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The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment is an Amendment proposed in 1923 by women’s rights activist Alice Paul to make all laws gender neutral (NYT). The deadline for states to ratify this Amendment was set in 1982; however, largely due to partisan feminism, the Amendment hasn’t passed to this day (Stolberg). To advocate for the passage of the ERA, you first need to understand the potential paths to ratification.


When it was first proposed, the ERA needed to be ratified by  ⅔ of states (38 states) by it’s deadline in 1982 in order to pass. However, the ERA was not ratified by ⅔ of states until January 2020. There are two possible ways this Amendment could still pass. First, both houses of Congress could vote in favor of extending the deadline of the ERA so that the ratification of ⅔ of states is still valid. The House of Representatives already voted in favor of this. However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN), opposes the ERA and has so far refused to bring it up for a vote. Second, Congress could propose a new ERA and begin the ratification process for states all over again. This method would dodge legal debates about whether it is valid to extend the voting deadline of an Amendment (Stolberg).

Dealing With Opposition

The Democrat View

Most Democrats support  the ERA and, along with five Republicans, contributed to its deadline extension in the House of Representatives. During this vote, many Democratic women wore purple just as suffragettes did in the early 20th century (Stolberg). Democrats have argued that the ERA will strengthen equal pay and unleash the full power of women in our economy. 


Although their Republican counterparts claim that the 14th Amendment already guarantees gender equality, Democrats argue that the 14th Amendment only protects against racial and ethnic discrimination, not sex discrimination. Some Supreme Court rulings have been made that the 14th Amendment guarantees gender equality; however, the 14th Amendment only explicitly mentions racial and ethnic discrimination, so unpredictable rulings can be made of what constitutes sex discrimination in each case. Furthermore, not all states have ratified the ERA, so federal and state courts may produce inconsistent rulings on sex discrimination (ERA).


During debates about the ERA in Congress, Nancy Pelosi also pointed out that this Amendment has nothing to do with abortion, just equal rights (Stolberg). 


The Republican View

Some Republicans support the ERA; however, the majority of them oppose it. Five Republicans voted for the deadline extension of the ERA in the Senate. In the House, the extension is co-sponsored by Republican Representative Lisa Murkowski (AK).


Republicans argue that the ERA will not make any meaningful changes to women’s rights and that it is only a ploy to expand abortion (Stolberg). After New Mexico and Connecticut ratified the ERA, each of their state courts ruled that, under the Amendment, Medicaid needs to fund medically necessary abortions (ERA Education Project). Furthermore, the Students for Life argue that the 14th Amendment and countless other laws already guarantee equal rights for women, and, as a result, the ERA will cause an influx of court cases on sex discrimination without making any meaningful changes for women’s rights (Students for Life). Republicans also point out that it may be unconstitutional to extend the deadline of an Amendment, because some states may no longer agree with a decision made by their state decades ago (ERA Education Project). 


Reaching Common Ground

First, would the ERA really expand women’s rights? The answer is probably no. In the late 20th century, Ruth Bader Ginsburg spearheaded multiple lawsuits which proved that the 14th Amendment already protects women. Still, the ERA is certainly not useless. Conservative justices on the Supreme Court have been questioning if these cases were properly decided, and it is possible that they get overturned. The Equal Rights Amendment could insulate against any potential drawbacks for women’s rights (Millhiser).


Second, will the ERA expand abortion rights? The ERA says nothing about abortion. Federal and state courts have the responsibility to interpret whether the ERA will affect abortion rights. Although New Mexico and Connecticut have used the ERA to expand abortion, this doesn’t mean other states will.  In Pennsylvania, despite the state ERA, state courts ruled that Medicaid funding can be restricted from abortion. In the past, the privacy and due process clauses have been used to expand abortion, but Republicans have not opposed these because they are integral to our nation. Likewise, equal rights for all genders should be integral to our nation and not a conversation about abortion. 


Finally, is the ERA deadline extension valid? This is highly debatable (Millhiser). Regardless of your opinion on the constitutionality of deadline extensions, this is not a reason to oppose the ERA outrise, because it will always be an option to re-propose the ERA to give all states a chance to ratify it once again (Stolberg).



Who To Contact

To promote bipartisan support of the ERA, it may be more effective to contact supporters of the Amendment than opponents to it.

 

Currently, the ERA is at a standstill because there is partisan tension in the Senate and many states are trying to rescind their ratifications of it. Many Republicans oppose the ERA on the basis that a deadline extension is unconstitutional. If a proponent of the ERA re-proposed it, much of this tension would be resolved, setting us on a path to bipartisanship. Below are some legislators who have taken leadership on the the Equal Rights Amendment in the past who you can contact urging a re-proposal this important Amendment:

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-224-6665

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-224-4524

Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-3531

Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-5361

Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-5671

Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-3186

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-224-2523

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-7944

Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-4465

Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-6501

Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-226-0792

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

D.C. Office Phone #: (202)-225-5801

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©2020 by The Bipartisan Feminist Project.

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