Salt Lake resident Elinda McKenna was in school in South Carolina during the early ‘70s when the movement for the Equal Rights Amendment was in full force.
“Most of what I did in some cases is march on my own, speaking up on behalf of myself in my hometown,” she says of her upbringing in Beaufort, S.C.
She says the discrimination she faced throughout her career as a scientist, and that many women face in the workplace, is why the ERA is still relevant today.
Energized by a resurgence in political activism, McKenna is part of a group of Utah women making a push to revive the long dormant Constitutional amendment.
“I feel that women do not have the same federal protection under the law that men have,” she says. “I will continue to go back to that over and over: Until women have the same protection under the law as men, that’s really the only thing that matters to me.”
McKenna was one of more than a dozen supporters who showed up for a media blitz at the Capitol on Monday to push Utah’s legislators to back a non-binding resolution to ratify the amendment.
Democratic Salt Lake Sen. Jim Dabakis is sponsoring the joint resolution that would symbolically ratify the ERA. At just 24 words long, he says, the amendment shouldn't be as controversial in this day and age.
“Let me read you the 24 words... ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.’ Now, that’s what it is!” he says.
The ERA was first introduced by suffragist Alice Paul in 1923, but didn’t gain traction until the women’s movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The ERA fell just three states short of the 38 needed to ratify it and has since expired.
Utah’s own legislature never ratified the Constitutional amendment despite some attempts at the time.
Utah Women Unite, the group backing the legislation, say they want the Beehive State to lead the way in reviving the amendment in hopes of getting Congress to look at it again.