Why ERA is Important to Me

2021 could be the year that women’s rights are secured in the U.S. Constitution – just 245 years after white men. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is positioned to be the 28th amendment once either the Senate removes the deadline from the 1972 resolution OR the Department of Justice instructs the US Archivist to add it. The threshold of 38 states ratifying it happened in 2020 but it has been held up due to some technicalities. YOU can help promote awareness and action on the ERA. 

Would you like to tell Congress why the ERA is important to you? Here's how: Take a selfie, then add your picture and story in the textbox. You can also make a video and send in the url (just add the link in the textbox).   Your story can be up to 500 words.   If you need more words, just continue with additional posts.

 

Please include your Country of Residence, and Voting State at the end of your story.  Including your Name is optional.

We'll share these stories with Congressional allies to help them in their fight to finally add the ERA to the US Constitution. 
Please note that the stories below are all user submitted and reflect individual opinions. By sharing your story here you are consenting to sharing your story publicly both on this site and with Congress. 

Click here to read the first set of over 100 stories sent on March 25 to the Senate.

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The ERA is Above Party Politics

I grew up in Northern California in a divided and polarised household. Politics were the regular side dish and both Republicans and Democrats were at the table. I know I don’t see this issue as my mother did or as my great aunts did. Regardless of their politics, they understood how important it was to pass the ERA. But growing up, I took it for granted. Growing up around strong, assertiveI, working women, I thought the ERA was a done deal. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now, breaching sixty years old, I finally understand what my great aunt meant when she often repeated, like a mantra, that. “Women must have their own money”. Women of that generation were denied a bank account, a credit card, their own livelihood because they were not protected under the law. It’s high time women were. Please vote to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. —Jennifer Rakow-Stepper, votes in California, lives in Vienna

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We all must keep pushing!

At its core, law is the expression of a society. It lays bare our ambitions, priorities, and boundaries as humans. It is the tangible and binding articulation of the society in which we want to live. The society I want to live in not only recognizes women and their contributions, but values them. It's one in which women aren't commanded to "shut their damn mouths and just let the men do the talking", as I was recently told. It's one where women are compensated fairly for their work. It's one in which women can "climb the ladder" as fast and obstacle-free as their male counterparts. While I don't think my vision of society is too far-fetched, it's unlikely to fully materialize without reassessing how women are (or rather aren't) recognized under United States law. Until legislators on both sides of the aisle prioritize ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, we cannot expect a culture that values women to take shape. That's why we all must keep pushing! Candice Kerestan -- Pennsylvania voter in Germany

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Equal Rights for women does not mean less rights for men

Throughout history the important roles of women have been downplayed, altered or left out entirely. Until 50 years ago, women could not own property, open a bank account or get a driver’s license in their own name and/or without the permission of their father or husband. Fifty years is not a long time ago, and still women are not seen as equals under law in the US. Other countries have already taken the necessary step of granting men and women as equal under law. After World War II, Germany drew up new laws and made women equal to men. Our direct neighbor, Canada, needed quite a bit longer, but also gave women the same rights as men in 1981. It’s unbelievable that a country heralding personal liberties such as the US has still not ratified this amendment. My grandmother graduated from high school as valedictorian. She was then told to get married, not go to university. Nowadays girls are encouraged to study, yet they have to deal with gender biased hiring practices (we can’t hire you, you’re in child-bearing age), gender biased pay difference (men have to feed their families), glass ceilings, etc. I want my daughter to grow up with the possibility of becoming anything she desires. To be hired and paid based on her talent, effort and diligence. In the name of all our female ancestors who were not deemed equal, and for all our daughters entering the workforce tomorrow, I say it is high time for the ERA!  Sasha, I live in Germany and vote in CA 

