NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–As the 82nd anniversary of women’s suffrage approached, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney had an idea: to poll the American people and see what they thought about equal rights for women.Maloney, a 20-year House veteran, commissioned the national polling organization of Penn, Schoen and Brewer to ask voters pointed questions concerning women’s rights. The results, released Monday to coincide with Women’s Equality Day–the date 82 years ago when women gained the right to vote–ranged from predictable to startling. Among the 500 people polled across the country:

  • 96 percent said they supported legal protection of women’s rights;
  • 82 percent believed those rights were already protected under the United States Constitution;
  • 69 percent supported amending the Constitution to include language that specifically protects women. Among Republicans, support stood at 58 percent.

Gathered in Maloney’s Upper East Side garden apartment to hear the results Monday were women from numerous levels of government and women’s organizations. Liz Krueger, a first-term New York state assemblywoman locked in a bruising re-election campaign, noted that only 2 percent of state contracts go to women-owned businesses; women garner 3 percent of such federal contracts, she said.

Gail Brewer, a member of the New York City Council, noted that term limits had reduced the number of women on the council from 17 to 12–an impact not unlike that of term limits on women’s representation in state legislatures.

Other women offered reports on women’s continued inequality, from the think tank Catalyst’s showing a decline in women chief executive officers to the Maloney-Dingell commission’s findings that indicate that not only does the wage gap remain at 73 cents to the dollar, but also women in management have actually lost ground in the last five years. Shauna Shames, research director for the White House Project, observed that in the national bully pulpit known as Sunday morning chat shows, women make up about 12 percent of the guests; their time spent talking is just 10 percent of a given program’s running time.

Taken together, the reports offered an accumulated picture of inequality across the board. And many say they make a compelling case for constitutional protection. “Eighty-two percent think we already have it!” cried Maloney, a longtime champion of the Equal Rights Amendment, who last year re-introduced the legislation in Congress for the first time. She has promised to-reintroduce the amendment every year until it passes, with a declared goal of passage by 2020.

The amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and receive the signature of the president before it goes to the states for ratification. Three-fourths of states must ratify the amendment for it to take effect. This year, Maloney has 210 co-sponsors. “It’s time to make it real,” she said, to an appreciative roar from the 40 guests.

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