The Equal Rights Amendment Is an Artifact No More
Newly empowered Democrats are likely to make Virginia the final state needed to ratify the long-dormant ERA.
“We will be bringing that back, and yes, we do have the votes to pass it,” declared Eileen Filler-Corn, the Virginia state representative who is likely to become the first woman speaker of its House of Delegates.
Virginia’s ratification would cheer progressive women nationwide, including millions who have only read about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in history books. And it would thrust a constitutional debate back into Congress’s lap during a year that happens to be the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage. Its passage would not, however, be the last word on the ERA.
The amendment fits on a single piece of paper and has a main clause with just 24 words: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
When the House and Senate each finally approved the ERA, in 1972, the resolution included a seven-year deadline for ratification by three-quarters of the states—a timeline that had been absent from the early amendments to the Constitution but had become standard for proposals in the 20th century. Congress ultimately extended the deadline to 1982, when the amendment was three states short of the threshold for ratification. But by then, the momentum for passage had long since faded.
Nevada became the 36th state—and the first in 42 years—to ratify the ERA in 2017, and Illinois followed a year later.
Virginia would be the last state necessary to ratify the amendment.
[link to www.theatlantic.com (secure)