Speech ● For The People
For Immediate Release: 
February 13, 2020
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of legislation to remove the arbitrary deadline on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed the House today. Below is a transcript of his remarks and a link to the video.

Click here to watch the video.
“Madam Speaker, first, let me thank Representative [Jackie] Speier, Representative [Carolyn] Maloney, and all those who have been such warriors on this issue for such a long period of time. They are keeping the faith.

“This Constitutional amendment was proposed and passed in 1972. To be specific, in the early part of 1972. I was a member of the Maryland State Senate in 1972, and I had the honor of, shortly after in the late spring of 1972, just months after the ERA had been passed, of voting to ratify that. Now, the previous speaker said that only 35 states – that's 70 percent of the states – ratified that in a timely fashion. Timely in the sense that we set in a resolution, as the Chairman pointed out, a date. Seventy percent of the states of this nation. Now, it needed three more states. It has now received three more states.

“So I have been an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment for essentially four decades, actually longer. I will be proud to vote for it today.

“Just a few months, as I said, after Congress adopted the ERA, Maryland voted for ratification. I thought that it was long overdue even then in 1972. Here we are some 48 years later, and it still is [long overdue].

“Our Founders declared ‘all men are created equal’ in their Declaration Of Independence. Surely, no Founder, if they were writing that document today, would have said men, when men meant white, property-owning men. Surely, they would not have written that. Surely, none of us would have supported that. Since the very beginning Americans have been taking steps, therefore, to define that in a more expansive, inclusive term representing our universal values. We amended the Constitution to ensure African-Americans and women could not be denied the right to vote. Took a long time. Particularly I hope the women in this body will think of the suffragettes who were extraordinarily active and involved in our community and making decisions in our families and in our communities and country, but who could not vote prior to 1919. [From] 1789 to 1919, women could not vote.

“I'm the father of three daughters. The grandfather of two granddaughters, and the great grandfather of three great granddaughters. For me to go home to them tonight, and say I voted against your being equal in America? Now, my wife passed away, but if I went home to her tonight, and said I voted against your being equal in America? Or those grandchildren and great grandchildren who happen to have been born as women, and say to them I voted against your being equal in America today?

“We passed the Civil Rights Act to make clear that all must be treated equal regardless of race. We passed the [Americans with Disabilities Act], which I co-sponsored, 30 years ago to ban discrimination against those with disabilities. But still, nowhere in our Constitution does it state clearly that women must be treated equally and that one must not be subject to discrimination because of their gender. The ERA would enshrine that basic tenet of our democracy in our Constitution at long last. Seventy percent of the states and then three more said that ought to be [in] our Constitution. Three-quarters of the states have voted to ratify this amendment.

“Discrimination against women has through our history kept bright and talented Americans from achieving their full potential in our economy. Because of their hard work, the sacrifices, the leadership, and perseverance of trailblazing women we’ve seen barriers come down, doors of opportunity open, and glass ceilings shatter. But discrimination, inequality, and injustice persist, and we will hear arguments on this Floor rationalizing why discrimination ought to still exist. And as long as our Constitution does not explicitly ban discrimination based upon gender, as it does based on race, we will continue to see forms of legal discrimination against women linger in our country.

“Taking this step to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution is one of the many that House Democrats are taking to combat discrimination against women simply because they are women. Last year, we passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, not everybody voted for that, but, in my opinion, everybody voted for that who thought equal pay should mean equal pay irrespective of gender and based upon work performed. That built on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to ensure equal pay for equal work. We also passed a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Most of us on our side voted for that, but there was a rationalization why some thought, no, we will not protect women against violence. We have continued working to protect women's rights to make their own health care choices and to access quality, affordable care. Who said that was part of the Constitution? The Supreme Court of the United States. They said that was a Constitutional right. And we see effort, after effort, after effort to erode that Constitutional right.

“I'm proud that the Democratic Caucus in the 116th Congress is not only the most diverse in American history, but also includes the greatest number of women. In Virginia, it was an election that saw the House of Delegates reach 30 percent [of] women, and the State Senate reached 28 percent. And once it got there, the women of Virginia stood up and said, this ought to be in the Constitution of the United States, and they voted to do so. Virginia now has a woman as Speaker of the House as we do in our U.S. House [of Representatives] and as my home state of Maryland has in our House Of Delegates. It is because more women are stepping up to run for office and winning election that more women's voices are being heard in our democracy. That is why this resolution is on the Floor. That's a wonderful thing, and I have been proud to help recruit talented women to run for the House as Democrats, and very frankly, we need more women as Republicans. A diminishing group, I might add.

“I urge my colleagues – men and women, Democrats and Republicans – to join in supporting this resolution and finally, is it too late? It is too late, but it is never too late to do the right thing. Make this part of our Constitution. Stand up and say yes, women should be included as all humankind who are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. That is the principle that we are articulating today.

“Alice Paul, who first wrote the ERA and campaigned for it for most of her life, was once asked why she kept all her focus on getting the job done. She said this, quote: ‘when you put your hand to the plow you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row.’ We are not at the end of the row. But this is a way upon that row to make it complete, to make our Constitution protect all people – male or female, black or white, all people. At long last, let's hold firm to that plow. Let's get the job done. Vote yes on this resolution.”