WASHINGTON-The House voted Thursday to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ERA states that the “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on the basis of sex.”
Democrats unanimously supported the resolution abolishing the deadline, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California. Five Republicans joined them on the 232-183 vote.
“Today, we made it clear that progress and justice cannot be stopped and that righteousness still prevails in our proud democracy,” said Speier, who is co-chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.
Prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have introduced a companion measure.
“This is an historic day,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. “A happy day as the House takes action to move our nation closer to the founding – our founding ideal that all are created equal.”
Republicans argued against the amendment saying it opens a door to federal support for abortion.
“If ratified, the ERA would be used by pro-abortion groups to undo pro-life legislation and lead to more abortions and taxpayer-funded abortions,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona.
The amendment was passed by Congress in 1972 with a seven-year deadline in the preamble for 38 states to ratify. The deadline was later extended to 1982, at which time 35 states had ratified the amendment. Three states later ratified the amendment: Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia this year, marking the required three-quarters of the states necessary to become the 28th Amendment.
However, the Justice Department under the Trump administration opposes efforts to ratify the ERA now.
“We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA resolution is no longer pending before the states,” the agency said in a memorandum in January.
But in remarks before the vote, Speier said the ERA would help to address historical wrongs.
“Women want to be equal and we want it in the Constitution,” she said. “I am equal on this House floor with all of my male colleagues, but when I walk out I have fewer rights and protections than them. I rise today because the women of America are done being second-class citizens.”
“We are done being paid less for our work, done being violated with impunity, done being discriminated against for our pregnancies, done being discriminated against simply because we are women,” Speier said. “The ERA is about equality, the ERA is about sisterhood, motherhood, survival, dignity and respect.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opposed the current ERA ratification campaign, stating earlier this week that she wants to see “a new beginning” and wants Congress to start over.
“I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said during an event at Georgetown’s law school in Washington. “I’d like it to start over.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed with Ginsburg’s thoughts. “My position is the same as Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” he said. “Time has run out. … They have to start over.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, spoke on the House floor in support of the legislation.
“Discrimination against women has through our history kept bright and talented Americans from achieving their full potential in our economy,” he said. “Because of their hard work, the sacrifices, the leadership, and perseverance of trailblazing women we’ve seen barriers come down, doors of opportunity open, and glass ceilings shatter.”
“…As long as our Constitution does not explicitly ban discrimination based upon gender, as it does based on race, we will continue to see forms of legal discrimination against women linger in our country,” Hoyer said.