The decision to remove the expiration date from the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment may have little consequence in regards to the actual passing of the amendment proposed in 1972, but it is certainly a powerful first step in erecting changes that have long been delayed by Congress.
The move came after Virginia lawmakers voted to ratify the amendment last month, making it the 38th state to do so, and thus meeting a requirement proposed many years ago. However, when the amendment was sent to the states for ratification, a deadline was imposed so that 1982 would be the last year for official ratification by the required number of states. At that time, the amendment fell three states short, and because of that, it essentially expired in the eyes of Congress. So when Nevada, Illinois, and now Virginia decided to finally ratify the amendment, the Justice Department decided that the ratification was simply too late. Many senators and representatives also agreed that the process would have to be restarted and that a proposal with language from many decades ago was not fit to be brought to a vote again.
“Congress does not have the constitutional authority to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment,” said Senator Doug Collins from Georgia.
Despite disapproval from many, the issue of removing the expiration date from the amendment was voted on in the House just over a week ago, where it passed with a 232-183 vote. No Democrat voted against the measure, and it was supported by Republicans John Curtis of Utah, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Tom Reed of New York and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. On the floor, several representatives voiced their firm support for an amendment for total equality among the sexes and argued that change needs to occur now.
“There is no expiration date on equality,” Rep. Jackie Speier said at the news conference Wednesday.
The decision came after a surprising objection from Supreme Court Justice and a long-time supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who voiced her support for the ERA but stated that the best way to move forward is to start over. “I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said.
Furthermore, Ginsburg pointed out another key issue that had to do with the last few states to ratify the amendment in the past few years. “There’s too much controversy about the latecomers,” Ginsburg said. “Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said we’ve changed our minds?”
However, for the expiration date to be formally removed, it still needs to pass by the Senate and receive a signature of approval from the president, both of which are equally unlikely to occur. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already stated that he is not “personally not a supporter” of the ERA, and other Congressmen have argued over the hidden implications of such an amendment.
One issue is that some politicians, including James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, believe that passing the amendment will actually harm the opposite gender in the long run, stating that their auto insurance rates, as well as their life-insurance rates, will rise drastically on top of other constraints. In addition to that, many Republicans fear that by passing the amendment, many restrictions regarding abortion could be dismissed, and it would be a power grab by the Democratic side. The language of the proposal leaves room for interpretation, and many accusations have been made regarding how it would be falsely utilized if officially passed.
Regardless, by taking the first step in voting to remove the expiration date in the house, it breathes life into an amendment that has been dead for many years. And if the amendment does not end up passing, it makes room for a modified amendment with language fitting of the 21st century to find success. Regardless, it is no longer a topic of the past, but of the present, and it is something that needs to be understood and discussed for equality now.
“For survivors of sexual violence, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay and more, the fight for equal justice under the law can’t wait any longer,” Speier said.
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