The ERA in the States
The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress on March 22, 1972 and sent to the states for ratification by both houses of their state legislatures. A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution when approved by three-fourths (38) of the 50 states.
During the next five years, 35 states approved the amendment. By the Congressionally imposed deadline of June 30, 1982, however, no additional states had voted yes, and the ERA fell three states short of ratification.
The 15 states that have not yet ratified the Equal Rights Amendment are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Beginning in 1995, after formulation of the "three-state strategy" for ERA ratification, ERA bills have been introduced in one or more legislative sessions in nine of the unratified states (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Virginia).
The Illinois House, but not the Senate, passed an ERA ratification bill in 2003. In 2011, 2012, and 2014, the Virginia Senate passed a resolution ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, but the House of Delegates did not release the companion bill from committee for a full vote on the House floor.
Reports from the Grassroots
ERA advocates in the majority of the 15 unratified states and a number of the 35 ratified states have continued to educate and organize politically to put the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution.
Continuing updates are provided here to inform policymakers and the public about political activity that is currently happening with the Equal Rights Amendment at the state level.
Click on the name of a state to to see what's going on there with the ERA.
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Further information: Berta Seitz, Coordinator, Arkansas ERA Coalition (firstname.lastname@example.org)
April 3, 2013
Senate committee fails to pass ERA ratification bill on April 2
SJR 19, a bill ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, failed to pass out of the Arkansas Senate's Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday, April 2. The committee, which includes 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats, rejected the bill by a voice vote along party lines.
ERA bills were also introduced in the state's 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions and failed to get out of committee by tie votes in both years. Primary sponsors of the 2013 bill are Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-31) and Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-33).
Lindsley Smith, former AR Representative and primary sponsor of the 2007 ERA bill, testified in favor of the bill.
[Further information: Sandy Oestreich, sandyo@PassERA.org]
Equal Rights Amendment resurfaces as issue
April 9, 2013 (myFOXtampabay.com)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Women's-rights activists are trying to revive a campaign to add Florida to the list of states that ratified the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A proposal (HCR 8001) seeking to make Florida the 36th state to ratify the 1970s-era amendment was reviewed Tuesday by the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee.
The committee didn't vote after hearing from amendment supporters, including one who urged lawmakers to "have the backbone" to vote.
Rep. Lori Berman says women have made great strides toward equality but insists the amendment is needed as a "fundamental legal remedy" against any remaining gender discrimination.
A law professor says a vote might have no binding effect since the ratification deadline long passed. Supporters say Congress or the courts could accept more ratification votes.
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Illinois Senate Passes Resolution to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment
May 23, 2014
With a 39-11 vote, the Illinois Senate voted – by more than the necessary three-fifths margin of elected senators, as required by state law – to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). If it moves forward in the state House, Illinois will become the 36th state to ratify the ERA.
“Ratification is not just a hugely important symbolic step but a move to establish women’s rights as a bedrock principle in the Constitution,” said Illinois Senator Heather Stearns, who has previously supported proposals for the state to adopt the amendment. “From equal pay to equal access to health care, freedom from gender-based discrimination should be the law of the land and not subject to political whims. Equal rights are not a fad; they’re in the fabric of our nation, and the ERA confirms that.”
“It’s exciting to see that the Illinois Senate has voted to ratify the ERA,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, who led a massive national ERA campaign as President of the National Organization for Women. “The ERA has strong support in Illinois, and women deserve action.”
“The ERA is on the move again. In February, the Virginia Senate voted to ratify, and now the Illinois Senate,” continued Smeal. “The overwhelming support of voters for the ERA and the gender gap in voting is moving the ERA forward.”
Authored by suffragist and National Women’s Party leader Alice Paul, the Equal Rights Amendment directs, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex” and gives Congress the power to enforce the Amendment through appropriate legislation.
