Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 1:47 am | Fair 67º


Local News

Hundreds Join Santa Barbara Rally and March for Equal Rights Amendment

Speakers issue renewed call for ratification; Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee organizers says effort includes lesbian, transgender women’s rights


With fists and signs in the air, an estimated 250 people converged on Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday afternoon, calling for equality for all and encouraging politicians to do their part in getting the Equal Rights Amendment added to the Constitution.

The downtown plaza was filled with handmade posters reading “Girls just want to have equal rights,” “Respect us” and “ERA now!”

Some in the crowd wore floppy pink “pussyhats” with cat ears that have become a symbol of resistance to President Donald Trump.

Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 and sent it to the states for ratification. The amendment — which simply states “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” — was ratified by the California Legislature and those of 34 other states, but fell three states short of the 38 required for approval.

The ratification deadline was later extended and, last week, Nevada became the 36th state to approve it.

Passing the ERA will send a strong message that the Constitution has zero tolerance for discrimination under the law, said Catherine Swysen, president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, the organizer of Sunday’s march.

“We must stand together and speak out for equality for all so that we do not go backward but instead, even in these challenging times, move forward to create an inclusive society,” she said.

“As is evident in this political climate, women’s rights are under attack. The ERA would help ensure there is no discrimination in the area of health care, employment (and) equal pay.”

Swysen said the ERA’s passage would guarantee that rights affirmed by the Constitution are equally held by all, regardless of their gender.

“It would provide a fundamental legal remedy against sex discrimination for both women and men,” she said.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, told the crowd it is crucial to pass the ERA “to prevent one of the most subtle yet pervasive types of discrimination in our society — discrimination against women. The first step to justice for women in our country begins with the ERA to enforce gender equality.”

Carbajal said he is a “proud co-sponsor” of the ERA.

“Every citizen in this country deserves equal rights treatment under the law regardless of race, financial status and gender,” he said. “This is a simple statement but one that our government shamefully refuses to recognize.”

Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, said women have the right to succeed and follow a career that is meaningful and important.

“The ERA ensures that every woman has the ability to pursue goals and dreams,” she said. “In California, we are the light of the nation, but we still have work to do.”

Swysen said the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is devoted to taking social action against discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age or ability, as well as endorsing the candidacies of women and men who support and promote a feminist agenda.

In championing full equality for women, she added, the organization is dedicated to the inclusiveness of lesbian rights and transgender women’s rights as a fundamental component of that advocacy.

“One of our core values is inclusiveness and respect for all,” Swysen said. “We strive to foster respect and understanding of lesbians’ sexual orientation and culture, as well as respect and understanding of transgender women’s gender identity, and we are committed to work for their full equal rights.”

The event featured guest speakers and appearances from state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Council members Gregg Hart and Cathy Murillo; Santa Barbara Unified School District trustee Wendy Sims-Moten; former county Supervisor Susan Rose, founder and former president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee; SBWPC board member Andria Martinez Cohen; League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara co-president Lindsey Baker; Black Lives Matter movement speaker Akilah Simone Baker; representatives from Planned Parenthood California Central Coast; a reading from Santa Barbara poet laureate Sojourner Kincaid Rolle; and a performance by World Dance for Humanity.

The South Coast residents marched down State Street after the speeches.

“At a time when women’s rights are under attack, we march to send a loud and clear message that equality between women and men is a fundamental human civil right which must be enshrined in our Constitution,” Swysen said.

“I’m amazed that we are still talking about this. Efforts are being made every day to roll back women’s rights.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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