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What’s happening with the ERA?

Alice Paul (above) was a suffragist, protester, leader of the women's rights movement and a co-writer of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Alice Paul (above) was a suffragist, protester, leader of the women's rights movement and a co-writer of the Equal Rights Amendment.

On Jan. 31 I read an article stating that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was ratified. Yay! I was excited to hear this, but then I realized I didn’t really know what it meant. 

I recognize that I am woefully uninformed in rights/documents concerning who I am, and I want to change that. Although this is by no means fully comprehensive, I am writing this article to help people understand a little better what is happening in the world today.

The ERA was written in 1923 by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. This amendment was written to advance the first wave of feminism after the 19th Amendment (the right for women to vote) was included in the Constitution. It was designed to guarantee equal rights for women and end the legal distinctions between men and women. 

While this document is important for women, it wasn’t passed until 1972! That’s forty years after it was introduced, according to the Brennan Center for Justice

For an amendment to be ratified (approved), it must pass Congress with a two-thirds majority vote. Congress is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, so an amendment must have a majority vote in both. Next, it goes to the states to be ratified.

After the amendment was passed, it was sent to the states to ratify it. Thirty-eight states needed to approve it within seven years. Five years after it was passed (1977), thirty-five out of the thirty-eight had ratified the ERA. Since it was getting close to the seven-year deadline (1979), Congress extended it by three years. This puts us at 1982 and still only thirty-five states had ratified. 

No action was taken with it (by the states) until 2017 when Nevada ratified the ERA and then Illinois in 2018. Virginia was the thirty-eighth state in 2020.  

We had thirty-eight states, but the deadline had passed — what now? 

Fast-forward to Jan. 31. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Senator Ben Cardin introduced a joint resolution to remove the deadline for ratification. 

A similar resolution has been passed two times by the House of Representatives (February 2020 and March 2021), but it hasn’t passed in the Senate yet. This is because most of the Senate GOP is using the time passed as a reason to block it. A vote for the Senate had yet to be scheduled as of Feb. 15.

This progress is great, but we’re not finished yet. We must pass this vote for the ERA to be included in the Constitution. It’s important for everyone to stay informed, especially on issues relating to how you identify yourself. 

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