Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Three lawsuits were filed today in New York, Michigan and Rhode Island to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and firmly establish the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) in the United States Constitution.
The plaintiff, The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, filed the lawsuits to affirm that women are fully equal citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and are entitled to full and Equal Protection of all laws. Stanton was a leading women’s rights activist in the 1800s, whose leadership led to women winning the right to vote in 1920. The Trust’s president, Coline Jenkins, is the great, great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Jenkins explained that the lawsuits were filed because “only with full Equal Protection of all laws can women’s right to choose be protected."
The lawsuits were filed in response to the recently leaked opinion of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who proposes to overturn Roe v Wade. The lawsuits were filed in states where Attorneys General have expressed their support for Roe, and have stated publicly that the ERA is valid. These lawsuits ask the courts to declare the ERA valid and ensure that all laws are fully compliant with the ERA.
The lawsuits assert claims under the ERA as the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and state that because three-fourths of the states have ratified the ERA it is now part of the Constitution and must be enforced. Article V of the Constitution states that an amendment becomes valid the moment the last of 3/4ths of the states ratifies it, which was Virginia in January 2020. But federal officials have refused to acknowledge the ERA’s validity because a purported ratification deadline expired before Virginia ratified. The lawsuits assert that the ERA is valid because the deadline is not valid.
The threat of a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade has spurred a trio of new lawsuits seeking state court recognition of the Equal Rights Amendment—a last-minute effort to preempt that anti-Roe ruling by forcing the high court to factor new constitutional language into its decision.
The women’s rights group Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust filed lawsuits in state courts in Michigan, Rhode Island, and New York, asking courts there to declare the ERA a fully ratified and enforceable part of the Constitution. The group sued each state’s attorney general, seeking to force the officials “to identify and repair all sex discriminatory laws, policies and programs” in their respective states.
The lawsuits open a new front in the wide-ranging battles over abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. The recently leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion in the pending case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would end the court’s 50-year precedent of recognizing a constitutional right to abortion, if the court’s final majority opinion aligns with Justice Samuel Alito’s draft when it is published, likely next month.
“By declaring the ERA’s validity, this Court will prevent the Supreme Court from overruling Roe and protect women’s basic human right to control their own lives,” attorneys wrote in each of the three complaints, filed May 18 in Michigan and Rhode Island and May 19 in New York.
The Equal Rights Amendment doesn’t explicitly address abortion, but the plaintiffs said the amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law on the basis of sex would cover the right for women to make reproductive choices free from government interference.