WASHINGTON — The U.S. House advanced a resolution on Wednesday that aims to ease the ratification of a constitutional amendment that would ensure equality for U.S. citizens under the law, regardless of their sex.
The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate in the 1970s, but has failed to win approval by the 38 states needed for ratification. In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA and Illinois last year became the 37th state to do so.
The 13 states that haven’t ratified the ERA are: Arizona, Utah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Virginia. Click here for more state information.
Now, backers of the amendment are pinning their hopes on Virginia after this month’s elections handed Democrats control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. The state is widely expected to ratify the ERA after Democrats assume power in January.
But there are some thorny legal issues that could complicate the process and are almost certain to land the matter in the courts if Virginia or another state does become the 38th state to ratify the ERA.
One prominent issue: a congressional deadline imposed when Congress passed the ERA. Lawmakers initially set a March 1979 ratification deadline for states, which was later extended to June 1982. But the amendment still hadn’t gotten the backing of 38 states when that deadline expired.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee attempted to nullify that deadline entirely.
The panel voted 21-11 along party lines to approve a resolution from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that would remove the deadline initially laid out in 1972. The resolution, which now heads to the full House for a vote, has the backing of 217 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Tom Reed of New York.
All three North Carolina Democratic members — Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price are among the co-sponsors.
This past August, an editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer echoed the arguments of advocates at North Carolina NOW and the ERA-NC Alliance that North Carolina should finally ratify the amendment. The editorial concluded:
“Women need the power of a constitutional amendment to ensure their protection from discrimination in the form of lower wages and harassment. Enshrining the equal rights of women in the Constitution should not be difficult. That it has proven so reveals the persistence of bias against women and demonstrates the need for the amendment.
North Carolina should make this long-denied right an enduring one.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced a Senate version of the resolution to remove the ERA deadline. His effort has the backing of Sens. Lisa Murkowsi (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine). But it’s unclear whether the effort will gain traction in the GOP-controlled Senate.
House Democrats hailed Wednesday’s vote as a historic event, lamenting the fact that the ERA hasn’t yet been added to the Constitution. Read more