Photo by Ngai But

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling this week blocking a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart by women employees who contend that they face discrimination in the workplace, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Sen. Robert Menendez reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday, essentially calling attention to legislation that is already pending.

“The Equal Rights Amendment is still needed because the only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the U.S. is to write it into the Constitution, Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said at a news conference outside the Capitol. “While it has been thrilling to see how far women have come in my lifetime, laws can change, government regulations can be weakened, and judicial opinions can shift. Making women’s equality a constitutional right – after Congress passes and 38 states ratify the ERA – would place the United States on record, albeit more than 200 years late, that women are fully equal in the eyes of the law.”

The legislation, which was formally introduced in House in March, would actually remove the time limit for ratification on the Equal Rights Amendment that was passed in 1972 but fell three states short of ratification in 1982.

The Equal Rights Amendment has been reintroduced in every session of Congress since 1982. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, took the lead in the Senate on the amendment until his death in 2009. Menendez has not taken up the cause in the Senate.

“It is a disgrace that American women are still not constitutionally guaranteed equal rights under the law,” Menendez said Wednesday. “Women have made tremendous advancements in our society, but we must continue to advance women’s rights by bringing our laws in line with 21st-century values.”

Writing on the White House blog, Tina Tchen, assistant to the president and chief of staff to the first lady, said, “I am proud to serve in the Obama administration, as this is one of so many policies important to women that the president strongly supports.”

Tchen, who is also the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said: “It is no secret that President Obama has placed an emphasis on supporting women and girls throughout his career and, in particular, since the day he took office. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and he created the White House Council on Women and Girls, whose aim is to ensure that the federal government takes the interests of women and girls into account, particularly as we consider and amend public policy.”

On The Hill’s Congress Blog, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, wrote:

Here’s the text of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, Section 1: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Replace the word “sex” with “race,” and there would not be a single dissenting vote in the entire Congress. It’s as simple as that. Let’s pass the ERA once and for all.

At the event outside the Capitol on Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York, said, “In the year 2011, it is truly an embarrassment for our nation that we still do not have gender equality enshrined in our Constitution.”

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