Because the Equal Rights Amendment introduced in 1923 was never adopted, one woman’s rights expert said a woman who is refused employment, fired or paid less because of her sex has no legal recourse through the federal government.

Sylvia Ramos, chair of the Feminist Caucus of New Mexico, said she hopes to create awareness about this through Albuquerque’s first National Women’s Equality Celebration and Rally.

“This is the first-ever Women’s Equality Day celebration in New Mexico and I am hopeful that we will be able to carry that forward every single year,” Ramos said.

The event will include speakers, poets, musical guests and information on the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress passed the amendment in 1972 — nearly 50 years after it was introduced — but it was ratified by too few states to be enacted, Ramos said.

The ERA prohibits any discrimination based on sex. It was ratified by 35 states, including New Mexico, but needed 38 states to agree before the deadline for it to be adopted, she said. The deadline passed in 1982.

“I believe women don’t need to have their rights protected. Women need to have their rights guaranteed,” Ramos said. “Being protected always means you are in the lesser position, the one being taken care of, the one being given things. We don’t need our rights given to us. We are born with our innate human rights.”
Zelda Gatuskin, president of the New Mexico Humanist Society, said the purpose of drawing attention to the ERA is to ensure all the rights in the Constitution are guaranteed for women.

“It’s very important to everyone in the country to have the ERA passed nationally,” Gatuskin said.

There are two joint resolutions, one in the House and one in the Senate, that direct Congress to lift the deadline for the ERA. Ramos said she hopes that through awareness, citizens can convince their representatives and senators to pass these joint resolutions.

If the deadline is not lifted, the ERA would be returned to the states to be ratified again. However, lifting the deadline would mean that only three more states would need to ratify the amendment, Gatuskin said.

“Congress imposed the deadline, and Congress can remove the deadline,” Gatuskin said.

One of the things Ramos hears most often is that women’s rights issue is only a social issue. She said the issue is much broader and includes economic problems as well.

“If women aren’t paid the same as men, they don’t have as much power in society,” she said.

National Women’s Equality Day was declared in 1971 to commemorate the day voting equality was enacted in 1920. The official celebration day is Monday.

National Women’s Equality Day Celebration and Rally
Sunday, Aug. 25
1 to 3 p.m.
Tiguex Park in Old Town