The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment By Liz Jordan

In 2017, the AAUW CA Speech Trek contest topic asked if it was time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.  At that time, the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the required 38 states and was abandoned by most “rights” groups after the 1982 Congressional deadline passed.  Over the next three years after 2017, three states ratified the ERA.  First the Nevada legislature ratified the amendment in 2018, then Illinois in 2019, and in January of 2020 the Commonwealth of Virginia’s legislature ratified the amendment.

Also, at that time, the Trump presidential administration, through Attorney General Bill Barr and unfriendly to the idea of Equal Rights, asked the U. S. Archivist to not register Virginia’s ratification vote.  What’s happened since then?

About 200 “rights” groups have mounted legal efforts on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Equal Means Equal has picketed the White House and the Department of Justice. They have also engaged in lawsuits in cooperation with other rights groups.   The ERA Coalition has lobbied, has filed lawsuits and has generally beaten the drum to get the current administration and the current Justice Department to move the ERA out of the Archivist’s office.  AAUW has contributed to these efforts.  To date, I have not found any comment by any administration official about the hesitancy/resistance to register Virginia’s vote, and, therefore, to bring the 28th Amendment into the U. S. Constitution.

On March 17, 2021, the U. S. House of Representatives voted to remove the ratification deadline time limit that was reached in 1982.  That time limit was an artificial limit set by Congress, and therefore, subject to elimination by Congress.

The original language of the amendment stated that it would go into effect two years from the date of the last ratification vote.  That date is January 27, 2022!  However, the obstacle for the U.S.  Archivist is the Barr memo.

Why do we still need this amendment?  States all over the country, even California, have laws and practices that regularly discriminate on the basis of gender.  States vary in their protection of rape victims over perpetrators, protection of sex-trafficking victims, claims of self-defense and other issues around domestic violence such as law enforcement’s equal application of restraining orders; states vary in employment protections of pregnancy, as well as reproductive rights, and, as always, equal pay for equal work.

Imagine if the Equal Rights Amendment were to become the 28th Amendment of the United States Constitution. How would the future differ from the past?   It seems to this writer (who does not have a law degree) that the impact would build for decades, as suits are brought before the Supreme Court; the justices would apply this clearly and simply stated amendment, with no ambiguity, that discrimination on the basis of gender is illegal.  Even the current court, in its apparent three liberal and five conservative justices make-up, would not be able to find legal loopholes, justifications or ambiguous applications; they could not dodge the difficult issues around gender equity.  All matters around gender equity would be subject to strict judicial scrutiny, a judicial standard that applies at this time only to race and religion.

What could you do?  Write or call your U.S. representatives and senators to get this amendment out of Archivist limbo.  Write to the current administration.  Support groups that are working on your behalf, such as those listed below.  If you have friends and family in other states, urge them to also write to congress and to the President of the United States.

What organizations might you watch, in addition to AAUW, for information?  These are the websites I have watched for the last four years.  The first one is a great place to find the history and other factual information about the efforts to ratify this amendment.  Equal Means Equal put out a wonderful film (of the same name – Equal Means Equal) in 2016 about the need to pass the amendment. Rent it from Amazon and invite friends to watch it with you. Call me and I’ll bring it to your house and show it for you.  The ERA Coalition presents many informational webinars as well as weekly updates on the ERA in the news around the country.

–Liz Jordan

To contact me, please see my contact information in the branch directory.