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Before I die

Born in 1947, I grew up being told I could not be the president, or a doctor, or a race car driver. The only options for smart girls were teacher, nurse, or secretary - none of which I wanted to be. I was told not to raise my hand so much in class because I couldn't let the boys know I was smarter than them. At job interviews I was sexually harassed and propositioned. I became a lawyer. In 1973 my divorced sister and chief breadwinner could not get a credit card without her divorced no good husband or her father signing on. She refused. We could not own land, keep our own wages or names, or even our own children. The ERA is long overdue. I have been working on it for 50 years and plan to see it passed for the future before I die. Arizona voter

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COVID-19’s impact on women has given added urgency to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution

I certainly have experienced gender inequality, mainly regarding equal pay, throughout my career as I am sure many have. However, in comparison, with the crisis of COVID, we know that stakes are much higher. The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, regardless of gender, but it clearly increases the existing inequalities because women, who comprise 70% of health care workforce globally (80% in the U.S.) including nursing and caregiving responsibilities, carry the burden. In my family in the United States, seven of my sisters and nieces have “essential worker” occupations which require close contact with customers, children or patients. None of my male relatives are in this situation. The reality for these women ranges from anxiety dealing with the daily concern for the children in their care – the preschooler who has developed an emotional attachment to his/her mask and is distraught when it can’t be found and the first grader who is clearly not adjusting well to home-schooling, but is at high risk due to the family living conditions - to the nurse who daily goes to work with the fear of catching the virus. As a long-term care worker, another niece is not recognized as an essential worker in this crisis although she is exposed to the risk. Another female family member is victim to a system where she must make the decision to go to work and take the risk of becoming ill or the risk of losing her job. And a home-schooling mother has found it necessary to take on a part-time job – due the lack of a social safety net - but does not have the option to pass on her responsibility providing for her children’s social and learning development. The pandemic has made it clear that the majority of essential workers are women and that the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities are shouldered by women and girls. The dangers these front-line workers take are increased by working under poor workplace conditions such as lower standard COVID-19 health and safety measures and low pay. In addition, in a country where health systems and medical leadership is largely controlled by men, constitutional rights for women are more urgent than ever. The fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration and during Women’s History Month is the opportunity to make constitutional history with lasting change for women’s rights and gender equality. 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.” The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Equality can’t wait any longer! Beverly Seebach – Colorado voter residing in Germany

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Don't let the fight for the ERA be something we pass down to future generations

While we have made what are considered great strides over the last several decades in equality for women, we still have a ways to go for women to be considered and treated equally in the eyes of law and society. So long as we have to battle for every scrap at the table we’ll never be equal. Without the ERA, we will be forced to continually fight for our rights as equal citizens. Imagine if you could take all that passion and energy and channel it into other causes - imagine the great work we could do for our country. Don’t let our granddaughters look back and say that they’re still fighting the same battle their mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers were fighting. Pass the ERA so they can look back and say that they are equal citizens because we were finally able to do this for all women in our country. Pass the ERA and solidify the rights of all women. Pam - TN voter living in Belgium

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Onward!

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex." While more progress has been made in granting women equal footing in many areas, there is still a long way to go in pay equality and career advancement opportunities. I still remember when I was in high school, I wanted to participate in a journalism program offered by Junior Achievement. I walked over to their office near Symphony Hall to enroll and I was told that I could not participate because Junior Achievement was only for boys. I have never forgotten that I was discriminated against because I was a female. Until women’s rights are included in the Constitution, there is no guarantee that women will be treated equally. Terese—Boston, Massachusetts voter currently in Germany.

