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Sen. Robert Menendez talks with director Kamala Lopez for the documentary “Equal Means Equal.”
Courtesy equalmeansequal.com

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

It’s perfectly legal to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.

Women don’t have equal protection under the law.

Many people assume that they do but in fact, said Judith Scheuer, co-producer, with her husband, Joseph Melicker, of the documentary “Equal Means Equal,” that isn’t the case at all.

“Lots of people don’t realize the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was never passed. People feel there are laws on the books that protect the rights of women, but the reality is many have been gutted by court decisions,” Scheuer said. “The film goes into a number of aspects of women’s lives that are impacted by inequality, such as employment discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, what women have to experience if they are survivors of domestic assault or abuse.”

“Equal Means Equal,” directed by Kamala Lopez, will have its first Montclair public screening on Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Clairidge Theater, 486 Bloomfield Ave. In addition to Scheuer and event co-organizer Cindy Stagoff, the organizing team included Deborah Zafman, Melissa Koziar, Catherine E. Brown, and Sharon Martin.

There will be a panel presentation afterward featuring Lenora Lapidus, director of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, and Brigitte Alexander, an emergency room doctor at North Central Bronx Hospital, where she oversees the hospital’s Sexual Assault Response Team.

The panel will be moderated by Annette Johnson of S.O.F.I.A. [Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates].

Event co-organizer Cindy Stagoff, who also organizes the annual Concert for Haiti in Montclair, said she saw a screening of the film in New York, and wanted to bring it here.

“There’s a robust and healthy debate out there about what women need to further equality,” Stagoff said. “We’re hoping the showing of this film inspires discussion of organizing, and remedies.”

Scheuer explained that the amendment required ratification by 38 states. “The ERA reached 35 states, and had a deadline. Not all constitutional amendments have deadlines.” Having one for the ERA, she said, was neither right nor just.

Sen. Robert Menendez speaks as demonstrators hold replicas of the green-and-white signs for the original ERA campaign, in a scene from “Equal Means Equal.”
Courtesy equalmeansequal.com.

Nevada ratified the amendment two months ago, making it the first ratification in 40 years, she said: “We’re hoping that Congress will lift the deadline.”

Ticket proceeds will benefit S.O.F.I.A., which, according to its website, “provides advocacy, supportive services and referrals for temporary housing to “at risk” women and children of domestic violence.”

The screening is sold out, but there will be a standby line, Stagoff said, adding that there will be other activities organized around women’s rights in the fall: “Given the current administration and what the president is doing to foster inequality, we believe it’s necessary to provide community discussion, and have a conversation about community action.”

The election, she said, actually led to activism.

“The women’s marches were very powerful,” Stagoff said. “People feel a need to participate and do something, create change.”

“It’s not just a women’s film,” said Scheuer. “All people should see this. Inequality does not just impact women, but children, men who are sons of women, and married to women, and who care about women in any way.”

The movie is available for purchase on iTunes. More information about “Equal Means Equal” is at equalmeansequal.com.

For more information about the Montclair screening, email Stagoff at cstagoff@comcast.net, or Scheuer at jescheuer@gmail.com.

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