Kim Porteous

Kim Porteous encourages Citrus County League of Women Voters members to support Equal Rights Amendment ratification in Florida. 

It’s 100 years this month since Congress passed the 19th amendment, securing a woman’s right to vote.

Kim Porteous says it isn’t enough. Not even close.

“No matter what people say, it’s worth the fight,” she said.

“It” is the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, which was approved by Congress in 1972 and needed ratification by 38 states. The movement is one state shy; Florida has not ratified.

Porteous, president of Florida’s National Organization for Women chapter, brought the ERA message Tuesday to a willing audience — the Citrus County League of Women Voters.

About 40 were on hand at the Coastal Region Library as Porteous and her intern, Serena Sha, said that women will never have equal standing with men without the ERA being part of the Constitution.

“If we have to fight for our basic human rights, were we even given them in the first place?” Sha said.

The amendment is one sentence  — “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

While most states have laws prohibiting descrimation of any kind based on sex, proponents of the ERA say laws can be reversed or eliminated. A constitutional amendment, they say, cements those rights.

And, with the amendment 47 years old, it’s no longer on the public’s radar.

“People think the ERA has passed, but it has not,” Linda Myers, the league’s event coordinator, said. “It’s getting close.”

Indeed, in the last two years, Nevada and Illinois ratified the amendment. Backers are putting hope that the 2020 election may tip the balance of power in other states, such as Virginia, where the legislature has come up short several years straight in voting for ratification.

Attempts in Florida have also been fruitless. Porteous said organizers sent thousands of postcards to key state lawmakers hoping to find interest in pursuing the ERA ratification, but the session ended without a vote.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue,” she said. “People support equality across the board.”

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Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

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