Support the ERA
Interfaith Statement of Support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
As leaders who represent a diversity of religious traditions in the United States, we are united in the shared values of love and concern for the whole of humanity; respect for the inherent dignity and worth of the human person; and principled commitment to justice, human rights, and freedom from oppression. We are likewise united in the hope and aim of advancing the realization of human equality, liberation, flourishing, and reconciliation, as imperatives of our faith.
Together on this basis, we call for the immediate adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a basic human rights reform that acknowledges the fundamental truth of human equality by extending full citizenship rights to all Americans, regardless of sex, and correcting for the intentional, historic exclusion of women from our nation’s founding legal document.
II. We honor humanity in all its fullness and equality of inherent rights
As people whose religious beliefs are central to our respective worldviews, we honor the wonder of humanity in all its fullness and diversity. We attest that every person is deserving of love, belonging, and just treatment.
The Divine, by nature, transcends all categories of human gender. Humanity, which bears the image of the Divine according to many of our traditions, likewise transcends socially constructed categories of gender. People of all gender identities and sexual orientations have sacred dignity and worth that merits respect in the form of human rights, including equal treatment under the law.
We acknowledge that women and people of all gender identities and sexual orientations have inherent human rights to life, health, safety, and bodily integrity, and the right to live free from discrimination.
III. We lament theological views that have caused or condoned oppression
Any system of hierarchy that establishes or perpetuates the superior or inferior status of any group or class of human beings is, in our view, morally wrong and ultimately harmful. Patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia are invidious forms of systemic injustice, which compound and multiply other systemic injustices like racism, classism, ageism, ableism, and xenophobia.
We recognize that systematic subjugation of women and gender and sexual minorities is embedded in the economic, social, political, cultural, and religious structures of our society, and that it intensifies human suffering and degradation. Although targeted minorities suffer the most, any system of injustice offends the human dignity of every person, and limits our possibilities as individuals and a society. Oppression of any kind inevitably breeds violence, which offends our religious commitment to peaceful coexistence.
In humility, we acknowledge and lament the ways that religion—at times, within our own traditions—has too often functioned to reinforce rather than resist gender-based discrimination, exclusion, and subordination. We grieve the harm and damage done by the morally indefensible ideology of male supremacy. We mourn the wounds imposed by homophobia and heterosexism.
Any attempt to justify the subjugation or exclusion of women or gender and sexual minorities—including the denial of their basic human rights—based on religious beliefs, is wrong.
Consistent with the value of hospitality modeled in all of our faith traditions, it is our desire and intention to love, welcome, and stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed, derided, or treated as lesser based on their gender or sexuality. We affirm our respect for the inherent and equal human rights of every person, without exception or qualification.
IV. We are troubled by continuing threats to women and gender & sexual minorities
Unjust treatment, degradation, and exploitation of women and gender & sexual minorities are sins, and should be a central concern of any ministry that seeks to integrate faith and justice.
Women in this country continue to experience discrimination and disadvantage in nearly every sphere of life. They face a one in three chance of domestic abuse at home, similar odds of workplace sexual assault, and a one in five chance of suffering rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes.1 A 2018 survey named the United States among the ten most dangerous countries in the world for women.2 Women are underrepresented in leadership roles across government at the local, state and national level, the private sector, and the religious sphere.3 They experience a gender wage gap of 18% on average; for women of color the gap is even wider and the COVID-19 pandemic is making it worse.4 The World Economic Forum recently ranked the United States 53rd out of 153 nations for gender parity.5
Those women already burdened by discriminatory treatment based on race, color, socio-economic status, religion, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, or other status, suffer the harshest effects of gendered injustice.
The hostile environment gender and sexual minorities face takes a physical, psychological, and economic toll on these vulnerable communities. One in three LGBTQIA+ youth reports experiencing threats or physical harm based on their identity.6 Although the LGBTQIA+ community makes up a reported 4.5% of the U.S. population, its members suffer a staggering 18.5% of hate crimes.7 Forty percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide, and lesbian, gay, bisexual youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.8
The LGBTQIA+ community has a collective poverty rate of 21.6%, compared to 15.7% among others; for transgender individuals the poverty rate is 29.4%.9 LGBTQ+ youth make up an estimated 20-40% of youth experiencing homelessness.10
V. We remain mindful of historic and enduring legal subjugation of women in the United States
The U.S. legal system at its origins was grossly unjust to women in this nation. It was influenced by British common law, under which married women were regarded as the personal property of their husbands and denied a legal identity of their own, including any right to own or maintain property gained through their labors. Enslaved women were considered chattel, and endured forced pregnancy and unspeakable abuse at the hands of the men who owned them, including the vast majority of men who signed the U.S. Constitution.
Although many religious women were very active in promoting the abolition of slavery during the 19th Century, women were denied constitutional protection under the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. They did not gain any constitutional regard until the 19th Amendment afforded women the right to vote in 1920. Black and Brown women in many states were prevented from exercising this right until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Not until the early 1970s were women granted any other constitutional protection against gender discrimination. To this day, the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment provides less protection against gender discrimination than other forms of discrimination.
The present degree of constitutional and statutory protection has remained inadequate to remedy the social ills that continue to weigh heavily on women, including persistent gender-based violence, widespread workplace sexual harassment, and underrepresentation of women in public and private leadership. Women are overrepresented in low wage labor and vulnerable to pay and pregnancy discrimination. They face a grave threat to health, in the form of a racially disparate maternal mortality rate.
