Ben Cardin - Senator for Maryland

WE NEED TO REMOVE THE DEADLINE FOR RATIFICATION OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

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By Senator Ben Cardin

As millions of Americans celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 13, I propose we honor all the women of our nation by removing the deadline for state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  I believe that there should be no deadline when it comes to ensuring the equal rights of any American.

The ERA has an interesting legislative history.  First enacted in 1972 by Congress, the legislation required that the measure be ratified by three-forths of the states (38) within seven years.  That deadline was later extended 10 years to 1982. Now, 20 years later, 35 states have ratified the amendment – three short of the required 38.

I think it’s time to give the ERA another chance.  I have introduced a joint resolution, S.J. 39, which would remove the deadline for states’ ratification of the amendment. 

The U.S. Constitution contains no time limit for ratification of constitutional amendments. In fact, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate congressional pay raises was ratified 203 years after its introduction. 

Today, nearly half of the states have a version of the ERA written into their state constitutions.  Maryland’s Constitution includes the passage: Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex.”

While I am pleased that so many states have made equal rights part of their constitution, I believe it’s important that the ERA be ratified to provide courts with clearer guidance in deciding discrimination cases. 

In 2011, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave an interview in which he stated that the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.  I found that to be a very troubling statement and I want to ensure that the courts have clear direction that no one can be discriminated against based on their sex.

I am also pleased that there is strong support for my ERA resolution, which has been endorsed by a wide variety of groups, including United 4 Equality, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women. 

Women have made tremendous advances in our nation, but America still has not realized its promise of equal protection under the law for men and women. It’s time we change that by removing the deadline for state ratification of the ERA.

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