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Law and Politics

The Equal Rights Amendment

Will the ERA be the 28th Amendment?

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 WHAT IT IS

  • The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a constitutional amendment that provides equal rights to men and women in the U.S.

  • It was proposed almost 100 years ago in 1923. [HISTORY]

  • It states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on the account of sex.” [The New York Times]

era openerSmithsonian Magazine

In 1981, women cheered during a rally for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. (Bettman / Getty Images)

  • 1972: Congress passed the ERA. It was then sent to the states to ratify. [The New York Times]

  • 38 states (two-thirds majority) are required to ratify an amendment before officially included in the Constitution. [NPR]

  • 1982: Deadline to ratify ended. Only 35 states ratified - the ERA failed and was not added to the Constitution. [The Washington Post]

  • Today: A renewed fight for ratification has emerged. [NPR

WHY IT MATTERS

 

CIVICS: Does the 14th amendment protect all citizens? 

 

SOCIAL: Women across the United States, especially women of color, continue to experience discrimination. If the ERA's explicit language on discrimination were included in the Constitution, discrimination on the basis of sex would be illegal.

SUPPORTERS

Make it official

Equality, regardless of sex, is not guaranteed by the Constitution. [Harvard Political Review]

 

While some argue equality has been achieved through legislation and a loose interpretation of the 14th Amendment, supporters say it should be explicitly defined in the Constitution.

 

 

Equality is not reality

Proponents are fighting to show that isn’t the case. [The New York Times]

 

 

Potential benefits 

Those who favor the amendment anticipate it might help protect gay and transgender people, prevent the discrimination pregnant women face, and potentially require states to become involved in sexual harassment cases. [The New York Times]

 

 

Equal pay

Passing the amendment could help close the wage gap women face. That gap won’t close until 2058, according to one study. [The New York Times]

OPPONENTS

 

Religious implications

Opponents believe the amendment could negatively impact religious practices.

 

Opponents fear the amendment will expand abortion rights. [The New York Times

 

 

Gender norms

In the 1970s, opposition mounted against the ERA as some feared that

  • men would not be required to financially support women who carried their baby, [Vox]
  • that gender-specific bathrooms and living spaces may become illegal, [The New York Times]
  • that women would be drafted for war. [Vox]

Expired and unnecessary 

Republican representatives argue that the 14th amendment guarantees equal treatment for all and that the ERA is unnecessary. 

 

Today, the federal government appears to favor the argument that "the ERA Resolution has expired and is no longer pending before the States." [NPR]

era ratified statesequalrightsamendment.org; Alice Paul Institute

2020: 38 states have ratified the ERA.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Dec. 19, 2019: Alabama, Louisiana, and South Dakota sued to block implementation of the ERA. [NPR]

  • Jan. 15, 2020: Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. Questions remain if the amendment is official. [NPR]

  • Jan 15, 2020: The Department of Justice published an opinion stating, "the ERA Resolution has expired and is no longer pending before the States."

  • Jan. 28, 2020: The U.S. Archives confirmed it will not take the steps necessary to adopt the amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [Associated Press]

  • Feb. 13, 2020: The House of Representatives voted to remove the 1982 ratification deadline. 5 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting in favor. [The New York Times]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Take a deep dive with The New York Times on why the amendment initially failed to pass and how it made its comeback. 

  • Mitch McConnell (R), majority leader in the Senate, is "not a supporter" of the ERA. [The New York Times]

  • See a breakdown of what might change if the ERA is added to the Constitution here

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