Congressional Lawmakers Agree: There’s No Time Limit on Equality

Jan 29, 2020
In The News

Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after a crossover vote Monday, pushing the historic fight for women’s constitutional equality past the finish line—and congressional leaders in the push for feminist progress were quick to call for further action.

“Virginia’s vote and the outpouring of support from Americans—men and women—across the country have shown that it is finally time to affirm women’s equality in our Constitution and that there is no timeline or expiration date when it comes to achieving it,” Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus; Tom Reed (R-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) said in a joint statement Monday after the historic vote in Virginia. “For survivors of sexual violence, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay and more, the fight for equal justice under the law can’t wait any longer.”

When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it attached an arbitrary ratification timeline to the preamble, which was later extended and then expired. But in the past three years alone, campaigns in Nevada, Illinois and Virginia brought the fight for the ERA back to the forefront of the feminist movement.

In their statement, the lawmakers took aim at a recent, non-binding opinion released by the Trump administration’s Department of Justice that claimed states can no longer ratify the ERA. It was a decision they note “[forgets] that Article V of the Constitution unequivocally leaves the power to amend the Constitution with Congress and the States” and “overlooks the fact that Congress has set and changed deadlines for constitutional amendments.” They also urged the National Archives and Records Administration Archivist, who ultimately decides whether to certify Constitutional Amendments, “to act swiftly to certify the ERA.”

Rep. Speier is the sponsor of HJ Res. 79, which would remove the arbitrary timeline for ERA ratification. The bipartisan bill, which has the support of 224 House members, is slated for a floor vote the week of February 10. U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—the lead sponsors of S.J.Res 6, which would remove the deadline for ratification of the ERA—expressed hope in a joint statement that the Senate would “enshrine the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex into our Constitution once and for all” by taking up their own bipartisan legislation in February.

“This decades-long effort is now one step closer to victory and proving that there is no time limit on equality,” they said in the statement released Tuesday. “We urge the Archivist to complete the ERA’s certification. Virginia has now passed the baton, so now, Congress must do its part to get it over the finish line.”