By Sloane Getz '22
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Despite its simple text, The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has been a contentious issue in American politics for nearly a century. Many see the movement to ratify the ERA as an antiquated and fruitless battle, more fit for the 1970s than for the activists of today. But for the young people leading Generation Ratify, an organization dedicated to ratifying the ERA and promoting gender equality, that fight is far from over. The idea of an amendment that enshrines gender equality in the constitution has been around since the 1920s, but the movement to pass the ERA as we know it gained traction in the late 1960s and 70s. The ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 but was never ratified by the states, mainly because of the influence of Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist and opponent of the ERA. By 1982, the deadline to ratify had expired, and with it died serious efforts to ratify the ERA. Two decades later, however, Nevada and Illinois ratified, making the ERA one vote away from the crucial two thirds majority it needed to become an amendment.
That’s where Generation Ratify comes in. Rosie Couture and Belan Yeshigeta, fifteen-year-olds from Arlington,Virginia, founded Generation Ratify in 2019. The two built a team of youth activists who successfully lobbied for Virginia to ratify the ERA, but because of the 1982 deadline, the ERA continues to sit in legislative limbo. Undeterred, the movement has grown into a nationwide cause, with thousands of young people participating in dozens of local chapters across the country. Activists from Generation Ratify have met with Senate offices, organized phone banks in support of pro-ERA candidates, and created “lobby days,” where Generation Ratify members lobby state, local, and national legislatures to support the passage of the ERA. Aside from this, Generation Ratify has supported other gender justice measures such as equal pay for equal work, menstrual equality, ending the high rates of maternal mortality for BIPOC women, and supporting the right to choose.
The youth activists at Generation Ratify are working hard to bring a cause once considered antiquated by those in power to the forefront of the progressive agenda in hopes of codifying gender equality into the Constitution. You can get involved through virtual phone and text-banking events at their website, generationratify.org, or join a local chapter, where members discuss gender justice issues and plan local events at monthly meetings.