Equal Rights Amendment Back 32 Years after States’ Approval Fell Short
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), whose struggle for ratification ended 32 years ago, is again being debated by politicians at the state and federal level, with supporters of the idea hoping to pick up where the battle left off.
The passage of the amendment, which would have guaranteed that equal rights could not be denied on account of gender, was passed by 35 states by the 1982 deadline, leaving it three short of ratification.
To get the effort going again, two measures have been introduced in Congress.
One would erase the 1982 deadline but keep intact the ratification by 35 states, so backers would have to get only three more states to sign on. Illinois could become one of the three, with the state Senate already approving it and the House possibly taking it up in November.
The amendment is not without its opponents, however. The Illinois Family Institute claims the ERA would force women into military combat, invalidate privacy protections for bathrooms and locker rooms, undermine child support judgments and jeopardize social payments to widows, according to the Associated Press (AP).
If the congressional measure for the “three-state strategy” doesn’t pass, supporters would start the process over again in Congress and then try to win approval from 38 states from scratch. Either approach would appear to be hobbled by the Republican majority in the House.
A sponsor of the legislation is U.S. Representative Jackie Speier (D-California), who told the AP that recent legal rulings make it imperative to adopt the ERA.
“Recent Supreme Court decisions have sent women’s rights back to the Stone Age,” Speier said, referencing the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling that allowed certain private businesses to opt out of the Obamacare mandate regarding contraception coverage. Co-sponsor Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) agreed. “They could not have made the Hobby Lobby ruling with an ERA,” she said.
The states besides Illinois that have not ratified the amendment are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Those states are mostly controlled by conservatives who’ve shown little interest in resurrecting the ERA.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
Despite Decades of Setbacks, Supporters of Equal Rights Amendment Persevere (by David Crary, Associated Press)
The History Behind the Equal Rights Amendment (by Roberta W. Francis, National Council of Women’s Organizations)
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