On Monday, the Durham City Council became the first governing city body in North Carolina to pass a resolution in support of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution.
The unanimously passed resolution calls on the North Carolina state legislature to ratify the ERA. The ERA would add to the U.S. Constitution a prohibition on discrimination based on sex.
The ERA passed in both houses of Congress in 1972 and, like every proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was sent to the states for ratification. Thirty-eight sates must ratify an amendment before it can take effect. When it passed the ERA, however, Congress imposed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process. Soon after, women’s rights activists demanded more time to win ratification in the states. Thousands demonstrated in Washington in 1978, and Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982. Ultimately, however, the ERA was ratified by 35 states: three states short of 38.
From 1982 to 2014, there were no advocacy efforts to pass the ERA in the North Carolina General Assembly. But in March 2015, the ERA was re-introduced into the General Assembly. The House bill did not make it out of the judiciary committee, and the Senate bill remains in the Rules Committee.
Marena Groll, chair of NC4ERA and co-chair or ERA-NC, called the Durham City Council resolution “forward thinking and critically relevant.” She continued, “The ERA will be the next defining step for women’s civil rights in America. We are caught up in a breaking wave of the most educated, communications-savvy women in the world. They aren’t going to sit still and be denied the constitutional tools to defend themselves against retro-cultural practices that are hostile to them and to their families.”
Fourteen states, in addition to North Carolina, have also failed to ratify the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.