Congress first approved the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification in 1972. Within five years, 35 states had ratified the ERA, but corporate interests and right-wing politicians have blocked the movement from obtaining the three additional states necessary for the ERA to become part of the US Constitution. States that have not ratified the ERA include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
Illinois Lawmakers Push State to Ratify Decades-old 'Equal Rights Amendment’
April 15, 2013 (mystateline.com)
SPRINGFIELD -- More than 40 years after it passed Congress and 30 years after the 'Equal Rights Amendment' lapsed after failing to get 38 states needed to ratify it, three state Representatives are introducing a bill to have Illinois ratify it. If passed, Illinois would be the first state since 1982 to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. 35 states did pass the 'ERA', but the act expired in 1983 before getting approval in 2/3rd's or states, meaning even adoption by three more states would not legally ratify it as an amendment to the Constitution.
Supporters believe that after passage by three more states, they could then argue in the courts that that the time limits imposed by and later extended by Congress for passage of the 'Equal Rights Amendment' are not legitimate because time limits are not mandated by the Constitution. Some legal analysts have expressed doubts that the Supreme Court would overturn previous rulings requiring a "sufficiently contemporaneous" time period for an amendment to the Constitution, or overturn a deadline self-imposed by Congress.
Re-passage of a new Equal Rights Amendment by two-thirds of Congress and 38 states is seen as highly unlikely politically.
The 1972 Equal Rights Amendment states the following:
- Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
- Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
- Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
It was passed at a time when gender discrimination was rampant, and supporters believed the only way to address it was with a Constitutional Amendment. Opponents argued, however, that women are already covered under the Constitution's 'equal protection clause' and that creating a separate amendment only for women would create more legal problems for women than it solved.
Reps. Lou Lang, Kelly M. Cassidy and Naomi D. Jakobsson disagree. They have introduced the 'Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment' bill in the Illinois House. They argue the Amendment is needed because, as they wrote in a news release, "women do not have constitutional protection when it pertains to sexual and gender discrimination, fair and equal pay and the guarantee of a fair and balanced trial when a woman is raped-including women in the military."
It goes before the House Judiciary Committee for consideration on Tuesday [Apr. 16].
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[Further information: Marena Groll, email@example.com]
NC4ERA, Ratify ERA-NC Co-Chair New State Alliance
ERA-NC ALLIANCE FORGED
Equal Constitutional Rights for Women
It's a historical moment for women in North Carolina. It comes not a moment too soon. A new, state wide alliance was recently forged among leading women's organizations and other groups interested in constitutional equality for women. NC4ERA is honored to act as one of the founders of the new ERA-NC Alliance.
Networking conversations began in the fall of 2015 and culminated with the establishment of the alliance in February 2016. The alliance immediately became a state-affiliate with the national ERA Coalition. In another historical development, the alliance serves the ERA Coalition as a model for other states interested in building state wide alliances to advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The political reemergence of the ERA occurs at a time of significant unrest for women dissatisfied with the status of women’s rights in our state and across the nation. The demand for equal rights is rising in response to recent legislation and ongoing practices seen as hostile to women, particularly in the areas of workplace discrimination, reproductive justice, violence against women, and political parity. Yet in the midst of the unrest, our country is witnessing the resurgence of a national ERA movement to secure the bedrock constitutional guarantee of equal rights for women and men.
ERA-NC Alliance Co-Chairs are Marena Groll, NC4ERA, Chair and Roberta Madden, Ratify ERA-NC, Co-Chair. Plans are underway to publicly launch ERA-NC to announce its formation and recognize the organizations leading the efforts. Membership is open now. Visit ERA-NC to learn more about how to join the alliance and subscribe to the alerts mailing list. The website is under construction as the alliance network is developing, but will be fully functional soon.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Marena Groll or Roberta Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ERA-NC extends special thanks to Roberta Francis, Gender Equity Consultant, for her assistance in the development of the state model of collaboration and to Bettina Hager, ERA Coalition for her support.
RESOLUTION CALLS FOR ERA RATIFICATION
April 3, 2013
A resolution calling on both houses of Congress to pass legislation aimed at putting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into the U.S. Constitution has been gaining political and grassroots support in North Carolina since the beginning of March 2013.
