Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Resolution on Equal Rights Amendment

February 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.J.Res.79, a resolution to remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

I'm so pleased that the gentlewoman from Virginia is in the chair and grateful to her for her leadership.  And our other colleagues, Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, as new Members of Congress who give us the opportunity as the Majority to bring this important legislation to the Floor, and thank them for Virginia’s leadership in all of this.

It's so appropriate that Congresswoman [Wexton] is in the Chair for this because she was a leader in the state legislature on the Equal Rights Amendment when she served there.  

This is an historic day.  A happy day as the House takes action to move our nation closer to the founding – our founding ideal that all are created equal.

I salute Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her leadership on this resolution and her lifetime of work to advance equality in America.  She quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when she said, and I think it bears repetition: ‘Certainly,’ Justice Scalia said, ‘Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex.  The only issue is whether it prohibits it.  It does not.’  It does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.

The lack of an ERA has allowed the Supreme Court Justice to have this interpretation.  Here it is, we say it over and over again, ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.’

How can you have a problem with that?  How can you have a problem with that?  

Let me also salute Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, our life – long-time lead sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment in the House, for her great leadership.  And to you, Chairman Nadler, the Members of the Judiciary Committee and all the Members who came to Congress, committed to finishing this fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

I also want to acknowledge that yesterday, at our press presentation on this, in the audience was a Republican from Illinois who was responsible for Illinois passing the Equal Rights Amendment: Steven Anderson.  He was with us at the Capitol.  We commend him for being a leader on the ERA. Passing it through the Illinois Statehouse.  What an honor and how clear that this is not partisan. Perhaps only in the House of Representatives, but not in the rest of the country.

And, let us acknowledge the millions of women in Nevada, Illinois, Virginia and across America who have raised a drumbeat for ratification and reignited a nationwide movement for equality.

Nearly two hundred – excuse me – nearly one hundred years ago, Alice Paul, a Republican, introduced the Equal Rights Amendment, the first proposed amendment to the Constitution calling for women's equality in America.  

Fifty years ago, soon after becoming the first African American woman to serve in the Congress, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm stood on this House Floor to urge passage of the ERA, calling it ‘one of the most clear-cut opportunities we are likely to have to declare our faith in the principles that shaped our Constitution.’

But, today and this year that marks the centennial of women having the right to vote, it is a shameful reality that the Equal Rights Amendment still has not been enshrined in the Constitution.  

As a result, millions of American women still face inequality under the law and injustice in their careers and lives.  Without full equality under the Constitution, women face a devastating wage gap.  And this has an impact not only on the families, what families earn today, but on womens’ pension and retirement in the future. This is wrong.

Women are facing discrimination as they raise families, 62 percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the workforce.  But, current law allows pregnant workers to be placed on unpaid leave or forced out of their jobs.

And, sexual harassment and assault too often go unchecked.  All leading to women's underrepresentation at the decision-making table.  Today by passing – and, we know what the statistics are.  What is it, 33 CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies are women.  Really?

Today, by passing this resolution, the House is paving the way to enshrining Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution.  That will achieve justice for women and progress for families, for our children: lowering wage disparity, increasing paychecks so moms can pay for their family's needs such as rent, groceries, childcare, health care.

And, the ERA will strengthen America.  It's not just about women.  It's about America.  The ERA will strengthen America, unleashing the full power of women in our economy and upholding the value of equality in our democracy.

I have four daughters, one son, two granddaughters.  I can't even imagine how anyone could think of his or her daughter not having equality.  His or her sister, mom, wife not having equality.  What is that about?  What is that about?  

Women should not have the same status of equality as men?  This has nothing to do with abortion issue.  That's an excuse.  It's not a reason.  It has everything to do with the respect for women, your daughter, your sister, your wife, your mother.  And you're saying by voting against this that your daughter, your sister, your mother, your spouse should not have equal protection under the law in the Constitution of the United States.

To those who say the ERA is not necessary, let me quote from a recent statement from the American Association of University Women.  It states, ‘Many Americans mistakenly believe that the U.S. Constitution explicitly guarantees equality between men and women’ – perhaps, you think that – ‘the Equal Rights Amendment would once and for all guarantee constitutional equality between men and women.  Its ratification would provide the constitutional guarantee that all men and women are truly equal under the law.’

I urge a strong bipartisan vote for this resolution.  It would be bipartisan in the United States Senate, when we send it over there shortly.  And so, to ensure that women are truly equal under the law in America because we know in America, when women succeed, America succeeds.

I urge a yes vote and yield back the balance of my time.