Statement by NOW President Toni Van Pelt:
WASHINGTON—Former Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), who has died at the age of 91, was a passionate defender of women’s rights who guided the passage of Title IX into law. He was a chief Senate sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and won congressional approval for the ERA in 1972. But he wisely forecast that the ERA might fail because of opposition from conservative state legislatures, so he produced the groundbreaking Title IX, which banned gender discrimination in schools that receive federal support.
His argument for the measure was simple: “In a country that prides itself on equality, we could not continue to deny 53 percent of the American people equal rights.”
Bayh was the principal architect of two constitutional amendments—the 25th, which dealt with presidential disability and vice-presidential vacancies, and the 26th, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote in state and federal elections. His dream was that the Equal Rights Amendment would be the 26th.
NOW shares this vision, and salutes the visionary who did so much to advance gender equality. We are committed to completing this mission with the ratification of the ERA in the states, and when we succeed, we’ll remember Birch Bayh with gratitude and affection.