Marena Groll of Sneads Ferry drafted the Onslow Initiative Resolution after attending a Mar. 2 ERA program in Washington, DC, led by the National Women's Political Caucus and co-sponsored by the American Association of University Women and the ERA Task Force of the National Council of Women's Organizations.
"It's exciting to see this kind of enthusiastic response," Groll said. "Many would hardly see us as the county to stage the comeback push for the ERA in North Carolina."
The ERA states "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
It was passed by Congress in 1972 but fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification by a June 30, 1982 deadline. Legal analysis indicates that despite the time limit, the 35 existing ratifications may still be viable if three more state legislatures approve the amendment.
The Onslow resolution promotes national legislation to implement both this "three-state strategy" and the traditional ratification process described in Article V of the Constitution.
Although North Carolina is one of the 15 states that did not ratify the ERA between 1972 and 1982, Groll predicted, "This initiative could well put us on the map as ground zero in the struggle for the simple and long overdue justice of the ERA. As one of the last three states needed, we could make history."
Interest in the Equal Rights Amendment is growing both statewide and nationally as women's participation in the public arena increases dramatically at the same time as efforts intensify to reverse some of women's political and societal advances.
"In hindsight," Groll said, "we see how much our country advances as women advance. Evidence from the 22 states that have had some version of a state ERA for many decades shows that the cultural fears of what women's equality would look like are unfounded."
An April 2012 poll for Daily Kos and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) asked respondents, "Do you think the Constitution should guarantee equal rights for men and women, or not?" The replies were 91% yes, 4% no, and 5% not sure.
While only Democratic and progressive grassroots organizations have endorsed the resolution so far, Groll encourages support for the ERA as a bipartisan issue.
"The Republican Party adopted support of the ERA in its national platform in 1940, four years before the Democratic Party did," she said, "but then dropped it in 1980. We encourage North Carolina Republicans to lead their party's return to its historic support of this guarantee of the right of the individual to be free from sex discrimination under the law."
State and national information about the ERA can be found online at www.era-nc.org/ and www.equalrightsamendment.org.
[Text may be amended as appropriate to apply to other organizations.]
A Resolution calling for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and removal of the time limit.
Whereas, the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all of the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex and the only right it specifically affirms to be equal for men and women is the right to vote in the 19th Amendment, 1920; and
Whereas, the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause has never been interpreted to guarantee equal rights for women in the same way the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would as demonstrated by the fact that currently cases of sexual discrimination receive only a heightened level of intermediate scrutiny but should receive the highest level of strict judicial scrutiny, just as racial discrimination does; and
Whereas, the ERA ensures that women will have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution, and the 2012 Democratic National Platform reaffirms women's rights as civil rights as well as its continuing support of the ERA; and
Whereas, the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972 and ratified by 35 of the 38 states necessary to put it into the Constitution, yet was debatably assumed to have expired in 1982; and
Whereas, more recent legal analysis supports the conclusion that the Constitution imposes no time limit for ratification of amendments; Congress can alter time limits in the proposing clauses of amendments; and ratification of the Madison (27th) Amendment 203 years after it was first proposed supports the premise that state ERA ratification votes since 1972 are sufficiently contemporaneous;
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved, that we call on all members of the U.S. House and Senate to co-sponsor, support, and pass into law joint resolution bills* for both the traditional Article V ratification process of the ERA and also for the "three-state strategy" process that would remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA so that ratification shall be achieved upon the affirmative vote of 38 states, of which 35 have already ratified; and
Be it Further Resolved, that support for either strategy is not mutually exclusive with support for the other; and
Be it Finally Resolved, that the Democratic Party of ________________ County pursue grassroots and legislative strategies for passage of the ERA and support of the Article V and three-state strategies to put the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution.
Approved by the ________________ County Democratic Party, this ____ day of ______, 20___.
* The Senate traditional ERA ratification bill, S.J. Res. 10, was introduced March 5 by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); bill numbers of other ERA joint resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate will be available upon introduction in the near future.