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What they didn't tell me about Democracy

In 1953, less than 10 years after WWII, at the invitation of the US government, I came to Maryland for a year as a German exchange student to learn about democracy. My initial love for the US culminated in marrying an American student I met at the Sorbonne in Paris and moving to the US. I became an American citizen, still idealistic about democracy and equal rights. But when I started working in Atlanta, GA, I realized not everything was equal. There was no equal pay, there was no equal opportunity, and there was no legal basis to help me fight for what I had earned. Then I learned about the ERA and how far behind the US is in guaranteeing in the Constitution equal rights regardless of sex. I learned that the absence of such legislation is inconsistent with American core values, and that Constitutions written after 1950 in many other countries in the world include such specific legal protection. I think it is time the various states ratify the ERA and bring the US in line with other countries in the world. We are not a country of old white men, we are a country of powerful people of both sexes, and it is time everyone in every state acknowledges this fact. Hilde Uhler, a Georgia voter living in Germany

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Try explaining this to foreigners

It is the year 2021 and NOW is the time to change the "All Men are Created Equal" part of our constitution. I simply cannot understand how a country like America who prides itself on change has Still not passed the ERA! This is shamefully tragic. As an American who has now lived the last 30 years outside of America I continue to be amazed at how we wag our fingers at other countries about their human rights issues yet half of America is not protected under our constitution. Try explaining this to foreigners, somehow I cannot! Please for the sake of America, pass the ERA and let the great women of America shine like never before.  Jane, Living in Germany, Voting in Minnesota

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An Urgent Intersectional and Safety Necessity

Passing the Equal Rights Amendment is long past due, but fortunately, we as a country have a pathway in front of us to renounce discrimination of equal rights on account of sex. I am proud my home state of Maryland is on the right side of history and passed this in 1972, as well as that Senator Cardin (D-MD) is the Lead Sponsor for Senate Joint Resolution 1 that would remove the ratification deadline.

Growing up in a state that had ratified the ERA prior to my birth meant that I had the law on my side regarding types of discrimination that impact residents of other states. For a period of time while working as an RN I lived in the state of Virginia -- prior to that state’s own historic passage of the ERA. While living there about seven years ago, I experienced domestic violence in a romantic relationship. I knew somewhat that the laws did not protect me as definitively, but I did not find out until later that Virginia had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. I ended up having to urgently pack and move my belongings out of the state in over a foot of snow for my own safety. I was extremely fortunate that friends helped me move, and that my proximity to my employer remained about the same. However, many do not have the ability and resources to leave their situations in this way, and ratifying the ERA means the consistent enforcement of restraining orders and equally important measures for victims of domestic violence.

The ERA is an important milestone, but certainly not the termination of the pursuit of equal rights under the law for all Americans. We as a nation must do everything we can to support and reinforce the narrative that any legislation that is complicit with or outright justifies discrimination of any person will be removed from the books entirely. If we can take down statues that embody inequality, we must be compelled to similarly dismantle and rectify codified institutional sexism, misogyny, oppression, and objectification.

The time is NOW to pass the ERA, and I am proud to be able to advocate for equal rights alongside my Democrats Abroad peers.

Maryland Voter, Sweden Resident

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Unheralded Bravery

I am the first person in my family to earn a PhD. My mother wanted to attend my graduation more than she wanted to attend my wedding. She herself never even finished her baccalaureate. She had dreamed first of being an astronaut and wrote NASA as a little girl to ask what she should do to prepare. They wrote back that she should instead find a husband. Then she dreamed of being a nurse, but had to suspend her studies when my father – a refugee with his own unlikely American story – received a job offer in another state. My mom eventually built up her career culminating in a position at the Pentagon where she called on her experience as a paralegal and as an IRB coordinator to write regulations for medical research, but while she lived to see my doctoral research completed she passed away before I was able to graduate. My mother died of pancreatic cancer at 62 years of age. This is a cancer increasingly linked to biological stress factors including extreme psychological stress. While there may have been additional factors contributing to my mother’s death I do believe that had ERA been incorporated into the constitution in 1972 – or more appropriately in 1787 – my mother might have had a longer and happier life. When I was a small girl she warned me that I should never find myself lashed to some man and growing up I increasingly understood why.

