Senate Democrats announced Monday that they will force a vote this week on a measure that would attempt to revive the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by retroactively removing the ratification deadline.
Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer made the announcement in New York, saying the need for the ERA is more pressing than ever, given the “ominous” direction abortion rights have taken.
“The ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would finally provide a constitutional remedy against sex discrimination – pushing our country one step closer to finally achieving equal justice under the law,” he said.
The ERA cleared Congress in 1972 and was sent to the states with a deadline of 1979 for obtaining ratification by the requisite three-fourths of states.
Just 35 of the needed 38 had ratified the amendment by 1979. Congress approved a three-year extension of the deadline, but the 1982 deadline came and went with no new ratifications.
In 2017, Nevada belatedly voted for approval, followed by Illinois in 2018 and Virginia in 2020. ERA backers said that was enough to put them over, but that argument has been rejected by federal courts who have ruled the deadline has passed.
Mr. Schumer and fellow ERA supporters on Capitol Hill argue they can retroactively erase the deadline, which would make the ERA the 28th Amendment.
Even if the resolution were to clear a Senate filibuster this week, it is doubtful it would see action in the House, where the GOP controls the floor schedule.
And if it were to clear Congress, there are still a host of legal questions about the theory behind erasing the deadline. Changing the deadline retroactively is iffy. Besides, a handful of states that ratified the ERA in the 1970s have voted to revoke that ratification.
Neither of those issues has ever been conclusively grappled with by the Supreme Court.
ERA backers had been pressuring Mr. Schumer for action over the last two years, when Democrats held control of the House, too.
Indeed, legislation to erase the ERA deadline cleared the Democrat-controlled House in 2021. But Mr. Schumer did not move the measure at the time.
The measure to be voted on this week is co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican.
It has just one other Republican sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.