Wednesday, June 27, 2018
On May 30, Illinois became the 37th state to pass the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), which says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Next, advocates aim to secure the final state needed to ratify the amendment. They will probably target Virginia, North Carolina or Georgia.
True, the deadline to ratify the ERA came and went in 1982. But that may not be a dealbreaker. Some legal strategists argue that since other amendments had no time limit for ratification, the ERA should not have had one, either. Others argue that Congress simply needs to extend the deadline.
Suddenly, almost a century after it was first proposed, the ERA might be within reach.
The law is overdue, culturally and legally. Many Americans assume that the United States already has gender-equality rules. After all, the Civil Rights Act, Title IX and the Equal Pay Act all offer protections against discrimination. But these are pieces of legislation. New laws and Supreme Court rulings can diminish their power.
For more on the legal and social history of the ERA as well as the current movement, see my book chapter with historian TJ Boiseau, After Suffrage Comes Equal Rights? ERA as the Next Logical Step in 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism (Holly McCammon & Lee Ann Banaszak eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press 2018)
Gerald Magliocca, Buried Alive: The Reboot of the Equal Rights Amendment
This Article addresses the recent effort to revive the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. Following ratifications by Nevada (2017) and Illinois (2018), the ERA stands close to the three-fourths vote in the states required for ratification under Article Five. But these recent ratifications are of uncertain validity, as Congress imposed a deadline for the ERA's ratification that expired in 1982.
The paper argues that Congress can waive the expired ratification deadline but should not do so until should not do so until there is no doubt that 38 states have voted for ratification.There is room for doubt on that score because five states rescinded their ratification votes in the 1970s. Congress is free to disregard these rescissions on the ground that a state may not repeal its ratification of a proposed constitutional amendment. Ignoring these state rescissions in addition to waiving the ratification deadline, though, would raise substantial concerns about the ERA’s legitimacy and may lead a future Congress to attempt the reversal of that recognition.
Thus, the wise course is for Congress to refrain from taking action on the ERA until 38 states can be counted as yes votes without the five rescinding states. If Congress decides to include these five states as part of the ratification total, then at least two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be required to support that decision—in accord with a precedent established by Fourteenth Amendment--to quiet the doubts about the validity of the ERA’s ratification.