Due to the lack of support for Women’s Rights in the South Carolina State Legislature, we are suspending updates to our website as of January 2023. But before we go, here’s a brief summary of the past few years.
On January 15, 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which satisfied the United States Constitution's state requirement for ratification. That final ratification was forwarded to the National Archivist for certification and publication.
But rather than publish the amendment as practice dictates — knowing that action would effectively make the ERA into law — the Archivist requested an opinion from then Attorney General Bill Barr as to its status. Barr instructed the Archivist NOT to publish the ERA because the 10-year deadline originally placed on the amendment had expired.
At first blush, this executive branch intervention would seem viable. However, the Constitution specifies that only Congress has authority over the amendment process. The President or the executive branch has no role in making an amendment into law. Any vote, or opinion, or signature they offer has no meaning.
So on February 13, 2020, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to remove the deadline from the original amendment (H.J.Res.79 / vote 232-183). Rep Joe Cunningham (District 1) was the only South Carolina legislator to vote in support.
A similar resolution was proposed in the Senate (S.J.Res.6) that had the support of 49 sponsors. But unfortunately, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee where the proposed resolution would be heard — Senator Lindsey Graham — refused to hold a hearing. Both the House and Senate resolutions died at the end of the 2019-2020 session.
Again in the 2021-2022 session, the House proposed a new resolution to remove the deadline that passed on March 17, 2021 (H.J.Res.17 / vote 222-204). A new Senate resolution was also proposed (S.J.Res.1) that collected 52 sponsors. While that would seem to give us hope, due to the Senate filibuster which can arbitrarily be imposed to raise the votes required for passage to a 60 vote minimum, any resolution to eliminate the deadline was not likely to pass.
In this most recent session, neither South Carolina Senators Graham nor Scott support the ERA. The House is equally negligent, in that no SC House Rep signed on to the legislation.
And just to confuse things further ...
Another resolution before the House (H.Res.891) — whose purpose was to recognize the ERA as a valid amendment to the Constitution — gained 184 signatures (218 are needed for passage). No South Carolina House legislator supported the resolution, including Representative Jim Clyburn. Multiple attempts to reach him have proven futile.
In the 2022-2024 session, with Republicans in charge of the House, it is unlikely that any new resolutions will be proposed or passed.
In the 2021-2022 session of the South Carolina House — H 3258 — filed by Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Spencer Wetmore picked up only 2 additional sponsors to bring the total to 4.
The previous House session (2019-2020) — H 3391 — had 19 sponsors.
Same is true for the Senate. In the 2021-2022 session — S 262 — had only 3 sponsors. Similar legislation filed in 2019-2020 — S 901 — had 10.
We seem to be going in the wrong direction. And since many of the state legislators who previously supported the ERA either did not run or lost their seat in the 2023-2024 election, we are at a significant disadvantage. So until we see the tide turning at the state level, we are taking a rest.
There is one shred of good news you can take with you. In March of 2022, President Biden signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which had expired in February of 2019. Not only was the law renewed, but it was greatly expanded. Unfortunately, this law needs to be renewed periodically (again in 2027), and depending upon which party is in power, the renewal is not guaranteed. For more on VAWA, click here.
If we had the Equal Rights Amendment in place, no renewal would be needed.
Yet another reason for you to stay involved, and do whatever you can, to protect and expand women's rights.