After 97 years, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has finally become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the long elusive principle of Constitutional equality to all people. In the original Constitution, women along with Indigenous people and Africans were deliberately left out. Though it has taken over 200 years, we are finally all included in the original promise of the new nation for liberty and justice for all. Virginia was the pivotal 38th state. Others will follow and as they do, we'll keep you updated.
Signing the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia with President Pro Tempore, Senator Louise Lucas, Madam Clerk Suzette Denslow of the House and Madam Clerk Susan Clarke Schar of the Senate.
Now the ERA is off to Washington and into the Constitution!
RICHMOND (January 30, 2020) – Following Virginia’s historic vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today has filed suit to recognize that the amendment has been added to the U.S. Constitution, enshrining equal rights for women. On January 27, 2020, the Virginia General Assembly voted to pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, making it the 38th and final state needed to immediately make it part of the Constitution. As the complaint states: “after generations of effort, the women of this country are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution”. Joining Attorney General Herring in filing this landmark civil rights lawsuit today are Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.
“I am so proud that Virginia was the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA, finally pushing us over the edge and enshrining gender equality in our nation’s founding document. For nearly 150 years, the Constitution did not acknowledge the existence of women. Now, 231 years since our country was founded and on the centennial anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, the American people have shown that they are as committed as ever to true equality by adopting the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Attorney General Herring. “For too long, women have not been afforded the same protections as men under the Constitution. Our history is full of strong, amazing women, who faced countless barriers in order to accomplish their dreams and goals. Without their perseverance and tireless hard work we would not be in the position we are today.
“I was raised by a single mother and I saw first-hand the discrimination that she faced in the workplace and in other areas of her life. She was even forced to quit her job as a flight attendant because she got engaged and they had a ‘no marriage policy’.
“We now have this historic opportunity to ensure that equal rights regardless of sex are properly recognized as part of the Constitution. Virginians have made it clear that it is their will that the ERA be ratified and I now have the great honor of continuing that fight to make sure that gender equality is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing equality for generations of women to come.”
The Equal Rights Amendment states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”. Though an equal rights amendment was proposed as early as 1923, the ERA was not adopted by Congress until 1972, when it passed with broad, bipartisan support. Virginia’s historic vote on January 27th made it the 38th and final state to pass and ratify the ERA, immediately adding it to the Constitution.
Under the Equal Rights Amendment, the U.S. Constitution finally provides an explicit guarantee of protection against discrimination based on sex. Once these protections are recognized as part of the Constitution they cannot be changed as easily as other laws can. Additionally, the ERA provides clear judicial standards for deciding cases involving gender discrimination.
In the complaint, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that “under Article V, a proposed constitutional amendment automatically becomes ‘valid to all intents and purposes, as part of th[e] Constitution’ as soon as it is ‘ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states’. The complaint further argues that the U.S. Archivist does not have any discretionary authority over which amendments are added to the Constitution and which are not, and must therefore certify the amendment as part of the Constitution.
The complaint also explains why the Equal Rights Amendment remains valid for several reasons. As the Complaint states, “Article V does not empower Congress to dictate when a state may consider – much less ratify – a proposed amendment” and “nothing in Article V suggests – much less clearly requires – that States take action on proposed constitutional amendments within any particular amount of time”. The complaint also explains that “States have no power to rescind prior ratifications”.
“Equal rights are not contingent upon a person’s gender or sex, which is why I was proud to vote in support of the Equal Rights Amendment as an Illinois state senator, and I am committed to continuing to fight for the ERA to be recognized as the 28th Amendment,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said. “It is past time that we ensure women across the country have the constitutional equality to which they are entitled, and I look forward to my daughter — who aspires to study law — being able to one day, when sworn into the bar, take an oath to promise to support a constitution that recognizes her right to equality under the law.”
“Women have always been endowed with equal rights, even though our country has wrongly failed to recognize them,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “These rights are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution, and I am committed to ensuring they are permanently written into our nation’s history and its future. Advancing civil rights is one of my Administration’s main areas of focus. The gravity of this movement should not be underplayed—today we are advocating for women’s rights here in Nevada and all over the country, and we are taking an essential stride towards inclusivity.”
“This country is ready for Constitutional equality for women,” said Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO, ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality. “Our research shows that 94% of all Americans believe in it. We have worked tirelessly for nearly 100 years. This movement cannot be stopped. We need the equal rights amendment in the Constitution.”
Attorney General Herring has been a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. Earlier this month, he issued a statement condemning the Trump Administration’s memo that opposed the passage of the ERA and committing to ensuring that the ERA is properly recognized as part of the Constitution when Virginia ratified the amendment.
Washington, DC (January 30, 2020) – The ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality welcomes the legal action of Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia, Attorney General Kwame Raoul of Illinois and Attorney General Aaron Ford of Nevada to support constitutional equality for women. The legislators and advocates in these three states have brought us to this historic moment in time. In Nevada, State Senator Pat Spearman, in Illinois, current Lt Governor Julianna Stratton and former Representative Steven Andersson, in Virginia legislators like Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy—these names will be remembered with others as leaders who refused to take no for an answer, and brought us to this day when three fourths of the states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment as required by the Constitution, a glorious day for women across America.
It is time for equality. We have waited too long already for equal rights, and it is shameful that there are those who would have us wait a moment longer. We have been on the ERA journey for almost a century. Alice Paul's idea to prohibit discrimination based on sex was a good idea in 1923 when it was first introduced in Congress. It was a good idea when it was passed by Congress in 1972. And it was still a good idea when it was ratified by Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018 and Virginia, the 38th state, on Monday January 27, 2020. The ERA is as American as apple pie, and ERA Coalition polling indicates says that 94 percent of Americans - and 99% of millennials - agree that the Constitution should be amended to include equal rights for women.
Over the years we have made some progress, and we have built a strong women's movement, as evidenced most recently by the #MeToo outcry, a wave of protest that highlights the fact that women are still second-class citizens in this country. It is time to put these days behind us, 100 years - a full century - after women got the right to vote. We need the ERA because 80 per cent of our poor are women, trying to house and feed children; women are still woefully behind in pay and promotion, and inequality is a life or death issue on a daily basis as women in the home and workplace continue to fear sexual and physical assault with no recourse to federal courts because without the ERA there is no basis for such jurisdiction.
Women were intentionally omitted from the Constitution when it was written, despite the fervent plea of Abigail Adams for our inclusion. Generation after generation of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, granddaughters have dreamed of fixing this shameful omission. That is what the ERA does for us, and we welcome this 28th Amendment to the Constitution. We are determined to see it through and we will never give up on an equal future.
"The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 79) removing the deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment, having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that the joint resolution as amended do pass."
1. The ERA Coalition strongly disagrees with the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion that the time limit on ERA ratification cannot be removed...
2. There is no time limit set for ratification of amendments in Article V of the U.S. Constitution...