BETTINA HAGER: Every single year, the Equal Rights Amendment has been introduced in Congress since 1982. So, there’s always been people who’ve continued to work on this issue because it’s so important to our country and it’s also personally important to many advocates. But there was no kind of central base to help organize in a way that could effectively be used to create a national movement. And four-and-a-half years ago or so, I was already working on this issue as the co-chair of the ERA Task Force, the National Council of Women organization. And, basically, Congresswoman (Carolyn) Maloney, who’s been a longtime congressional advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, approached Jessica Neuwirth, who is the co-founder of the ERA Coalition and said, “You know, we really need a national constituency if we’re going to ever get this ratified into the U.S. Constitution.”
And as an amendment to the Constitution, there needs to be kind of a full-time focus on passing an amendment because it takes two-thirds of the House and the Senate to pass it through Congress and then three-quarters of the states to ratify it. And so, Jessica and two of our other co-founders really kind of recognized this need to have a central base, sort of bringing all of the advocates who are either kind of in the states and have continued the fight since 1982 and kind of do the legwork and you know, really organize a national movement and create the ability to bring it to the national stage.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Bettina, I wanted to ask you about public opinion. Have we seen any recent polls that would indicate the acceptance of the public today in 2019 of your effort to push for the adoption of the ERA Amendment?
BETTINA HAGER: Absolutely. We had a poll that we commissioned in 2015, released in 2016 where the poll showed that there was about 94 percent of the respondents (that) believe that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to require equal rights for men and women. So our polling company, when we talked to them and they showed us these results, said you couldn’t even get that level of support for everyone agreeing that we should all drink water. You know, they said they’ve never seen anything that high. It’s really kind of an unprecedented poll. They were just astounded. Really. There’s nothing that has that high of an approval rating. The issue though is that there is what I like to call an information gap. That same pool showed that 80 percent of the respondents mistakenly believed that equal rights on the basis of sex already exist in our Constitution.
And one of the things I kind of always point out is that, you know, if you believe you have something, you’re not going to work to get it because you don’t know that you need to. So one of the main things that we as a coalition and one of the reasons it’s so important to create this national constituency was that we can reach more people. We have a constituency that we can give this information to that we can you know, try to let them know that we still need to be fighting for this. Because – until we have higher numbers of people knowing that we do not currently have an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution, it will be very difficult to change the tide.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Bettina, just a final question here. In your mind, what is the urgency to get the ERA passed as soon as possible? Given that we have Donald Trump as president who’s certainly shown his colors as a longtime misogynist, as has important sectors of the Republican party. We also have the #MeToo movement at the moment and a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court with a very controversial confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and all the accusations and allegations leveled at him in his past. Maybe you could explain the urgency of this moment in terms of the ERA and it’s a necessity to pass quickly.
BETTINA HAGER: I think every single reason that you just listed is the reason that there’s such a high urgency right now. I think that there’s an urgency, but socially and legally to have the Equal Rights Amendment passed and ratified in our U.S. Constitution, and they go hand in hand.