The combined effects of these many injustices not only hinder women from fulfilling their full human potential, but also prevent them from earning livelihoods, caring for their families, and contributing to their communities as they otherwise could. The existing legal framework is deficient and unable to redress these harms.
The unabated sex discrimination in this country from its founding to the present day is a sin.
VI. The Equal Rights Amendment
For nearly a century, advocates have called for the full equality of women to be acknowledged and protected under the U.S. Constitution.
The arguments in favor of the ERA are numerous. As people of faith, we believe first and foremost that the ERA should be the law of the land because equal rights represent the morally virtuous course of action, which respects a fundamental theological truth:
all people are equally valuable in the sight of their Creator, and thus deserve equal regard in human laws and legal systems.
Further, the ERA carries potential for numerous benefits not only for women but for our nation as a whole, by promoting greater justice and ameliorating human suffering. Notably:
- The ERA will empower and call upon the Congress to take action to forbid and prevent gendered forms of injustice, such as sexual and domestic violence, pregnancy discrimination, the gender gap in wages, the high maternal mortality rate, and the challenges both women and men face in seeking both to earn a livelihood and to care for themselves and their families.
- The ERA is widely anticipated to heighten the scrutiny with which courts evaluate government actions that discriminate based on gender—so that sex discrimination is viewed with the same judicial hermeneutic of suspicion as discrimination based on race or religion. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment has never been applied equally to women.
Although it may not be possible to foresee with certainty all of the ways our courts will interpret and apply the constitutional mandate to safeguard the rights of women and all marginalized genders and prohibit sex based discrimination, it is nonetheless crucial that we establish such a mandate. Without a firm constitutional foundation of equal citizenship for all people, the structures of our justice system will continue to fall short of the noble ideal of “equal justice under law.”
We further recognize equality before the law, as reflected in the ERA, to be a cornerstone principle of human rights, which the United States is duty-bound to respect based on its ratification of the United Nations Charter and affirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, historic documents for which we reaffirm our support, as well as customary international law. We are conscious that the United States is one of only eighteen countries in the entire world that lacks an express constitutional provision to safeguard women’s rights or prohibit gender discrimination.
We are aware that a committed countermovement with a religious identity of its own continues to oppose the ERA. After careful consideration, however, we are not persuaded by its various arguments against the ERA. These appear primarily rooted in misapprehension about the ERA’s anticipated consequences, and notably fail to speak to the primary ethical issue of whether equal human rights is, indeed, a principle of justice to which the faithful are called. With due respect, we are firm in our conviction that equality of dignity and worth before God necessitates equal treatment by the state.
To oppose human equality in all its forms is a sin.
VII. We call our nation to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment without delay
It is for these reasons that we, the undersigned leaders of a diverse array of faith traditions, do exhort our government and its officials to take all appropriate measures to ensure the ERA is fully integrated into the U.S. Constitution without delay.
We call on the current Congress to pass and the President to approve legislation that removes the time limit that the 92nd Congress imposed on the ratification process. We further call on Congress to acknowledge the force and effect of all 38 state ratifications now on record, including those of Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia. We call on the National Archivist to fulfill his ministerial duty and publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution, now that it has been duly ratified by three-fourths of U.S. states.
We are aware of continuing political and legal debates over the particulars of the ratification process, and note that our religious ethical commitment to the ERA as a matter of equal justice and human rights leads us to support adoption of the ERA through any and all appropriate legal means.
We pray for a speedy resolution to all procedural issues, and immediate integration of the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. We shall continue to advocate until is it so integrated.
1. Amer. College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Intimate Partner Violence (Feb. 2012), https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2012/02/intimate-partner-violence#:~:text=Research%20confirms%20the%20long%2Dterm; American Assoc. of Univ. Women, Workplace Sexual Harassment, https://www.aauw.org/issues/equity/workplace-harassment/Smith, S.G., Zhang, X., Basile, K.C., Merrick, M.T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M. & Chen, J.,. The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey: 2015 data brief – updated release. (Atlanta: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf.
2. Thompson Reuters Foundation, “Which Are the World’s 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women?”; https://www.reuters.com/article/us-women-dangerous-poll-factbox/factbox-which-are-the-worlds-10-most-dangerous-countries-for-women-idUSKBN1JM01Z.
3. Center for American Progress, The Women’s Leadership Gap (Nov. 20, 2018); https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2018/11/20/461273/womens-leadership-gap-2/.
4. Nat’l. Women’s Law Center, The Wage Gap: The Who, How, Why, and What To Do (Sept. 2019), https://nwlc-ciw49tixgw5lbab.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/The-Wage-Gap-Who-How-Why-and-What-to-Do-2019.pdf.
5. World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2020 (2019); http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf.
6. The Trevor Project, National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 (2020); https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Introduction
7. FBI, 2018 Hate Crime Statistics (2018); https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2018/tables/table-1.xls
8. The Trevor Project, Facts About Suicide; https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/
9. Williams Institute, LGBT Poverty in the United States: A study of differences between sexual orientation and gender identity groups (October 2019); https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/National-LGBT-Poverty-Oct-2019.pdf
10. National Center for Transgender Equality, Issues: Housing & Homelessness; https://transequality.org/issues/housing-homelessness
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