Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Nevada is about to do something no state has done in three-and-a-half decades: Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Dusting off a decades-old debate about whether to enshrine women's rights in the Constitution is of questionable value to the amendment's prospects, say analysts. But that doesn't mean it's a meaningless gesture, and its revival certainly says a lot about the women's rights movement in 2017.
Even if Nevada becomes the 36th state to ratify the amendment, its entry into the Constitution is a loooong shot. The deadline to ratify the amendment ended long ago — in 1982 to be exact. And even if Congress reopened it, it's not clear any other state is seriously interested in playing along.
The amendment has been introduced in Congress off and on ever since, but its fell flat. States haven't bothered to touch it.***
A quick history/civics recap: Changing the Constitution is one of the most difficult things in all of governing, but Equal Rights Amendment supporters have come tantalizing close. In 1972, after a decade or so of debate, Congress passed it and sent it to the states for ratification. (Under one process to change or add a constitutional amendment, 38 states -- or three-quarters -- must ratify it, whether via their legislatures or a state convention.)
Congress gave the states an entire decade for 38 states to get that done. In the end, 35 did.
The amendment has been introduced in Congress off and on ever since, but its fell flat. States haven't bothered to touch it.
Until now. The Democratic-controlled Nevada State Senate passed it mostly along party lines on Wednesday. The Democratic-controlled State Assembly will pick it up from there, where it's expected to sail through on party lines.
"It's like a no-brainer. Equal Rights Amendment," said state Nevada Sen. Pat Spearmen (D), the author of the bill. "Equal rights. That's what it is. It's just equal rights."
Nevada's governor is a Republican, and he hasn't commented on the amendment. But Democrats in Nevada say the parliamentary logistics of this mean the legislation doesn't need Gov. Brian Sandoval's signature.
Most Republicans in the state legislature aren't impressed. Their objections to the amendment in 2017 are similar to objections in the '70s and '80s: It could require women to enlist in the draft. It's not necessary. It's symbolic.
"An equal rights amendment that doesn’t have exclusions to protect families is something I can’t support," state Sen. Beck Harris, a Republican and the sole woman to vote against the amendment, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.