Patricia Arquette pushes for Equal Rights Amendment at hearing
© Greg Nash

Actress Patricia Arquette testified before Congress on Tuesday at a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), urging lawmakers to pass legislation to amend the Constitution and guarantee equal rights for women.

“I come here not as a constitutional lawyer but as an American citizen, as an American woman, to advocate for what I feel is critical for our country," Arquette told lawmakers on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. "Women have waited 232 years to be enshrined as full and equal citizens. Why? Because in 1787, women were left out of the Constitution intentionally.”

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It was the first congressional hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years.

Congress passed the amendment in 1972, but it failed to be ratified by enough states before a March 1979 deadline. Overall, 37 states have ratified the amendment, one short of the 38 needed.

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Arquette said enshrining equal rights for women in the Constitution could help address a number of issues, including the gender pay gap. And she shared her own experiences of sexual assault and gender discrimination in the workplace.

“I hope you’re ready now," Arquette told lawmakers. "Because women have been waiting 232 years for equality in this country and its failed them ... but we’re done waiting.”

After the hearing, the Academy Award-winner was joined by fellow actress Alyssa Milano, lawmakers and women's rights advocates at an event to push for ratification of the ERA.

“My name is Alyssa Milano and in 2019, I don’t have equal rights under the Constitution,” Milano said.

“The ERA will build a wall ... a wall that will actually do something against the never-ending assault on our rights from the current or future presidents,” she added.

At the event were representatives from a host of groups including the National Organization for Women, ERA Coalition, National Women’s Law Center and Feminist Majority Foundation.

Speakers highlighted the importance of the 2020 election for the amendment.

“Let me be clear: November is coming,” said Virginia state lawmaker Jennifer Carroll Foy (D). ”If we can’t change their minds, we will absolutely change their seats.”