Resolution adopted by:
|3/03/13:||02-02 Precinct, Cabarrus County Democratic Party|
|3/13/13:||Fayetteville National Organization for Women|
|3/14/13:||Northeast B (NeB22) Precinct, Onslow County Democratic Party|
|3/15/13:||Sneads Ferry (SF18) Precinct, Onslow County Democratic Party|
|3/19/13:||Democratic Women of Onslow County|
|3/25/13:||Onslow County Democratic Party Executive Committee|
|3/28/13:||Democratic Women of Cabarrus County|
|Democratic Women of Carteret County|
|4/13/13:||Cabarrus County Democratic Party|
|Carteret County Democratic Party|
|4/18/13:||Johnston County Democratic Party|
|Democratic Women of Pitt County|
|4/20/13:||Cumberland County Democratic Party|
|Onslow County Democratic Party|
|Pitt County Democratic Party|
|5/04/13:||Democratic Women NC Region 8|
|5/09/13:||Democratic Women of Craven County|
|5/11/13:||NC Congressional District 3 Democratic Party|
|5/16/13:||Democratic Women of Buncombe County|
|Johnston County Democratic Party|
|5/20/13:||NC Congressional District 1 Democratic Party|
|NC Congressional District 2 Democratic Party|
|NC Congressional District 4 Democratic Party|
|NC Congressional District 7 Democratic Party|
|NC Congressional District 8 Democratic Party|
|NC Congressional District 10 Democratic Party|
|Johnston County Democratic Party|
|10/21/13:||Democratic Women of Jones County|
|Democratic Women of Person County|
|Democratic Women of Durham County|
|Democratic Women of Tri-County (Cherokee, Clay, Graham)|
|Democratic Women of Edgecombe County|
|Democratic Women of Johnston County|
|Democratic Women of Moore County|
|Democratic Women of Wilkes County|
|Democratic Women of Lenoir County|
|Democratic Women of Nash County|
|Democratic Women of Wayne County|
|Democratic Women of Wilson County|
|10/21/13:||Democratic Women of North Carolina|
|06/07/14:||North Carolina Democratic Party (ERA Resolution Adopted as Amended by NC4ERA)|
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[Further information: Diana Egozcue, VA NOW President, email@example.com]
Virginia Senate passes Equal Rights Amendment
Augusta Free Press
January 26, 2016
The Equal Rights Amendment cleared the floor of the Virginia Senate for the fifth time in six years. SJ 1, sponsored by Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), passed 21-19 on Tuesday on a near-party-line vote with most Senate Republicans opposed.
Speaking to the bill on the Senate floor, Senator Surovell said, “Virginia is one of 22 states that currently has gender equality in our Constitution. Section 11, Article 1 of the Constitution of Virginia currently says that ‘all people have the right to be free from government discrimination on the basis of religious conviction, race, color, sex, or national origin.’ So equal rights have been codified in our Constitution since 1971. This is something that isn’t new to Virginia. It is a Virginia value.”
After the vote, Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said, “This is something that we have been fighting to advance for decades. True gender equality is not going to be achieved until we amend the U.S. Constitution, and the only way to amend the U.S. Constitution is to ratify the ERA at the state level. We are moving in the right direction. I implore my colleagues in the House to now take this up and do the right thing.”
Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) said, “Gender equality has been in the Virginia Constitution for 40 years, but the same cannot be said at the federal level. Various sitting Supreme Court Justices have in fact maintained that equal treatment on the basis of gender is not included in the Fourteenth Amendment. This is something that is long overdue in Virginia and nationwide.”
The Virginia Senate has repeatedly moved to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, approving SJ 216 in 2015, SJ 78 in 2014, SJ 130 in 2012 and SJ 537 in 2011. Each of these proposals died in the House.
Gov. McAuliffe rallies at Capitol alongside women’s rights activists to ratify Equal Rights Amendment
Words and photos by Amy David
RVA Magazine (rvamag.com)
February 16, 2016
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined a very lively, large crowd of women and a few men Tuesday morning in the Patrick Henry Building in Capitol Square to show his support for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Rain or shine, equal rights!” a group of women’s rights advocates and representatives from ERA advocacy groups shouted at the top of the Virginia Capitol steps this morning.
