Note: This has been corrected since originally posted to reflect that there had never been more than two women on the board, not one.
The glass ceiling was cracked, if not shattered, on Tuesday, as three women took their seats on a Board of Aldermen that had never had more than two female members throughout its existence.
And one of the first things the more feminine board did on Tuesday was vote unanimously to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1972, a proposed Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) to the Constitution passed both houses of the U.S. Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. To add the ERA to the Constitution, ratification was needed by 38 states prior to 1982. Only 35 of the required 38 states ratified the ERA by this deadline.
Earlier this year, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. (More)
North Carolina has not ratified the ERA. In 2015 and 2017, bills supporting state ratification were introduced to the N.C. General Assembly in both the House and Senate, but the General Assembly has still yet to ratify the amendment. U.S. Representatives G. K. Butterfield, David Price, and Alma Adams cosponsored bills in the 114th Congress to pass an ERA and lift the time limits on the states for ratifying the ERA.
The resolution aldermen approved on Tuesday calls on the N.C. General Assembly to ratify the amendment and for Congress to remove the time limit for ratification and pass the ERA.
Ward 2 Alderman Jameesha Harris introduced the resolution, saying that she had approached the all-male Craven County Board of Commissioners to seek support without success.
“I hope to set the tone and show the Board of Commissioners that this is how you do it,” she said.
Ward 1 Alderman Sabrina Bengel said she was in school protesting for equal rights in 1972: she wore pants, and was sent home.
Earlier in the meeting, Bengel pointed out that women make up 53.3 percent of the population in New Bern, and though she said she didn’t think she needed a piece of paper to give her equal rights, she supported the motion and seconded it. The motion passed on a 7-0 vote.
Here is the resolution:
RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
WHEREAS, the City of New Bern forthrightly supports equal rights for the citizens of New Bern; and women constitute over 53 percent of the citizenry of New Bern; and
WHEREAS, women play a critical role in families, the workplace, and in society, contributing to our economy and advancing our city and our nation; and
WHEREAS, women continue to confront a lack of political parity, workplace discrimination, health care inequities, disparate rates of poverty, rape and domestic violence assaults; and
WHEREAS, the US Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all rights that it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex; and
WHEREAS, the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause has never been interpreted to guarantee equal rights for women in the same way the ERA would, by situating sex as a suspect category invoking strict judicial scrutiny, just as race, national origin and religion do; and
WHEREAS, state laws are not uniform and federal laws are not comprehensive; additionally, these laws can be repealed or reduced; and
WHEREAS, the Amendment would help correct systemic sex discrimination; and
WHEREAS, the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 and ratified by 35 of the 38 states necessary to put it into the Constitution, yet was assumed to have expired in 1982; and
WHEREAS, Congress can alter time limits in the proposing clauses of amendments; and the deadline for ERA appeared only in the preamble and not in the actual legislation; and
WHEREAS, US Representatives G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Alma Adams co-sponsored the bills in the 114 Congress to pass an ERA and to lift the time limits on the states for ratifying the ERA.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of New Bern calls on Congress to pass into law a bill to pass an ERA and remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA so that ratification shall be achieved upon the affirmative vote of 38states, of which 35 have already ratified; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the City of New Bern calls on the NC General Assembly to pass into law a bill to ratify the ERA to the US Constitution as proposed by Congress on March 22, 1972.
This the 12th day of December, 2017.
(Signed Mayor Dana Outlaw and City Clerk Brenda Blanco)