Slope goes back to the future for Equal Rights Amendment

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Get those “ERA Yes!” buttons out of your closet.

Park Slope lawyer Richard Bashner wants to resurrect the 30-year-old Equal Rights Amendment — a hot-button issue from the 1970s — and he’s going to keep on truckin’ until women are finally protected under the Constitution.

As the former chairman of Community Board 6, Bashner took the group back to the future last November, putting the once-controversial matter on the agenda, and winning a unanimous vote of support.

“I did this for Maya,” Bashner said, referring to his 9-year-old daughter. “In 2011, it ought to be very clear that men and women ought to have equal rights. It’s such a basic point that belongs in our Constituti­on.”

The community board has tackled national issues before — just never ones that are 30-years-old, according to District Manager Craig Hammerman. In 2007, for example, it weighed in to support of same-sex marriage.

“After we voted on the same-sex bill, it seemed that we missed something, because we never got around to passing the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Bashner, who remains on the board, though is no longer its chairman. “What is a more basic tenet than men and women having equal rights?”

Of course, the group’s vote is symbolic in nature — it’ll be up to Congress to resurrect the amendment, which was introduced in 1972, and passed by the requisite two-thirds vote in Congress, but fell three states short of requisite 38 for ratification by its 1982 deadline.

The amendment was re-introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–Manhattan) for the past seven sessions of Congress — this time without a time limit attached.

“If every community board in this country passed resolutions similar to the one passed in Brooklyn, this amendment would pass in a flash,” she predicted.

The movement is gaining new momentum, particularly in light of recent comments by the conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who told California Lawyer magazine that the Constitution does not protect women from discrimination because that’s the job of legislatures.

“You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box,” he said.

But the long delay continues to take a toll.

All it takes is a quick survey of boardrooms and other halls of power to know that men and women are still not on equal footing, Bashner said. And the Ivy Leaguer should know. “When I was at Harvard, two-thirds of the graduating class was male,” he recalled.

The amendment — “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” — was introduced in every Congressional session from 1923 to 1970, but never reached a vote until an array of mainstream organized groups and unions forced politicians to take action.

The amendment died in part because conservative groups feared a dissolution of the American family, business interests such as the insurance lobby thought it would cost them more money, states’ rights advocates trumpeted a power grab, and pro-Life supporters became convinced that it could lead to expanded abortion rights.

Experts are not so sure the amendment will have the same sense of urgency it did when Kris Kristoffer­son’s “Why Me” was a Billboard hit. After all, the 14th Amendment is widely believed to guard against gender discrimination in addition to the racial kind. And courts routinely strike down laws that discriminate based on gender — unless they are related to a significant government interest, such as women in combat or same-sex bathrooms. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is also cited as adding a protective layer from bias.

But ERA supporters contend that equal rights between the sexes are not explicitly protected in the Constitution or its 27 amendments, so only the Equal Rights Amendment can provided the broadest defense. Not everyone is so sure.

“The Supreme Court has said that pretty much all sex discrimination is unconstitutional, so the need feels less urgent,” said constitutional lawyer David Goldberg. “On balance, it’s a good idea, but it’s probably not a priority.”

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jen Deaderick from Cambridge, MA says:

As the admin for the Equal Right Amendment page on Facebook (, I'm thrilled to see all this new attention being paid to the need for the amendment.

Thanks for this piece. Clearly, research was done, which can't always be said. I would like to point out, though, the following contradiction:

The writer states that "conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia... told California Lawyer magazine that the Constitution does not protect women from discrimination because that’s the job of legislatures."

If one of the members of the Supreme Court believes this, then the reassurance at the end of your piece from constitutional lawyer David Goldberg that “the Supreme Court has said that pretty much all sex discrimination is unconstitutional, so the need feels less urgent” isn't really all that reassuring, is it?

Thanks again for the piece.


Jen Deaderick
Former Park Slope Resident
Jan. 17, 2011, 9:42 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Thanks for taking time out for this issue, because other local issues that the board can actually effect should just wait I guess? It's either delusional or self-absorbed.
Jan. 17, 2011, 4:27 pm
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
Jim, your protest would be credible if you provided an example of "other local issues the board can actually effect" that they aren't already addressing. Without one, you just sound grumpy.
Jan. 18, 2011, 12:29 pm
Gary from Carroll Gardens says:
@Jim: No issues before the Community Board were delayed, postponed, or otherwise forced to "just wait" for the Board to vote on this matter.

