WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and lead sponsor of S. J. Res. 6 that would immediately reopen consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), issued the following statement on the centenary anniversary of Senate ratification of women’s suffrage.
“On this day, 100 years ago, the United States Senate finally ratified what would be the 19th amendment to the Constitution, sending it to the states for ratification. The amendment, which prohibited the states and the federal government from barring women from voting, was introduced more than four decades earlier, in 1878. It would take a little over one year until three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Regretfully, it took Maryland until 1941 to ratify the 19th amendment formally.
“Granting women a say in American society via the ballot box was only the first step. Leading up to, and even after, ratification of the 19th amendment, women in America had little or no legal, financial, or social opportunities to pursue. Property ownership, jobs, access to health care and economic equality were privileges women did not have. Today, a century later, more women have entered the workforce than ever before and women are filling leadership roles at unprecedented levels. For all these reasons and more, most Americans are shocked to realize that the U.S. Constitution does not already guarantee women the same rights and protections as men. We must correct this injustice and finally recognize the equality of women under the law with ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress can remove the deadline for ratification, which would mean only one more state would need to ratify the ERA for it to become law.
“How a nation treats its women – economically and socially – is a barometer of that nation’s success. Empowering women is one of the most important things we can do for the future of our country. Core to this is the constitutional right women have to make their own choices about their own health and well-being. For 144 years, male-dominated legislatures kept women from casting a vote because they were looked upon as less than equal with men. Today, those same forces are trying to rein in women’s rights with respect to women’s access to reproductive health care. Whether it is abortion, preventive screenings, or contraceptives, access to reproductive health care provides women with greater economic opportunities. Treating women as less than equal was wrong at the start of our nation and it is wrong today.
“Nearly 250 years of treating women as less than equal citizens has taken an incredible toll on the women of our nation, their families and our economy. Ensuring women have a voice in the political arena and that they are treated equally under the law must be matched with policies that eliminate the historical wealth gap between genders. If the gender wage gap were closed in Maryland, and in states around the country, it would cut the poverty rate for working women in half and add nearly a half trillion dollars to our economy. Economically, socially and morally, recognizing women for their contributions to our society and our economy makes sense for individual women, their families and our nation.
“On this historic day, as we celebrate 100 years of women voting and earning a voice in our electoral system, let us dedicate ourselves to truly closing the gender gap wherever it remains.”