The stories from my father’s side of the family were epic and heroic. My great-grandfather had defied the Nazis to help procure paperwork for and release prisoners headed to death camps. My grandfather had stood in defiance of both Nazis and the KGB and for his efforts was tortured and twice narrowly escaped execution. My grandparents escaped with my father by putting him in my grandmother’s bicycle basket and side by side bicycling over a minefield to freedom.

But the stories on my mother’s side of the family were hushed and told with a sense of shame. My grandmother had raised two children on her own telling anyone who made assumptions that their father was deceased. My grandmother’s sister-in-law recognizing what her brother was doing to his family packed him up and forced him into a treatment program. My great aunt found out that she and my grandmother were being underpaid relative to their male colleagues and – unsuccessfully – demanded fair wages. My great-grandmother worked out an arrangement with another grandmother in the neighborhood to split childrearing duties so that their daughters could continue to work. This quiet feminine resilient bravery runs through my mother’s family history. There was no machine gun fire over their heads or glowering fascists and sneering torturers. There was no midnight flight or the desperate need to master a foreign language for survival. There was just a constant drip of unsupported and disrespected self-reliance. My grandfather’s illness was not the fault of his sister or my grandmother or my mother but all of them were nonetheless blamed for it. And yet they persisted.

In my own life although I belong to the nebulous millennial generation I have experienced obscene and dangerous levels of sexism. Crimes – particularly hate crimes – against women are not taken seriously. Simply for supporting a friend who had been attacked in high school I faced disciplinary action. She faced far worse. I have often been the only woman in the room and often subjected to threats of violence, overt harassment in various forms, extreme bullying, and – of course – actual violence. Now with a PhD in hand I face a new form of discrimination. Never mind that I had to clean up after male colleagues and was not given the supervision they were. Never mind that they spoke over me at meetings and were given preference for use of equipment I had written the proposals and gotten the money to purchase. No, even now as the first person male or female in my family to receive a doctorate degree many Americans insist I should use Ms. rather than Dr. as my title. They insist despite my years of research, hard work, enduring ridiculous indignities, being overlooked for funding largely on the basis of my sex, and putting my health on the line for my research I’m being “uppity,” or “elitist,” for daring to use the title I earned which my mother desperately wanted for me. Because ERA is not passed I have spent my youth being shown to the back of the line and I will never catch up.

I do want ERA for the generations behind me and for any daughters I may have. I don’t want future generations to grow up the way I did. Or the way my mother did. Or the way my grandmother did. I want their humanity acknowledged. I want their rights acknowledged. I want their bravery celebrated. But I also want ERA for myself. And I will be selfish. I demand my humanity.

Dr. Ariadne Lucia Schulz, UK Resident, California voter

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When Men and Women Live in True Brotherhood....

I'm an academic, I live in France, and I vote in Massachusetts. Back in the 70s I read Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking book "The Second Sex" and it changed my life. I realized, as did many, that women were not given equal status, either in their personal lives or under the law. Later in life I had the grand experience of teaching the book and I came to understand the deeply philosophical reasons why no democracy can exist without equality between men and women. And unless women are equal to men under the law, there can be no true equality. So from there began my quest for an Equal Rights Amendment. True liberation for women can only exist when they are protected under the law, and men and women can live in true "brotherhood" (Beauvoir's word) only when the Constitution guarantees them equal rights. So let's go, let's get it done. Let's add that ERA to our guarantor of equal rights, the US Constitution.

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We Need the ERA Now More Than Ever

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." This is what the ERA guarantees. It is inconceivable that this language does not already exist in the Constitution. It is tempting to think that the ills this simple sentence is meant to address are no longer a concern, but it is just not so. Systemic bias exists everywhere - we need only to look at the data showing that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women - to confirm that we have not achieved equality and Congress needs tools to help us do so. Personally, as an employment lawyer, I see discriminatory decision-making in the workplace all the time. In the past, as my mother and other women of her generation experienced first-hand, employers would simply say they were denying them opportunities on the basis of sex. They had no real recourse. Even though employers are less likely now to say that they are making a decision based on a candidate's or employee's sex, it happens all the same. Passing the ERA is essential to ending sex-based discrimination in the workplace and throughout our society, which would benefit us all. It's as simple as that. - Danielle, Missouri voter residing in Canada.

