WASHINGTON – Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Ma.), along with other House and Senate Democrats, have introduced legislation to affirm the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
“There is no time limit on equality,” said Pressley on Tuesday at a press conference to announce the resolution. “This is about reciprocity, what we deserve, and about enshrining our humanity and dignity.”
The Equal Rights Amendment, also called ERA, guarantees gender equity under the law. It was first introduced in 1923 but did not pass in both the House and Senate until 1972. Congress then set a seven year deadline for 38 states to individually ratify the amendment before it could become part of the Constitution. In 2020, with the ERA’s deadline long expired, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment.
Pressley, among a bicameral group of lawmakers, told advocates that the time had come to look past the “arbitrary” deadline and finally affirm ERA as the federal law of the land.
Cosponsor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) outlined the group’s plan to push the resolution across the finish line.
“We’re going to start in the Senate judiciary committee with a hearing… And then we’re going to bring it to the floor and get a vote with people on the record as it should be,” said Durbin.
For activists like Judy Lotas of North Carolina, who came to the event sporting a black jacket with “Equal Rights Amendment” painted across the back, protecting women’s rights has been a decades-long battle.
“I have been working on this issue since I was way younger than you,” Lotas told this reporter. “I think [the ERA] will lift all of us.”
The ERA would give Congress, federal agencies, and the courts a “new tool” to advance equality in various fields including the workforce, equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, reproductive autonomy and more, according to Pressley. It may also serve as a protective barrier against overturning cases regarding gender-based issues akin to Roe v. Wade, said Eleanor Smeal, co-founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“[The Supreme Court] made it clear that women are not in the Constitution and neither is the prohibition of sex-discrimination,” said Smeal. “We can’t go back, and we can’t sit around losing one right after another.”
Some Republican lawmakers have worked to prevent the passage of the ERA, most recently in March 2021, when Republicans used the filibuster to block the measure in the Senate.
Pressley told Medill News Service that female lawmakers who oppose the ERA are “complicit in their own undermining and marginalization and oppression.”
“Equality should not be partisan, and in fact, those who came before us certainly didn’t look at it that way in the early days of ratification,” added Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
Whether senate Republicans support the measure will be determined by a vote, said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
First, a hearing on the resolution will be held by the Senate Judiciary Committee in coming weeks, according to committee chair Durbin.