The ERA Brief - June 2021

News, policy, and action from the ERA Project at Columbia Law School

Katherine Franke and Ting Ting Cheng
June 02, 2021

Why do we need the ERA? New Decision from the 6th Circuit Answers the Question

At the ERA Project we get asked all the time: “Why do we need the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)?” “Doesn’t the Constitution already prohibit sex discrimination?” “What difference would it make to add explicit sex discrimination protections in the Constitution as the 28th Amendment?”

Well, last week the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court covering Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee) provided a perfect example of why the anti-discrimination protections contained in the U.S. Constitution need to be updated and strengthened, and how the ERA could do this.

The case, Vitolo v. Guzman, involved a challenge to a key provision of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package signed into law by President Biden in March 2021. The program targeted economic sectors particularly impacted by the pandemic, such as restaurant owners, providing “a one-off monetary lifeline aimed at ameliorating short-term economic devastation.” Congress built into the aid application process a 21-day fast track for restaurant owners hardest hit by the pandemic: women and “socially and economically disadvantaged” people, a.k.a. people of color. Other restaurant owners could apply for aid during this period as well, but applications from women and people of color would be processed first. Nevertheless, Antonio Vitolo, the white male owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee, challenged the fast track application procedure, claiming that it discriminated against him on the basis of his sex and race.

Read our full brief on the case here.

What We’ve Been Up To

  • Check out Ting Ting and Katherine’s conversation about the modern ERA movement and its possibilities.

  • We issued a litigation update on recent appeals in two pending lawsuits, Virginia v. Ferriero and Equal Means Equal v. Ferriero, challenging the validity of the Congressional time limits.

In the News

Where Abortion Access Would Decline if Roe v. Wade Were Overturned

May 18, 2021

Quoctrung Bui, Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times

“I think it’s more likely now that we would see them frontally reverse Roe v. Wade than even a year ago,” said Katherine Franke, director of the center for gender and sexuality law at Columbia. “But they don’t need to. They could certainly accomplish the same end by keeping Roe on paper, but they would have hollowed it out so entirely that it would give a green light to conservative state legislatures to enact laws that essentially overrule Roe.”

American Families Plan can pave the way for a gender equity New Deal (op-ed excerpt)

May 3, 2021

Ting Ting Cheng and Marcy Syms, The Hill

The time has come to not only put an end to national economic policies that embrace what feminist historian Linda Gordon describes in the book “Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare” as “a male vision,” but to repair historic disinvestment in women workers and especially women of color.

The Equal Rights Amendment: How Long Must American Women Wait?

April 14, 2021

Power Up Women! Podcast

Columbia Law Professor Katherine Franke, who recently launched THE ERA PROJECT and Barbara Rodriguez, a journalist covering the renewed ERA push for The 19th clear up the misinformation and intentional disinformation about what the ERA would do and shed light on what it will take to finally get it passed.

The nearly century-long battle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment

April 1, 2021

CBS This Morning Podcast, CBS News

Columbia University Law professor Katherine Franke joins CBS News congressional reporter Nikole Killion to discuss the status of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

What We’re Reading & Listening to This Week

What we’re reading:

How Black women have built movements and cultivated joy, Amanda Alexander, Director, Detroit Justice Center

Pregnant Women Allege Abuse in Texas Jails: At the same time, state lawmakers are pushing to incarcerate more people pretrial, Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, The Appeal

Somebody’s Daughter, Ashley C. Ford

What we’re listening to:

Ordinary Equality: Changing the Way We Talk About Abortion

Motherhood on Trial - Pregnant and incarcerated, The Activist Files, Center for Constitutional Rights

What we’re watching:

The Great

Town Bloody Hall