Introduced in 1923 by suffragist leader and National Woman’s Party founder Alice Paul, the ERA states equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Virginia is one of 15 states that have not ratified the ERA yet, guaranteeing gender equality in the U.S. Constitution.
Local organization Women-Matter, Congresswomen, senators, Ralph S. Northam, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Nancy Rodrigues, Secretary of Administration of Virginia,the League of Women Voters of Virginia, students, local mothers in the community and other women’s rights activists spoke in honor of the suffragists who rallied for equal rights on the Capitol steps 100 years ago. The Centennial rally held today was to push Virginia to pass the ERA.
Keynote speaker McAuliffe was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers and took to the podium to discuss his views on the ERA and creating equal rights for all women in the Commonwealth.
“I told women I would be a brick wall to protect their rights and I’m proud to stand here today that brick wall is stronger than it’s ever been,” McAuliffe said. “We’ve very quickly with executive order right off the bat, no discrimination at all in our state work force based on who you love, gender, religion at all we just cannot have that here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
He touched on the improvements being made in healthcare and education.
"I'm putting a billion dollars of new funding into education," he said. "Teacher pay raises are long overdue, we are fully funding teacher retirement plans two years ahead of time, I've put $139 million in the budget to put 2,500 instructional staff back in the classrooms. Thats hat this budget that i have proposed, I want to make sure every woman has access to the best education possible in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
McAuliffe also mentioned his task force and pilot program put in place in 2014 to combat sexual violence on college campuses.
“It will allow us now the opportunity to have independent neutral investigations of criminal incidents of sexual violence" he said. "We need to keep our colleges safe for everyone. We are going to end campus sexual violence."
Before closing, the governor congratulated the Virginia League of Women Voters organization for their efforts for women's rights over the years.
“Virginia legislature did not show their support for the 19th amendment as you know until 1952,” he said. “We should make it easier for people to vote, not more difficult. The league has continued to shine light to make sure every women and man had the opp to go vote so I thank you for your dedication to the great work on this."
Senator Adam Ebbin, (D-Alexandria) credited Virginia Congresswoman Leslie Byrne for pushing the ERA in the General Assembly.
We’ve been fortunate enough to get the ERA out of the Senate committee repeatedly, and I want to thank Leslie Bynre for starting that legislative effort,” Ebbin said. “Lets be persistent in getting it out of the House of Delegates whether it's next week in this session if not we’ll be back until it does.”
Del Sam Rasoul, (D-Roanoke) is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and spoke on the continuing discrimination facing women and people of color today.
“A guy with a last name Rasoul getting elected in Southwest Virginia you see one or two things in discrimination,” said Rasoul, “This is a common injustice that we all have to fight against. This discrimination is an ignorance that we must fight. I don’t understand why we have such a brick wall there that’s preventing the ratification of the ERA so as a member of the privilege and elections committee we’ve been working hard to have a fair voice.”
Senators Jennifer T. Wexton and Scott A. Surovell are Chief Patrons of SJ1, a bill that would ratify the ERA, and recently just cleared the Senate floor. The two spoke on the importance of getting their legislation out of the House since in the last six years, it's been killed there five times.
“Im so happy to be here to celebrate this 100th anniversary of when the dedicated group of women and men gathered on the Capitol steps to demand that women get the right to vote,” Sen. Jennifer Wexton said. “We still have a ways to go…only the Constitution grants Constitutional rights."
Sen. Scott Surovell also weighed in on his personal connection to the bill.
“In 1972 I was one years old and my mother came to this building across the street to testify in favor of the ERA," he said. "She's always told me how it important it was to her that’s why when I was elected to the Virginia state Senate the first bill i put in was ratification of the ERA."
Sen. Barbara Favola also spoke on the matter advocating that the ERA would guarantee women the same rights and privileges as men in the working world.
“We’re more than half of our population, we’ve worked hard, were mothers we’re sisters, we’re daughters, and you know we get a lot of work done and that should be recognized," she said. "One day we will find it easier to get equal pay for equal work passed, we’ll be able to get better family leave programs, we’ll have more access to health care and our country will be stronger and healthier.”
