The Equal Rights Amendment was originally proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 after the 20th Amendment giving women the right to vote. It has not yet become part of the US Constitution. It is time to put pressure on the White House to help get women included in our premiere document of rights.
What is the full text of the ERA? Here it is:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
What does the ERA do? Basically, it clarifies the legal status of sex discrimination in the courts and would raise women’s legal status to the same level of constitutional protection that men and people of color receive.
The ERA was introduced into Congress every session since 1923 until it passed in 1972. Amendments to the Constitution require three-fourths of all states to ratify the amendment before it becomes part of the US Constitution. It currently sits three states shy of reaching this threshold and has been at that point since June 30, 1982, the date by which Congress said all state ratification had to occur.
Since 1982, the ERA has been reintroduced in every session of Congress. In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), two sets of ERA ratification bills were introduced. S.J.Res. 21 (lead sponsor, Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ) and H.J.Res. 69 (lead sponsors, Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and Representative Judy Biggert, R-IL) is the bill that would have started the process all over from the beginning.
A second bill introduced by Representative, now Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—H.J.Res. 47—is a much simpler bill. It would remove the ERA’s ratification deadline and make it part of the Constitution when three more states ratify. There are 15 states that have not ratified the ERA. They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.
This route, often called the Madison amendment route or the three-state process, follows the 203 year route taken by the 27th amendment. That amendment was originally introduced by James Madison in 1789 as part of package of the proposed Bill of Rights amendments. There was no time limit placed on passage and in 1992 this amendment became the 27th amendment to the US Constitution.
Legal opinion supports the conclusion that the Constitution does not impose a time limit for ratification of amendments because states only ratify the text of the amendment, not any proposing clauses. The time limit placed into the ERA bill passed in 1972 and the extension passed in 1979 was one of the proposing clauses. The other proposing clause states that the amendment goes into effect two years after the ERA is ratified by three-quarters’ of the states. With the passage of the Madison Amendment 203 years after it was first proposed, this argument against sun-setting an amendment was strengthened.
Both sets of ERA bills failed to pass once again in the 112th Congress and are expected to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress. As I previously said, getting three more states to ratify the ERA using the Madison amendment route is a shorter and somewhat easier route to place women in the Constitution and to afford them the constitutional protections that men and people of color receive. President Obama, using his bully pulpit can help make this happen.
President Obama has created a petition on the White House website. He has said that he will respond to any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within a one-month period. There is currently a petition on the website calling on President Obama to “Support and Advance the Equal Rights Amendment, originally introduced in 1972.” The petition deadline is January 17,2013.
Here is the link to the petition. Please click, sign in to the website (you will need to create an account if this is your first time here), and then add your name to the petition.
And once you sign the petition, ask your friends, family, and colleagues to sign as well. If we can get this to go viral, then President Obama will respond.