WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have introduced joint resolutions that would rejuvenate efforts to ratify an equal rights amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. Senator Cardin’s resolution, would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment that has already been ratified by 35 states. Senator Menendez’s resolution would begin the process anew, giving all states a fresh opportunity to voice their support for women’s equality. Both resolutions would reaffirm Congress’ commitment to achieving equal rights for women. Nearly half of all states today have a version of the ERA written into their state constitution.
“As America prepares 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. “I’m proud to join with Senator Menendez in this dual approach toward a common goal: ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment would at last make equality for women explicitly clear in our Constitution.”
“When Alice Paul — who drafted the original amendment at her home in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey — was asked why she dedicated herself to fighting for women’s equality, she credited her mother who told her: ‘When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row,’” said Senator Menendez, who is also co-sponsoring Sen. Cardin’s measure. “When it comes to equal rights and equal treatment of women I’ve done my best to live up to the example set by my own mother, and on this Mother’s Day I’m proud to again introduce the Equal Rights Amendment as a tribute to her, to Alice Paul and a legacy to my daughter so she and all women will realize true equality – set in the Constitution — in her lifetime.”
“The ERA Coalition welcomes the re-introduction of legislation in the Senate relating to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The inclusion of sex equality as a fundamental principle in the United States Constitution is long overdue. We applaud the bipartisan support for the ERA in the Senate and urge all Senators to join Senators Cardin, Kirk and Menendez and the other co-sponsors of these resolutions to put the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution where it belongs,” said Jessica Neuwirth, President, ERA Coalition.
Congress has the authority to give the states another chance to guarantee women equality under the law, and should do so. The Cardin-Kirk resolution would remove the deadline set by Congress for ratification of the ERA. Article V of the Constitution contains no time limits for ratification of constitutional amendments, and the ERA time limit was contained in a joint resolution, not the actual text of the amendment. In 1992, the 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting immediate Congressional pay raises was ratified after 203 years.
With just 24 words – Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex – the ERA establishes within the United States Constitution the unambiguous and unassailable rights of women under the law. Alice Paul wrote these words in 1923 and they were introduced in every Congress until 1972, when it was passed by both Houses of Congress and sent to the states. Unfortunately, it failed to get the required number of states to ratify, so starting in 1982 and continuing today, the ERA has been reintroduced every Congress. Congress has the ability to pass the ERA and send back to the states for ratification, so all 50 states can definitively proclaim support for full equality for women.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees “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 stated: “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 an Equal Right Amendment by state legislatures would provide the courts with clearer guidance in holding gender or sex classifications to the “strict scrutiny” standard.
Senator Menendez is joined on the Equal Rights Amendment (S.J. Res.) by Senators Cardin, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
In addition to Senators Cardin, Kirk and Menendez, S.J. Res. 15 is cosponsored by: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).