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House Passes Resolution to Revive Equal Rights Amendment

Activists calling for Virginia’s adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment gather outside the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond, January 8, 2020. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

The House on Thursday passed a resolution scrapping the Equal Rights Amendment’s deadline for ratification by states, nearly 40 years after it expired.

All Democratic members plus five male Republican members voted for the resolution, which passed 232-to-83 and will now head to the Senate, where a similar measure has been introduced.

The Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in Congress in 1923 and passed 1973, seeks to guarantee equal rights under the law regardless of sex. The constitutional amendment must be ratified by 38 or three-quarters of all states in order to become part of the Constitution. Virginia’s newly Democratic-led legislature boosted the amendment over that threshold last month when it became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, but the 1982 deadline to do so has long since passed.

“There is no expiration date on equality,” said the resolution’s sponsor, Democratic Representative Jackie Speier of California, adding that the amendment “is just as salient as ever.”

“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 added.

Republican critics of the amendment argued in debate on the House floor that the very amendment meant to guarantee women equal rights would harm women by promoting abortion and hobbling the ability of states to restrict it. Critics have also warned the amendment could force women into military combat as well.

“This has nothing to do with the abortion issue. That is an excuse, not a reason,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Monday said she would rather start the process over rather than simply nullifying the deadline for ratification.

“I would like to see a new beginning,” she said at an event at Georgetown University law school in Washington, D.C. “I’d like it to start over.”

“There’s too much controversy about latecomers,” said Ginsburg. “Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification.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?'”

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