On the Hill Politics

Congressional Democrats Eye Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment After Virginia Elections

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, announced Friday that the House Judiciary Committee would be marking up a bill eliminating the deadline for states to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was one state short of the 38 needed for ratification when the deadline passed in 1982.

The markup of California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier’s bill, H.J.Res. 79, scheduled for November 13th, represents the next step to clear the way for ratifying the ERA and enshrining equality of the sexes into the United States Constitution. The markup follows Tuesday’s election results in Virginia, which changed the landscape of the state’s legislature and improved the likelihood of Virginia becoming the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment, meeting the three-fourths threshold for being adopted as a new amendment written into the Constitution.

Passing H.J.Res. 79 would create a legal path for Virginia’s vote for ratification by eliminating the seven-year ratification deadline Congress set in 1972, which was extended in 1978 — a timeline that was absent from early amendments to the Constitution but became standard for 20th century proposals.

“The ERA would affirm and strengthen the rights of women in our Constitution,” said Chairman Nadler. “Congress created this deadline and, it is clear, Congress has every authority to remove it now. After decades of work by tireless advocates, it is time for Congress to act and clear the way for Virginia, or any other state, to finally ratify the ERA and for discrimination on the basis of sex to be forever barred by the Constitution.”

Supporters of the ERA celebrated Virginia’s election and Chairman Nedler’s announcement as critical moments in the fight for equality and United States history. “I am honored and thrilled that the Judiciary Committee is marking up my resolution to facilitate the expeditious ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and in the fight for equality. It’s a moment that will be recorded in the history books as a time when Chairman Nadler and our colleagues on the committee worked to protect and advance the rights of more than half of the citizenry and voted for women and girls to finally see themselves in our Constitution,” said Representative Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.

While women have made great strides in their push for equality since the ERA’s deadline passed, Nadler and other proponents say the amendment is necessary because of loopholes in other laws. While Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against women in the workplace, it applies only to workplaces with 15 or more employees. While Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools, it only applies to schools that receive federal funding.

Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, said the amendment is the next frontier for women’s rights, as millions of women are speaking out about their experiences with sexual violence through the #MeToo movement, and activists are mobilizing against abortion restrictions and around efforts to close the wage gap between men and women. “This is a movement in search of our collective right to be equal in this country,” Graves said. “There is value in our foundational documents fully reflecting that equality.”

Sources: NYT 11/7/19; The Atlantic 11/8/19; House.gov 11/8/19

Support eh ERA banner