On Tuesday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced a joint resolution to affirm the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), removing the arbitrary deadline for ratification and recognizing the amendment as part of the Constitution.
The legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and in the House by Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Cori Bush (D-Ma.) and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.).
Article V of the U.S. Constitution sets out two requirements for amendments, and the ERA has met both: approval by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress (the U.S. House approved the ERA in 1971 with a bipartisan vote of 354–24, and the Senate approved the ERA the following year by another bipartisan vote of 84-8) and ratification by three-fourths of the states (Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA in January 2020). But despite achieving all of the requirements, recognition of the ERA as an amendment to the Constitution was blocked by the Trump administration.
“Our resolution will help address centuries of gender disparities in America by removing the unnecessary barriers that have prevented us from enshrining the dignity, humanity and equality of all people into our Constitution,” said Pressley. “We as women have done our job, the states have done their job, and now it’s time for Congress to do its job and pass this resolution.”
“There should be no time limit on equality,” said Cardin.
The House of Representatives has twice passed a similar resolution lifting the timeline—in February of 2020 and March of 2021. In the Senate, Republican Sens. Murkowski and Susan Collins (R-Maine) publicly support the ERA. Even still, the rest of the Senate GOP has used the filibuster to block the measure.
A vote on the floor has yet to be scheduled—though late last year, feminist leaders and congressional members secured a promise from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he’d bring it up for a vote before April of this year. To overcome the filibuster, Democrats must either convince 10 Republicans to vote to end the filibuster or carve out an exception to the filibuster rule for the ERA joint resolution.
Legal experts believe the ERA could provide a bulwark against anti-abortion legislation. “Abortion barriers deprive women of bodily autonomy and control over the timing of childbearing, and predictably exacerbate the inequalities in educational, economic and political life caused by childbearing and childrearing,” wrote Carrie Baker in Ms. “An ERA could provide a new basis for abortion rights in the United States.”
In addition to potentially providing an avenue to secure reproductive rights in the wake of Roe v. Wade‘s overturn, advocates say the ERA will help pave the way for stronger legal recourse in cases of sex discrimination, and ensure that discrimination on the basis of sex is finally prohibited in the U.S. Constitution, since nothing in the founding document currently forbids sex discrimination.
“Five generations of feminists have fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the resolution. “We can’t go back. We can’t go around losing one right after another—contraception, not being able to marry who we want to marry. … We are going to fight until equality is ours.”
Several nonprofit groups, including the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Black Women’s Roundtable and Ultraviolet, took to Twitter to voice their support for the ERA.
Polls also show massive public support for the ERA. The vast majority of respondents—men and women; Republicans, Democrats and Independents—want the ERA, and most think the ERA is already a part of the Constitution. Nearly two-thirds believe that the ERA would have a positive impact for women.
“We must leave this country better than we found it for our children and grandchildren,” said Dean, “The ERA will do just that. It’s long overdue.”