WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), lead sponsor of S. J. Res. 6 that would immediately revive consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), today issued the following statement on the 100th anniversary the ratification of the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s suffrage.
“One hundred years ago, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally declared that the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex. This hard-fought victory was a turning point for our democracy, recognizing that women had the right to vote and charting a course for the achievements in progress for women’s rights and gender equity in the decades to follow.
“The suffrage movement helped women earn a voice in our electoral system, but it set out to accomplish so much more – recognition of equal citizenship, dignity under the law and the right to have a say in the policies that shape their own lives and our world. Achieving the right to vote opened up doors for progress in access to health care, education, and social and economic equality in ways that were denied to women since the founding of our nation.
“But even in 1920, it was understood that this victory was a stepping stone on the journey to equality for all women. It would take years to unravel the web of policies that sought to limit progress in these areas, to take away their power and voice guaranteed under the Constitution. For women of color particularly, including those who fought for suffrage and who would continue to lead the fights for civil and equal rights in the years to come, equal access to the ballot had yet to be achieved. Racism continued to stand as a barrier to social and economic equality.
“How a nation treats its women – economically and socially – is a barometer of that nation’s success. And we have come a long way since 1920. But the fight for equality is far from over. To truly honor this milestone and 100 years of women voting in this country, we must dedicate ourselves to fighting to empower women in all areas of life and closing the gender gap wherever it remains.
“One hundred years after this achievement, the wage gap continues to unfairly separate women – and especially women of color – from their male counterparts in the workplace. Reproductive care is still under attack by the Trump administration and the Republican Party. And the fight persists against daily discrimination, barriers to access, and harassment. Our society faces a heavy price for not establishing clear protections against these inequities, and the women of America are forced to pay. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare these great disparities as job losses, lack of child care, and essential workforce demands have taken a devastating toll on women in particular. It is more and more clear that gender equality is a key factor in our economic recovery and the continued success of our nation.
“We cannot let another hundred years pass before taking another step toward progress. Congress can start by initiating another critical change to the Constitution: the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
“Ratification of the ERA would expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing equality for women under the law. Thirty-eight states have now ratified the ERA. The House has passed legislation eliminating the deadline for ratification. It’s time for the Senate to take up my bill S.Res.6 – which I introduced alongside Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) – to remove the deadline once and for all.
“On this historic anniversary of women’s suffrage, we must celebrate all that we have achieved, and acknowledge the many challenges that remain. Our progress as a nation is incomplete unless all women are able to achieve freedom and equality. Today, we look to the leaders of the past who laid the foundation and pledge to carry the torch.”