Capital News Service//Hunter Savery//April 25, 2023
//April 25, 2023
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, announced Monday that the Senate will vote this week on whether to recognize the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The bipartisan resolution introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would waive the 1982 deadline for ratification of the ERA previously set by Congress. The 38-state ratification threshold was not reached until 2020 when Virginia approved the ERA nearly two decades after the deadline.
“There should be no deadline on equality. The states have done their job ratifying the amendment and now it’s time for Congress to recognize that fact,” Cardin said in a statement to Capital News Service. “We know that a majority of senators support our bipartisan amendment. I am hopeful that we will have sufficient Republican support for our resolution given that Congress changed the deadline once before, so it should be able to follow that same precedent and change the deadline again.”
Not only do a majority of senators support the resolution, but 52 of them are co-sponsoring the resolution. However, it has yet to be seen whether the resolution can clear the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. A corresponding resolution has been introduced in the House by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, along with 183 cosponsors.
There is opposition in the Senate to the push to recognize the ERA. Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, and John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, have introduced a competing resolution to recognize the deadline for ratification of the amendment as having expired. The bill has 17 cosponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
“Things have improved over the years, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving equality for women,” Murkowski said in a statement. “And I think we need the Equal Rights Amendment to get there.”
After Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA in 2020, a legal battle began to have the amendment recognized as part of the Constitution, in spite of the congressionally-mandated deadline. In January 2020, the Trump Justice Department issued an opinion stating that the 1982 deadline is binding and that Congress must start the amendment process from scratch if it wishes to revive the ERA.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in February that the 1982 deadline stands, dealing a major blow to the legal movement to advance the ERA. Activists subsequently pivoted their attention to Congress and have found a receptive audience among most Democratic and some Republican lawmakers.
“I think it is significant,” Caroline Fredrickson, a visiting professor at Georgetown Law and a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told CNS regarding the Senate vote. “There’s a strong argument that the ERA is already ratified. Having the Senate underscore that belief would not only enhance that legal understanding but add force to those who are working to make its protections available in reality.”
In spite of legal setbacks, women’s rights advocates maintain that the ERA has fulfilled all of the requirements to become a part of the Constitution and that Congress should adopt that position.
“The ERA has already fulfilled all requirements to become an amendment to the Constitution, and this resolution would affirm that fact; empowering Congress and the courts to pursue protections against sex discrimination with full constitutional backing – something long overdue for the United States,” Zakiya Thomas, president and CEO of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality, told CNS. “One hundred years is too long to wait for equality.”
The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in 1923, but it has gained new currency on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion. Lawmakers have since moved to shore up rights which could be subject to reinterpretation by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority, such as marriage equality.
Last month, Democratic members of the House of Representatives announced the formation of the first House ERA Caucus, dedicated to achieving recognition of the ERA by Congress.
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