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Always encouraged to do anything I thought I wanted to or could

It was my father who taught my mother to cook, sew, and clean the house. He´d grown up on a farm and had to share in all kinds of chores. My mother was raised more "the princess" which I leaned does no one any good. I learned it all too, including how build things, fix a flat, and mow the yard. There was a sense of joy in learning to do something with skill whatever it was. So when I went to college and then on to work for a living, I considered all kinds of livelihoods and ended up commercial fishing in the Bering Sea where I learned more skills and found I could do equal the work but had to negotiate for a fair share of the wage. I consider it Neanderthal thinking that one sex deserves more than another based on gender alone. All anyone has to do is read a few history books to understand the tyranny in this thinking. I'll continue to support the ERA for as long as I have breath in my body!  Live in Mexico, Vote in Idaho

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Fighting for the Right to Follow our Dreams!

As a young college student, I had two passions: politics and music. While I was trying to decide whether to follow in the footsteps of my beloved uncle who travelled the world as a diplomat representing our country, or to travel the world as an opera singer instead, I was blown away by the negative input I received from family, friends, and even advisors at my university. I soon realized that while both of these paths would be challenging, one path would be full of roadblocks that had nothing to do with my ability. Roadblocks put into place by the patriarchy. My uncle encouraged me and was prepared to mentor me but also warned that it would be a constant, life-long battle against traditional norms. Although women were already breaking barriers and fighting their way into the all the traditional bastions of male power, it was, and still is, a difficult path. He asked me, “are you a fighter?” It became clear to me that as a coloratura soprano, I would never be passed over simply because of my gender. No man would ever be able to do my job. I may or may not get a particular role, but I would be judged on my talent, not my gender. And I would never have to be “a fighter.” I took what I believed to be the smoother path but soon ran up against a less visible, but pervasive roadblock. Patriarchy took the form of powerful stage directors, conductors, tenors and booking agents. Pay scales were unbelievably gender-biased and had to be negotiated, fought for. I learned about sexual harassment and that, as a woman, I would finally have to learn to fight. Adding 24 words to our constitution that proclaim a woman’s fundamental equality to her brothers won’t immediately remove every patriarchal roadblock, but it will help towards clearing the path and give women a powerful legal weapon to aid in the fight. There is no law that says a young woman can’t dream of pursuing any career she’s passionate about, but there is also no law affirming her right to do so. Passing the ERA would go a long way to making the dreams of generations of young women a reality./ Ann, residing in Germany and voting in California.

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Wait... you mean this is a fight my Great Grandparents started?

Wow, can you believe it's been like 78 years and we STILL don't have the Equal Rights Amendment? How is guaranteeing equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex POSSIBLY still controversial in this day and age? 168 international constitutions outside of America already include gender equality - so why have we chosen to keep America more regressive than most of the developed world? Why aren't we willing to give our citizens inclusiveness that other countries' women enjoy? Let's get equality written into our constitution now. The only shame we should feel is that it took so fricking long. I am currently residing in China and vote in Maryland.

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Too Long to Wait

In high school, during the late '70s, I wrote a research paper on the ERA giving the pros and cons of its ratification. At that time, it did not occur to me that it would NOT become the next amendment to the US Constitution. It was obvious to me that the pros outweighed the cons. Now, 42 years later, it surprises, and shocks, me that we are still fighting for these basic rights to equality. I grew up assuming that the USA was the world leader in human rights, but after moving to Germany and learning that the Grundgesetz has guaranteed equal rights to both men and women since 1949, I started questioning America's role as a champion of the basic rights that all humans worldwide should have. It is hypocritical of us to reprimand other countries for oppressing women and minorities. Let the ERA become the 28th Amendment so that Americans can once again be proud representatives of a country that recognizes that both sexes, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation, make equally significant contributions to our global society. I live in Germany and vote in Illinois.

