In support of a new ERA Coalition campaign, yesterday five hundred thirty-five letters personally signed by Meryl Streep were delivered to each and every Member of Congress.
The letters urge lawmakers to support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women.
“I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality – for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself – by actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment,” Ms. Streep wrote. “The ERA is not just a women’s rights issue,” she noted, “it will have a meaningful benefit for the whole human family.”
With each letter, Meryl Streep enclosed a copy of the book Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for the ERA is Now, by Jessica Neuwirth. The founder and President of the ERA Coalition, Ms. Neuwirth said she wrote the book “to show the urgent need for the ERA, highlighting the cases of real women who have suffered harm and were unable to get the legal protection they should have from the Constitution.”
The ERA Coalition was founded last year to build a broader base of public support for ongoing efforts to put the ERA into the Constitution. Ms. Streep joins a growing number of prominent individuals and celebrities who have publicly reaffirmed their commitment to the Equal Rights Amendment including former President Jimmy Carter, Chelsea Handler, Rashida Jones, Jane Fonda, Tavis Smiley, Taylor Schilling, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Gloria Steinem, who serves on the board of the ERA Coalition.
In writing to Members of Congress, Streep said, “I am adding my voice to the long term efforts of others in the campaign to have the rights of the majority of Americans, who were not considered equal citizens by the framers of the Constitution, included and secured by virtue of an Amendment.”
Several bills related to the ERA have been recently introduced in Congress – by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) in the House, and by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate. Representative Maloney’s bill is co-sponsored by Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Senator Cardin’s bill is co-sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). Ms. Streep highlighted this bipartisan sponsorship in her letter, saying “It is very heartening for me and so many other Americans to see Democrats and Republicans joining together on this issue. It’s time to make this happen,” adding that the ERA “represents a fundamental human right that must be included in our Constitution as a matter of principle.” She also noted that the United States has encouraged other countries such as Afghanistan to put this provision in their constitutions, remarking “we should have it in our own.”
The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress in 1972. It had been ratified by 35 states when the deadline for ratification expired in 1982, just three states short of the 38 states needed to put the ERA into the Constitution. The ERA Coalition was founded in 2014. It has more than fifty organizational members.