Women’s Equality Day March & Rally
Durham, NC, 8/28/15
By request, here is the speech delivered by Triad NOW president, Audrey Muck, on the steps of the Old Durham Courthouse for Women’s Equality Day, 2015 …
We won the 19th Amendment in 1920. The right to vote. After blocking ratification time after time, North Carolina finally made the symbolic gesture of ratifying the 19th Amendment in 1971 – the year we began celebrating Women’s Equality Day.
But the right to vote is the ONLY specific right women are guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution still does not fully acknowledge that WE were created equal too. We remain an unprotected class of citizen. And as we’re seeing, it’s dangerous to be excluded from your own Constitution. With every passing day, the extremism of our legislature and Governor – not to mention presidential candidates – demonstrates why. Our hard-earned legislative and judicial victories are being reviled, reversed, repealed and reduced.
Until we put into the Constitution the bedrock principle that equality of rights cannot be denied to women, we will continue to be at the mercy of legislators who don’t believe we exist as equals and are willing to produce laws to prove it.
My legislators tell me that women don’t need an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution – that we’re already protected and even more than equal to men in this country. Well, they tell me that while they work furiously on passing laws to prevent me from being in charge of my own body, saying they’re just looking to ‘protect’ me … they’re blocking bills that would grant women equal pay for equal work, which would raise so many women and their families out of poverty, saying it would hurt economic development.
My legislators say we’re protected by the 14th Amendment. Now, that amendment rightly provides the highest level of judicial review in cases of racial discrimination. But as far back as 1874 the U-S Supreme Court was clear that the 14th Amendment does not cover women. There is a lower bar for gender discrimination, a ‘trickle-down’ equality, if you will. Our lives, our liberties and our pursuits of happiness are still not equally revered.
Women build families. Women build communities. Women build nations. We have been in the forefront of every civil rights struggle this nation has ever waged and is waging. And we will certainly not stop building the bridges to our own equality.
This is a day of celebration, but also a reminder that our work is not yet done.
Poet Marianne Williamson wrote that our greatest fear is not our darkness – it’s our light. It’s not that we fear we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. And so we are! Women account for more than half the registered voters in North Carolina – in fact there are a half-million more women registered to vote than men in this state! It’s time to let our light shine, to remember that there’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around us … that our playing small does not serve the world.
We have the vote – let’s use it while we can to take the next step and guarantee women’s full equality – here in North Carolina and across the United States!
Speech co-written by Audrey Muck and NC4ERA Organizer, Marena Groll.