Leslie Byrne was the first woman elected to Congress from Virginia and has focused her efforts on getting the ERA passed.
“Equality under the law shall not be denied,” said Byrne. “I wish that equality under the law was given as much attention as a well ordered militia right to bear arms. Wouldn’t it be lovely if those folks over in the General Assembly thought as highly as 3 and half million women in Virginia as a hand full of gun owners?
She stressed to the crowd it was their job to reach out to the GA and let them know the ERA needs to be passed.
“You better find a reason to make people vote for this,” she said. “Whether it’s their self interest, whether it’s their daughters, their wives, their mothers, you know the right to vote was passed by a guy that bullied by his mother. You do have the power. You have shown grit, you have shown determination, we will get this done.”
It wasn't only politicians and individuals from women’s rights groups at the rally, there were also actual descendants from founders of the women’s rights movement.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal,” said Coline Jenkins, quoting her great grandmother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founder of the Suffragist Movement.
Jenkins was referring to Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention held in 1848.
Jenkins then directed her speech directly toward Del. Mark Cole and Speaker of the House William Howell, both in opposition of ratifying the ERA.
“I believe in equality,” she said. "I have a daughter and I have a son. I don’t want my daughter tramped down, I don’t want my son tramped down, the best way to ensure full equality is equal rights amendment in the fundamental document of the U.S. Constitution.”
She exited the podium holding up the sign that read, ‘Equal Means Equal.”
SJ1 is scheduled to be heard in the Priviledges and Elections Committee on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
House panel blocks equal rights amendment
Capital News Service
March 5, 2016
RICHMOND, Va. — A handful of men and women who want Virginia to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment rallied outside a committee meeting room at the General Assembly, holding signs that read “Equal Means Equal” and “ERA.”
But the House Privileges and Elections Committee decided to shelve the ERA, which would guarantee women and men equal rights, for another year.
“This is the fifth year in a row we have passed [the amendment] with bipartisan support in the Senate. And on crossover, you see that it’s not only ignored but completely obstructed,” said Eileen Davis, co-founder of the group Women Matter. “At what point are you simply obstructing the democratic process? We’re not giving up.”
The ERA would put in the U.S. Constitution a guarantee that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Congress proposed the amendment in 1972 and gave the states 10 years to ratify it. It was never added to the Constitution because it was not ratified by the necessary 38 states.
Virginia would have become the 36th state to approve the ERA under Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Scott Surovell of Mount Vernon and Jennifer Wexton of Leesburg.
The resolution, which cleared the Senate on a 21-19 vote on Jan. 26, maintained that the ERA still could be ratified despite the expiration of the 10-year ratification period set by Congress.
After its approval by the Senate, SJR 1 crossed over to the House, where it was assigned to the House Privileges and Elections Committee. That panel already had killed an identical measure – House Joint Resolution 136, sponsored by Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax. On Friday, it did the same to the Senate counterpart.
Sickles and other ERA supporters were disappointed.
“I’m for equality for everybody,” Sickles said. “The only sure way to have secure equality is through the Constitution.”
According to Sickles, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “said that women aren’t protected under the Constitution.”
“He was a big supporter of amendments and amending the Constitution: If you wanted to change something or find some right you didn’t think was there, amend the Constitution. This is the way we need to go under his philosophy,” Sickles said.
Opponents of resolutions to ratify the ERA say the measures are pointless because the ratification deadline passed on June 30, 1982. But the resolutions’ supporters disagree.
“There are other constitutional amendments that have lain dormant for years and years,” said Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon. “And they have gotten traction and eventually passed as well.”
In particular, ERA supporters cite the 27th Amendment, about compensation for members of Congress. That amendment was submitted to the states in 1789 and wasn’t ratified until 1992.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for any of our fundamental rights,” Sickles said. “But it’s been our history. Look how long it took us to stop Jim Crow and segregation – and we’re still having lingering effects of that today.”
