Advocacy groups seeking to have the Equal Rights Amendment passed in North Carolina launched a publicity campaign Thursday.
The ERA would enshrine equal rights for women and men in the United States Constitution. The movement toward a Constitutional Amendment launched nearly 100 years ago, but only 37 of the required 38 states have ratified the measure. The ERA-NC Alliance wants North Carolina to be the state to push it over the top.
"Women in this country have been waiting for more than 200 years to enjoy the full blessings of liberty in every state, and every territory of this great nation," said Jane Terwillegar, president of American Association of University Women of North Carolina. "What an honor if North Carolina will vote to ratify ERA and be the final state to approve Constitutional protection of equal rights for all Americans."
However, the Equal Rights Amendment doesn't have much political backing yet. A bill was introduced for the third straight year in March, and referred to committee where it has stayed. Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham is a primary co-sponsor of the bill. He spoke in support of the ERA, but was also realistic about its chances to pass this year.
"To be candid with you, I think it's going to take significant momentum, along with this new election cycle to get legislators on board with this issue," he said at a Thursday press conference launching the publicity campaign. "I mean, what we really need to do is the same (as) when we go out and we ask (candidates) about teacher pay, or we ask about other issues that are critical here in North Carolina. ERA needs to be at the top of the agendas when they interview candidates, when they bring them in to candidates' forums so that it's elevated in the minds of lawmakers."
That's why the ERA-NC Alliance kicked off an advocacy campaign that will include billboards across the state's highways.
"We are very excited about the new billboards," said Gailya Paliga, president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women. "We hope they spark interest in thet ERA as a fundamental legal remedy against sex discrimination for women and men."