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Three States Sue U.S. Archivist in Attempt to Ratify Equal Rights Amendment to Constitution Almost 50 Years after Congressional Approval

David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, at the John F Kennedy Library Digital Archives launch at the National Archives. Washington, DC, on January 13, 2011. (U.S. National Archives/Wikimedia )

Three states’ attorneys on Thursday sued the U.S. Archivist in an attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

On January 15 Virginia became the thirty-eighth state to approve the ERA, which was initially passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification. The amendment sought to make discrimination based on sex unconstitutional.

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex,” the amendment reads in part.

Almost 50 years after the amendment was sent to the states, the approval of Virginia technically gives the ERA the minimum 38 state approval necessary to amend the Constitution. However, citing the length of time that has passed until Virginia’s approval, the Justice Department wrote in a legal opinion that the ratification process would have to be restarted in order for the amendment to be put into effect.

U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero, who oversees parts of the ratification process, indicated he would abide by the Justice Department’s opinion. The state attorneys general of Virginia, Nevada and Illinois have sued the Archivist in an attempt to force the issue.

“Under Article V, there is no time limit for how long Congress may deliberate before proposing an amendment to the States,” the suit argues. “The same is true of a State’s decision about whether or when to ratify a proposed amendment.”

The ERA was ratified in Virginia after Democrats took both chambers of the state legislature. However, some Republicans also voted in favor of ratification.

“Equality is a message I think we should leave to our daughters,” Republican State Senator Jennifer Higgins said after the vote. “I’m always ready to support an effort to allow every American to achieve their potential.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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