Members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent Monday evening detailing how Black women have been vital in the fight to enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the constitution.

The group was clear about why now is the time to make that amendment the law of the land. 

“Black women have always been leaders of the fight to enshrine equality in our nation’s constitution, but we haven’t always been in the headlines for leading that work,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo).

“Equality is overdue,” she said. “I rise in support of the Equal Rights Amendment today on the shoulders of the scores of Black women and LGBTQ+ people who have toiled on this initiative for 100 whole years to amplify their calls, calls they made in this very chamber and outside of it, that resonate today as the attacks against us intensify.”

The congresswoman’s remarks came on the eve of the creation of the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment, which Bush and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) founded and will co-chair together with the sole purpose of enshrining the ERA as the 28th constitutional amendment.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) is seen during the first day of the 118th session of Congress on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.

Equal Rights Amendment has long political history

The ERA was introduced in Congress in 1923 to enshrine equal rights regardless of gender in the constitution. On March 22, 1972, Congress passed the amendment with more than the required a two-thirds majority.

Despite this, only 38 states have ratified the ERA and only 27 states have Equal Rights Amendments in their state constitutions today.

Members said Monday that the recent spate of anti-abortion laws circulating the country since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, along with a slate of laws prohibiting instruction on race and racism, is why the ERA is needed now more than ever. 

Finally writing the amendment into the Constitution, said Bush, will lead to equal rights, violence prevention, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare equity and reproductive rights.

Hearing from Black woman in particular is vital to ensuring policy change, added Pressley.

“As Black women who have earned the right to be members of this august body, we find ourselves at the intersection of both race and gender,” said Pressley. “Some of the most profound and most impactful policies come directly from our lived experiences.”

“I know how transformative the ERA will be for millions of women and our LGBTQ siblings across this country,” Pressley said.

“It is long past time the Constitution affirms our equality and our very existence in the eyes of the law,” she said. “The ramifications run deep as women faced daily sexism, pregnancy discrimination, pay inequities, sexual violence and persistent legislated attacks on our bodily autonomy. We need the ERA now.”

Black women have been instrumental in ERA history

It’s not the first time Pressley has spoken about the need for the ERA. 

In late January, Pressley, along with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) unveiled a bicameral, joint resolution to affirm the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

On Monday, Bush and Pressley were joined by other members of the CBC, including Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Joyce Beatty (Ohio), Yvette Clark (New York) and Alma Adams (North Carolina).

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.). (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke)

They highlighted names like suffragette and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black female vice president.

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), the first Black woman elected from Pennsylvania, and Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), the first Black woman elected from Virginia, closed out Monday’s comments. 

“I stand today frustrated that it is not obvious to all elected members of Congress that the rights of all women, and specifically Black women, need to be protected,” said Lee. “As we are wrapping Women’s History Month, I remain steadfast in making sure that our daughters and granddaughters of the future do not have to continue to discuss this.”

“Constitutional equality is powerful,” Lee added. “Women and states have done their part to ratify the ERA … but now Congress must swiftly follow suit. We must take this action to move one step closer to enshrining the dignity, the humanity and the equality of all people into the highest law in the land.”