Another issue is that many young women do not even know the ERA hasn’t been ratified, Davis said. “Many think everything is fine.”
But everything is not fine, Boysko said. “There are studies that show that a man and a woman – equal in grades in graduate school – get out, go to the same firm and within five years, the man is making 20 percent more than she is.”
Davis said that more than 70 percent of Americans believe the ERA has already been ratified. That misconception is even more prevalent among people under 40.
“When we get the word out, there’s going to be a huge outcry,” said Davis, who has urged members of the House of Delegates to approve the resolution. “But part of the reason word’s not getting out is because it’s being suppressed in this chamber.”
Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, supports the ERA and its ratification. “In 2016, what kind of signal are we sending that we do not want women to be equal in the eyes of the Constitution as men? We should be well past this debate.”
Danette Fulk, a Republican and military veteran who was among the ERA supporters at Friday’s hearing, likened the issue to the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including newly freed slaves.
“The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868,” Fulk said. “But it took 100 years to come up with the walls – the legislation that supported that foundation. We’re a little bit flipped. We’ve had some of these walls built that can be torn down, but we don’t have the foundation. The ERA would be that foundation.”
Sickles is unsure whether he will continue to sponsor an ERA ratification resolution next session. But he assured the activists, “It doesn’t matter who the patron is” as long as someone keeps pushing the issue.
Sickles is confident the ERA will eventually be ratified. “A big shift is coming in our country,” he said. “We have a cultural grand canyon now on so many social issues.”
By Rachel Beatrice/Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.
What the Resolution Says
Here is the text of Senate Joint Resolution 1 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
WHEREAS, a concurrent or joint resolution is a resolution adopted by both houses of a bicameral legislature, which does not require the signature of the chief executive, and a concurrent resolution is sufficient for a state’s ratification of an amendment to the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the United States Congress adopted the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the so-called Madison Amendment, relating to compensation of members of Congress; and
WHEREAS, the Madison Amendment was proposed by our first Congress and only recently ratified by three-fourths of the states, and the Archivist of the United States certified the 27th Amendment on May 18, 1992, or 203 years after it was first proposed; and
WHEREAS, the founders of our nation, James Madison included, did not favor further restrictions to Article V of the United States Constitution, the amending procedure; and
WHEREAS, the United States Constitution is harder to amend than any other constitution in history; and
WHEREAS, the restricting time limit for the Equal Rights Amendment ratification is in the resolving clause and is not a part of the amendment proposed by Congress and already ratified by 35 states; and
WHEREAS, constitutional equality for women and men continues to be a timely issue in the United States and worldwide, and a number of other nations have achieved constitutional equality for their women and men; and
WHEREAS, since Congress passed a time extension for the Equal Rights Amendment on October 20, 1978, Congress has demonstrated that a time limit in a resolving clause can be disregarded if it is not a part of the proposed amendment; and
WHEREAS, Congress is in a unique position to judge the tenor of the nation, to be aware of the political, social, and economic factors affecting the nation, and to be aware of the importance to the nation of the proposed amendment; and
WHEREAS, if an amendment to the United States Constitution has been proposed by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, it is for Congress to determine the validity of the state ratifications occurring after a time limit in the resolving clause, but not in the amendment itself; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia hereby ratify and affirm the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution proposed by the United States Congress on March 22, 1972, and ratified by 35 state legislatures. The complete text of House Joint Resolution 208 proposing the Equal Rights Amendment follows:
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 208
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
“Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
“Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”; and, be it
RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate transmit certified copies of this joint resolution to the President of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the President of the United States Senate, the members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, and the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States.
Contact: Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo
On November 4, 2014, by a nearly 2-1 margin (64%-36%), Oregon voters approved Measure 89, a ballot initiative that adds an equal rights amendment to the state constitution.
The amendment guarantees that “equality of rights under the laws shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.” That text mirrors the language of the long-proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment remedies the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling that laws in the state may treat people differently based on gender if justified by specific biological differences.
Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, chief petitioner for the ballot measure, led a multi-year effort to get the state ERA on the ballot.