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The politics of feminism: An unlikely partnership

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Washington CNN —  

A diehard New York Democrat sits in her congressional office, looking over details of one of her pet bills. In walks a far-right Republican, a woman from the West who was part of the Tea Party Caucus – the sort who’d seem an obvious adversary.

Is now the time?

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  • “Nice view, missy!” the visitor says, taking in the postcard-perfect sight of the U.S. Capitol. The two greet each other with big smiles and settle in for a nice long chat, vowing to work together.

    The host is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a staunch pro-choice veteran of Capitol Hill who created a stir in 2012 when she demanded of a panel of men testifying on birth control: “Where are the women?”

    Beside her, exuding warmth, is Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, an equally proud conservative Republican who boasts of her “100% pro-life voting record.”

    Here in Washington, where party politics divide and erect thick walls, these two are pushing aside barriers for a common goal: They both want to see the Equal Rights Amendment – language that would explicitly protect women’s rights and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex – in the U.S. Constitution.

    Their backgrounds and what motivates them may differ; one raises the specter of sharia law, the other illegal abortions. But partisanship has no place when it comes to the importance of the ERA, these unlikely allies insist.

    “The key here is just reminding people that equal rights have to be fought for, sought and obtained in writing,” Lummis says.

    “If we don’t do it, who else is going to do it?” says Maloney. “The best legislation is always bipartisan.”

    ’Men don’t like to ask women for money’

    Maloney, 69, remembers when classified ads in newspapers separated job listings by gender. She’s heard too many accounts of women who became sick or died after getting back-alley abortions. She never participated in athletics at school while growing up in North Carolina because the option didn’t exist for girls.

    “When I first started working, discrimination and harassment was part of the job. There was no one there to protect you,” she says. “It wasn’t really long ago when you couldn’t get credit in your own name.”

    Framed art featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, an early women's rights advocate, decorates Rep. Carolyn Maloney's office on Capitol Hill. It was a gift from Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a fervent ERA supporter and a co-founder of the Congressional Women's Caucus.
    Melissa Golden for CNN
    Framed art featuring Eleanor Roosevelt, an early women's rights advocate, decorates Rep. Carolyn Maloney's office on Capitol Hill. It was a gift from Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a fervent ERA supporter and a co-founder of the Congressional Women's Caucus.

    All of this fuels the fight