I have three things to say about this.
Drafted by a suffragette in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment has been stirring up controversy ever since. Many opponents considered it dead when a 10-year ratification push failed in 1982, yet its backers on Capitol Hill, in the Illinois statehouse and elsewhere are making clear this summer that the fight is far from over.
In Washington, congresswomen Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., are prime sponsors of two pieces of legislation aimed at getting the amendment ratified. They recently organized a pro-ERA rally, evoking images of the 1970s, outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Recent Supreme Court decisions have sent women’s rights back to the Stone Age,” said Speier, explaining the renewed interest in the ERA. The amendment would stipulate that equal rights cannot be denied or curtailed on the basis of gender.
Written by Alice Paul — a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. a century ago — the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced annually in Congress from 1923 to 1970, when congressional hearings began in the heyday of the modern feminist movement. In 1972, the ERA won overwhelming approval in both chambers and was forwarded to the 50 state legislatures in search of the needed 38 votes to ratify.
Congress set a deadline of 1979, at which point 35 states had ratified the ERA. The deadline was extended to 1982, but no more states came on board, and the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that the ERA was dead.
The states that did not ratify were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
Aside from Illinois, there have been few signs that any of those states are on the verge of ratifying the ERA. In politically divided Virginia, the Senate voted 25-8 vote this year for ratification, but the measure died in a committee in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
In Congress, ERA supporters have introduced two measures in pursuit of ratification.
One — known as the “three-state strategy” — is a resolution that would nullify the 1982 deadline so that only three more states would need to ratify the ERA in addition to the 35 that did so in the 1970s.
The other measure would restart the traditional process, requiring passage of the ERA by a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate and House, followed by ratification by legislatures in three-quarters of the 50 states.
1. As a child of the 70s, I remember the debates about the ERA, though I doubt I really understood them at the time. I definitely remember the lies and FUD that were being spread by the likes of Phyllis Schlafly. Given the current events in Houston, it sure is the case that some things never change.
2. Hard to believe, but not only was Texas one of the states that ratified the ERA, the Lege did so almost immediately after passage of the originating bill in Congress. I can’t even begin to imagine that now. I guess some things do change, just not always for the better.
3. The alternate history possibilities for a universe in which the ERA got ratified are endless. Bear in mind, Richard Nixon endorsed the ERA when it was passed by Congress in 1972. Needless to say, the party of Erick Erickson does things a little differently these days. I still don’t quite understand why there was a deadline on state passage back then, but it’s never too late to try again.