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Attorneys general press US archivist to publish ERA as constitutional amendment

At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, other lawmakers and women's groups call for the recognition of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Hunter Savery/Capital News Service)

At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, other lawmakers and women’s groups call for the recognition of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Hunter Savery/Capital News Service)

WASHINGTON — State attorneys general for Illinois and Nevada are renewing the push to publish the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday in a suit contending that the ERA has been ratified by the necessary 38 states and has come into force. Therefore, attorneys generals argued that the archivist of the United States should publish the amendment as part of the Constitution.

David Ferriero, the former archivist, declined to publish the amendment after Virginia ratified it in 2020, citing the 1979 deadline for ratification imposed by Congress. The plaintiffs in the suit claim that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to impose deadlines on states ratifying new amendments.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, held a press conference Wednesday outside of the United States Capitol with women’s rights activists, calling for the recognition of the ERA.

“​​We will lift our voices and we will fight,” Lawrence said. “We need the ERA to ensure that the rights of women and girls will not be rolled back by any political trend but instead be preserved as basic rights guaranteed by this Constitution.”

A previous suit brought by Virginia’s attorney general was dismissed in March 2021 by a lower court.

DOJ attorneys representing the U.S. archivist argued that the states lacked standing to bring the suit and that the archivist has no role in determining whether the ERA is in force. Plaintiffs contended that the archivist has an obligation to post the law.

In January 2021, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced a joint resolution to remove the deadline to ratify the ERA.

“A vote to remove the arbitrary deadline set by Congress will make it crystal clear that the Equal Rights Amendment has been ratified and is now part of our Constitution,” Cardin said.

Maloney and Schakowsky, encouraged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to schedule a vote on the topic.

“It's important to note where every senator stands on the ERA, so that the women and like-minded men can hold them accountable in the midterm elections,” Schakowsky said.

Zakiya Thomas, president and CEO of the ERA Coalition, said: “The Coalition is pursuing all possible avenues to recognize and implement the ERA - including not only this lawsuit but also action by Congress. The House has twice passed a resolution making clear that the time limit does not stand in the ERA’s way.”

Bear Atwood, vice president of the National Organization for Women, said “it’s time” for the U.S. archivist to recognize the ERA.

“Women have been fighting to be added into the Constitution for 100 years now. And we've done everything we're supposed to do to ratify a change to the Constitution,” Atwood said Wednesday.

Congress set a deadline for the states to ratify the ERA by 1979, however the number of states that ratified the amendment did not reach 38, the required three-quarters of states, until 2020.

The first iteration of the ERA was introduced in Congress in 1923. But the current ERA was born during the “women’s movement” in 1971. It was introduced by then-Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, who became known as the “mother of the ERA.”