Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), today introduced a joint resolution to remove the deadline for the states’ ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mark Begich (D-AK) have joined as original cosponsors. The Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of constitutional amendments, and the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate Congressional pay raises was ratified after 203 years. Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) is introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
“As America readies to celebrate Mothers’ Day, we should be working to ensure that all women realize the promise of equal protection under the law. We cannot allow an arbitrary deadline to stand in the way of equal rights for our mothers and daughters, wives and sisters, aunts and grandmothers,” said Senator Cardin. “Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would at last make equality for women explicitly clear in our Constitution. We’re only three states short of victory.”
“Women are making advances all across the country. We are leaders in government, leaders in business and leaders throughout our communities,” Senator Mikulski said. “However, women are still discriminated against when it comes to insurance, social security, equal pay and pensions. This Mother’s Day and every day, we need to do better – and that means a guarantee of equality through the Equal Rights Amendment. We should continue to fight for this important legislation so the Equal Rights Amendment has a chance to become law. And we women know we’re not on our own in this fight. Because men of quality will stand by women fighting for equality.”
When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it provided that the measure had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38) within seven years. This deadline was later extended to ten years by a joint resolution enacted by Congress, but ultimately only 35 out of 38 states had ratified the ERA when the deadline expired in 1982. Ratification of the ERA by the state legislatures would ensure that the courts have clear direction that no one can be discriminated against based on their sex.
Nearly half of states today have a version of the ERA written into their state constitution. Additionally, numerous groups have endorsed the Cardin-Kirk resolution, including United 4 Equality, National Council of Women’s Organizations, American Association of University Women, Business & Professional Women’s Foundation (BPWF), Federally Employed Women (FEW) and US Women’s Chamber Commerce (USWCC).
The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution requires “equal protection of the laws,” and the Supreme Court has so far held that most sex or gender classifications are subject to only “intermediate scrutiny” when analyzing laws that may have a discriminatory impact. In 2011, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave an interview during which he stated that “certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” Ratification of the ERA by state legislatures would provide the courts with clearer guidance.
The full text of the Joint Resolution follows:
Removing the deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92d Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.