What is the ERA?
The ERA is an amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee equal rights to all Americans, regardless of sex. The ERA would provide a fundamental and universal legal remedy against discrimination for both women and men.
A little Herstory
In 1923, a young suffragist by the name of Alice Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment. While the 19th amendment had been ratified just three years earlier, she realized "the vote" just wasn't enough. It did not give women "equal justice under law." The ERA was written to do just that.
The ERA has been introduced into every legislative session since, and in1940, the Republican party became the first major political party to include it in their election platform. But it wasn’t until 1972 that Congress finally passed it (by over 90%!) and sent it to the states for ratification. The vote of 3/4ths of state legislatures (38) is required to make an amendment into law.
Within the first five years, 35 state legislatures ratified. But by then a strong and well organized opposition took hold, and even though the 7-year deadline was extended to 10, on June 30th, 1982 — when the extension expired — the ERA fell three states short.
So why now?
On March 22, 2017, 45 years to the day Congress sent the ERA to the states for ratification, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify, breathing new life into the movement. Illinois followed in May of 2018. And on January 15, 2020, Virginia became the 38th.
While that count fulfills the constitutional requirement, the conversation of equality must continue. In the 12 states that have yet to ratify, 10 are in the Deep South. This region in particular has struggled with equality well before the Constitution was even written. If we continue our work, South Carolina could be the first state to ratify in the Deep South, breaking the mold that has held for generations. The work to ratify in the states must continue.
Where do we go from here?
Article V of the Constitution gives Congress broad interpretive powers over the amendment process. The Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate will determine if the deadline can be extended. Since they have extended it once before, there’s no reason to think they would not do so again.
Resolutions to eliminate the deadline have been presented in each chamber. The House passed HJ Res 79 (see 2/17/20 Blog for details). SJ Res 6 has been read in the Senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee, but Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair of that committee, has yet to recognize it.
Contact Senator Graham and ask that he assign SJ Res 6, the Senate bill to eliminate the deadline on the ERA, to a judiciary subcommittee to begin the approval process.
Contact Senator Scott and ask him to sign on as a sponsor.