The Equal Rights Amendment
The first law of our “law a day” series was the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On our Instagram (@bipartisan_feminist_project), we provided several days of facts about this Amendment and how to establish bipartisan support for it. According to a study from the ERA Coalition, an overwhelming 94% of Americans support this Amendment. So, why is it not yet a part of our Constitution?
There are two potential paths to ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. According to equalrightsamendment.org, this Amendment was proposed in 1972 with a 1982 deadline. In order to pass, it needs to be ratified by 2/3 of state legislatures; however, the Amendment only received this majority after the deadline, in 2019. So, as of 2020, there are two paths to ratification of the ERA: either  both Houses of Congress need to approve a deadline extension , or  the Amendment needs to be re-introduced and the ratification process re-started.
Many people believe re-introduction is a more viable path to passage of the ERA. According to the New York Times, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell opposes the ERA and is not planning to bring up the deadline extension to be voted on in the Senate. Several states have even tried to withdraw the ratifications they agreed upon decades ago.
The Equal Rights Amendment enjoyed broad bipartisan support until the late 1970s. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 30 of 38 states needed to pass the Amendment ratified it within a year after its proposal in 1972. However, by the late 1970s, the Republican Party shifted farther right to gain favor with an emerging religious movement, and five states rescinded their support for the Amendment. The Republican Party’s shift away from the ERA was completed in 1980 when Ronald Reagan abandoned the ERA platform in favor of a Constitutional amendment against abortion. To this day, this important Amendment has not been able to pass with the support of only one party.
Despite the majority of Americans supporting the Amendment, many Republicans in office still oppose it. The Brennan Center for Justice explains that Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) proposed the deadline extension; however, even if it is re-introduced or McConnell agrees to hold a vote on the deadline extension, two more Republicans in the Senate will need to support the Amendment for it to pass.
Republicans have objected that this Amendment would expand abortion rights or be redundant with the 14th Amendment. In reality, the Amendment says nothing about abortion rights, and many states that have ratified it still restrict abortion. Furthermore, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained that neither the 14th Amendment nor any other part of the Constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women.
Fortunately, this Amendment appears to be growing on the Republican Party. The Brennan Center for Justice shared that 90% of Republicans support the Amendment and many objections to it from the 1970s are no longer relevant. The STOP ERA movement used to campaign that the ERA would lead to unisex bathrooms and same-sex marriage, which are already happening and will not be changed by the ERA.
At the Bipartisan Feminist Project, we share the reality of controversial pro-women laws in order to garner bipartisan support for important legislation and establish a better future for women.