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It is about time! We need ERA now!

I went to all girls college for my Master’s degree in 2012. I did not understand why there were still all girls colleges! But my time in the college taught me the value of having such institutions, where women are at the center, surrounded by women and constantly inspired and encouraged by other women. I left the college empowered and with the conviction that I could achieve anything! But reality at the work place made me very aware that I was not equal to my male co-workers and achieving my goals was going to be harder. Much has changed in the past decades and there has been progress in guaranteeing women’s rights, but it is not enough. We are still paid less, we hold fewer high and managerial positions than men in the public and private sectors , pregnancy leave is seen as a privilege instead of a right, and the list goes on. We continue to be discriminated against! We need equality engrained in our Constitutions. ERA won’t be the end of the road, but it will provide a permanent protection against laws that discriminate on the basis of gender. ERA will be a powerful tool to set a consistent approach to addressing the many ways gender is covered by state and federal laws. Onélica, CA voter living in Belgium

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Language Matters

I think I was always a feminist. As a child I grew up in a conservative Italian Catholic home in New Jersey, and my parents were active in local politics. I had heard about the ERA when I was young, but my mother said things about it that I now realize were the party line coming from Phyllis Schlafly and the conservative establishment. They claimed women were already equal under the constitution, as the language of “all men” included women. And so I believed them, too. I believe my mother was a closet feminist, but she did not know how to reconcile it with her strong beliefs about abortion. But she demonstrated her feminism in other ways. She actively volunteered with a home for pregnant teens who wanted to keep their babies, providing them shelter and access to education and employment when their families did not support their decision. She supported women candidates. As a child I remember my parents hosting fundraisers at our home for Millicent Fenwick, a strong voice for civil rights and women’s rights, who was running for Congress (she served in the House from 1974 to 1982). I had to get out of my parents’ house to really question the messages of my childhood and start to think for myself. And that process was a huge awakening for me, culminating in several degrees in gender studies and a career focused on research and advocacy that is centered on women and girls reaching their full potential. As a gender scientist, I can say with authority that language matters. We have so much evidence that when someone refers to men, people visualize men, not women. Language is power, and we need to create a constitution that truly includes equal rights for all people. In the 90’s when I got married, my mother, sister, and mother-in-law planned a shower for me, and the theme was “Lynda is a Feminist.” Along with the cake picturing Simone de Beauvoir and the Quotable Women book party favor, my MIL, long involved with a consciousness raising group focused on passing the ERA, led the guests in a rousing rendition of “I Am Woman.” It is among the most memorable moments of my life, and my MIL still hopes to see the passage of the ERA in her lifetime. My mother passed away many years ago now, but I often wonder what she would think about politics today. I am choosing to believe that she would support the passage of the ERA, if not for herself, but for her daughters, granddaughters, and future generations. We owe our mothers and our daughters this legacy. Lynda Sagrestano, Tennessee voter living in Germany (Photo: Lynda, left, in 1989, with sister Nancy and mother Loretta)

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"With liberty and justice for all"

Because I have worked in schools most of my life, I have heard that phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance almost every day. Each time I have thought about the ERA. It was important to me in the 70s and my country failed me. It is just as important now. You, the Senate, have the opportunity to show me there have been some real changes. Women and girls need to know we are included. We need to hear it explicitly because we have heard and seen the opposite for so long. It's time to show us that our country values us enough to have our equality specifically included in the Constitution. If the Senate does not approve the removal of the deadline, it will be a clear message that we are not entitled to the same rights and protections that men and boys are granted. Your vote will show how you feel about us. I need the ERA so I will be able to say "with liberty and justice for all" and believe it. I live in France but vote in California.

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