Removing the Deadline for Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (2015)
The Feminist Majority SUPPORTS this resolution.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It would enshrine in the U.S. Constitution the concept of women’s equality and create a national legal standard for the elimination of sex discrimination.
Originally authored by prominent suffragist and National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul, the ERA was first introduced in Congress is 1923, and then again in every Congressional session until it passed in 1972. Like every proposed amendment, after it passed by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, the ERA was sent to each state’s legislature for ratification. Congress, however, had imposed a seven-year deadline on the ratification process in the preamble of the ERA. Three-fourths of the states, or 38 states, must ratify a proposed amendment for it can become part of the U.S. Constitution. By January 1977, 35 states had ratified the ERA.
With the seven-year deadline approaching, women’s rights activists, led by the National Organization for Women (NOW), took to the streets to demand removal of the timeline. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Washington, DC in 1978 as a result of NOW’s comprehensive campaign, and thousands more sent telegrams to Congress, shutting down Western Union. Congress eventually granted an extension of the deadline until June 30, 1982, but the ERA opposition managed to hold back ratification in the 15 remaining states.
The 15 states that failed to ratify the ERA are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
The resolution to remove the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would rescind the time limit in the preamble to the 1972 ERA. Since 35 states have already ratified the amendment, only three additional states would have to ratify the ERA for the amendment to take effect. This resolution is therefore sometimes called the “three-state strategy.”
The text of the U.S. Constitution lays out the process for its own amendment. Nothing in the Constitution places a time limit on the ratification process. In fact, the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in May 1992 – nearly 203 years after being first submitted to the states in September 1789. In addition, the original time limit placed on ERA ratification was imposed by Congress in the preamble, which states do not vote on in order to ratify the amendment.
As part of the three-state strategy, ERA activists in unratified states are working to clear a path for the ERA. The Illinois State Senate passed the ERA in 2014 with a strong 39-11 vote, and in February 2015, the Virginia State Senate – which never took a floor vote on the ERA during the campaign in the 1970s and 1980s – voted to pass the ERA for the fourth time since 2011. These attempts to ratify the ERA have been blocked in the Illinois and Virginia Houses, but ERA activists have continued to mobilize support for constitutional equality. Over the past five years, grassroots ERA activists have also organized in Arkansas, Florida, and North Carolina to push for ratification of the federal ERA.
Chief Sponsor: Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) plus 26 original cosponsors
Chief Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) plus 143 original cosponsors