The all-volunteer Board was willing to take a few extra minutes to address this too-long-neglected matter.

Imagine that.

Kudos to you Richard, and to the Brooklyn Paper for covering this.
Jan. 18, 2011, 4:10 pm
Twiss Butler from Alexandria VA says:
As a lawyer, ERA advocate Richard Bashner should not try to gloss over the pro-inequality quibbles that serious efforts to gain ratification must deal with decisively to succeed.

The first need is to reject the misguided "3 State Strategy" urged by Congresswoman Maloney, that only three more states are needed to ratify. States that have already ratified did so on the premise that certain contentious issues were NOT sex discrimination.

For example, sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination but, as an abuse that notably affects men, is now dodging hostility towards women's equality by being relocated as "gay rights" under the 14th Amendment which prohibits discrimination against men. Success here would place lesbian women in an anomalous position parallel to that of women of color - nominally protected for that fact, but not from discrimination as members of the class "women."

Because the first ERA campaign timidly tried to gain passage by claiming that "ERA has nothing to do with abortion," the primary form of sex discrimination is still not claimed as a violation of women’s right to bodily integrity to be ended by passage of the ERA.

Other anti-ERA issues that must be publicly debated and defeated for ERA to pass include the tax status of sex-segregated schools (race segregation of both public and private schools is now unconstitutional), all types of discrimination against women in the military, and sex discrimination in insurance. Like the combat exemption and sex-segregated schools, insurance discrimination is dishonestly presented as "benign" discrimination that benefits women. Wrong - but the public needs to learn the facts that disprove these false claims.

The first American women's rights convention in 1848 resolved that "That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want."

Mr. Bashner should drop the simplistic rah-rah, get his facts together, and start making a strong case for the Equal Rights Amendment, the sine qua non for women's right to a substantive guarantee of equal protection of the law that men, including Justice Scalia, now receive as a constitutional birthright. The words are fine, but the meaning must be established in the open and affirmed by a majority of the population.

Jan. 22, 2011, 5:26 pm
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
I see an even bigger, fatal flaw in the strategy for adopting ERA. When proponents like Butler attack their own supporters like Bashner I think that hurts that cause. Hmmmmm!
Jan. 29, 2011, 12:55 am
sandy oestreich from Park Slope says:
My heart lept when I read Richard Bashner's words.

Here is a MAN in an already-ratified state who stands up for the belated passage of the ERA into the US Constitution!

I and my 300 000 members of Florida's Equal Rights Alliance which gets bills to ratify ERA filed every Session for the past 9 years, say Whoopee! How can we connect with this smart guy? Mr. Bashner, contact us at All are warmly invited to write me there to follow the ERA News.

Everyone is invited to tour our, especially Facts for Legislators which is relied upon by legislators filing ratification bills in SIX other states

Speaking of ERA News. Ta-dah, Mr Bashner!!!!!

Equal Rights Alliance, Inc., as part of the consortium known as United For Equality is


"We don't fool around"!

We are grateful for any mentions of ERA since the Republican-Big Business - led media refuses to give it any ink and threatens legislators with denial of campaign funding if they were to vote for ratification!

BUT, there's lots that ANYbody out there can do, including our friend Twiss Butler:

Email Letters to the Editor; write Op-Eds; ask us to come to speak before your organizations; hold rallies; lobby your Congresspeople by phone and email to co-sponsor our ERA bill about to be filed.

Loads of things you marvelous folks can do to get us all gender-equality that "all nations since WWII already have", (Supreme Ct. Justice Ginsburg).

We few unratified states work in a lonely world, separately, must raise our own operating and gas expenses to go lobby. HELP us please, please, please???

Sandy Oestreich, Founder-Pres., Equal Rights Alliance
Fmr. elected official; Prof. Emerita, NY; co-author, internationally distributed pharmacology reference texts; nurse practitioner; biographied in Feminists Who Changed America.

Passing the ERA will be my LAST change of America.
Join me and us? We have the skills, the public, the will, and the expertise. We JUST NEED YOU, ALL OF YOU to link up with us: Write us NOW. Thanks
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:38 pm

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