Nevada may be the first state since 1982 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On Thursday, the Nevada State Senate voted 13-8 to send Joint Resolution 2 to the majority-Democratic Assembly, where it is expected pass.
The ERA is a Constitutional amendment demanding, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” If it passes, Nevada will be the 36th state to pass the amendment.
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 states 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 from the states. Thousands demonstrated in Washington in 2978, and Congress granted an extension until June 30, 1982. Ultimately, however, the ERA was ratified by 35 states, 3 states short of 38. Nevada was one of the states not to pass it.
Nevada Republican State Senator Heidi Gansert broke away from her party to vote in favor of the ERA ratification. Gansert said, “We have strong women serving as house leaders and chairs. Women are stepping up and stepping forward and I am proud to stand alongside them. While this vote on the Equal Rights Amendment may be redundant because of the work is done here in Nevada and in other states, it is still a powerful symbol of the need for equality.”
Some Republican members argued that the amendment to the Constitution would be merely symbolic, given that they say there have been other amendments, like the 14th amendment, to ensure equal rights for women. But before he died Justice Scalia, who believed in an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, made clear that he did not believe women had any protections under the 14th amendment. Judge Neil Gorsuh, who has been nominated by President Trump to replace Scalia, is considered to be an even more conservative Constitutional originalist, meaning he too would likely not consider the 14th amendment to be meant as a protection for women.
Co-Majority Whip Patricia Spearman, who introduced the resolution, spoke before members of the Senate during an hour-long debate: “The objections to ratifying the ERA are false, disingenuous and misleading. As such, opposition to passage creates a default position yielding to the antiquated notion of misogynistic patriarchy.”
Democratic member Nicole Cannizaro highlighted what effect the ERA will have on equal rights for women by telling stories of her mother and grandmother facing sex discrimination in their workplaces. Cannizaro said, “When we are still talking about equal pay for equal work, we deny women equal rights.”
Recently, there has been a revived movement to continue the fight for the ERA. In October, the Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the North Carolina state legislature to ratify the ERA.
In addition to Nevada and North Carolina, the 13 other states that failed to ratify the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.