses, and the occupier of the White House. The only answer is to change the constitution by finalizing the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been validly ratified and should be acknowledged as our 28th Amendment,” said Jamie L. Manson, M. Div., President of Catholics for Choice.

“The ERA Project is honored to mark this historic occasion along with visionary leaders in Congress and tireless advocates.  Fundamental equality is the bedrock of our democracy and the ERA would meet the needs of today by amending the constitution and finally guaranteeing the same opportunities and protections to all regardless of sex,” said Ting Ting Cheng, Director, Equal Rights Amendment Project at Columbia Law School.

“Our most fundamental rights, from the right to abortion to LGBTQ+ rights, are under attack from extremists. There can be no meaningful equality without ensuring that everybody has the freedom to make their own decision about their lives and future, including about pregnancy and abortion. We thank Rep. Bush for her leadership in forming the ERA Caucus, to formalize the dedication among our Hill champions for equality and equity for all. We look forward to collaboration with the Caucus to finally get the ERA on the books,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju.

“It is absolutely historical and marvelous that Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA – 07) and Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) are launching the first-ever Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and affirms that the ERA is the 28th amendment to the United States Constitution. Better yet, the Caucus is being formed with the spirit and reality of inclusivity so that the ERA will work for equality for all women and people. As a woman who has fought for the ratification of ERA for over 50 years, to say I am happy is an understatement for their creating this caucus and for the work, it will do for equality for women and all people, especially those who have been marginalized,” said Eleanor Smeal, Co-Founder and President of Feminist Majority.

“A hundred years after the ERA was first proposed, it’s far past time to secure the promise of equal rights for all women, as we continue our daily struggle to secure reproductive freedom, equal pay for equal work, and workplaces free from sexual harassment and discrimination,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President.