From the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Equal Rights Amendment

19th Amendment: women’s right to vote

The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Often referred to as the “Susan B Anthony Amendment,” this amendment secured women in the U.S. the right to vote.

Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Susan B. Anthony Amendment on August 18, 1920, thereby reaching the threshold of states needed to amend the U.S. Constitution.  The Humane Party is now in the initial exploration stage for hosting an event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee, to commemorate this historic moment.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others spent over 50 years working to secure the vote of women but did not live to see the 19th Amendment become law.  Susan B. Anthony became the first historical woman to be featured on a circulating U.S. coin in 1979, when the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin was minted.

Equal Rights Amendment

Just a few years after the 19th Amendment was ratified, women’s rights leaders Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman drafted and proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA1”).  The effort to gain ratification of ERA1 fell just short of the necessary number of state ratifications, being ratified in 35 states when 38 were needed.  Thus, the ERA1 did not become part of the U.S. Constitution.

The text of the Equal Rights Amendment adheres closely to that of the Nineteenth Amendment.  Only the initial few words of the key substantive provisions were changed from an exclusive focus on the vote to a more general “[e]quality of rights under the law.”  The key substantive provisions in both texts end at the word “sex.”

Equal Rights Amendment 2

Modernly, however, the importance of numerous other issues our society now faces has become clear—issues such as gender, sexual orientation, and marriage equality.  The text of the original Equal Rights Amendment is silent on these matters.

To address this gap, the Humane Party undertook from inception to draft, propose, and secure ratification of a new Constitutional amendment that would be fully inclusive of gender-, sexuality-, and marriage-related rights. The drafting phase culminated in 2015, when the final draft of the Equal Rights Amendment 2 was published and proposed.

As highlighted below, the key substantive provision of the ERA2 remains faithful to the text of the 19th Amendment and of the ERA1, but the ERA2 extends these pre-existing texts beyond the word “sex” to also encompass equality of rights with respect to sexual orientation, gender, and choice of spouse or partner.

19th Amendment (1920) (in relevant part):

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Equal Rights Amendment (proposed 1923) (in relevant part):

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Equal Rights Amendment 2 (proposed 2015) (in relevant part):

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex, sexual orientation, gender, or choice of spouse or partner.

Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have demonstrated the continuing need and urgency for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment 2.  Activists desiring both to secure equal rights for women and to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community should not settle for anything less.  Those who would like to participate in the campaign for passage and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment 2 are invited to submit the Humane Party volunteer application.

susan b anthony 1979 humane herald staff
Photo by the Humane Herald staff