Attorneys General Mark Herring (Va.), Kwame Raoul (Ill.) and Aaron Ford (Nev.) filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit Thursday to ensure that the Equal Rights Amendment is added to the Constitution. They represent the most recent three states to vote for ERA ratification: Nevada voted to ratify in 2017, Illinois did the same in 2018, and on Monday, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Amendment.
“The gravity of this movement should not be underplayed,” Ford said at a press conference Thursday. “Today we are advocating for women’s rights… all over the country, and we are taking an essential stride towards inclusivity.”
In their complaint, the attorneys general argue that as soon as three-fourths of states ratify an amendment, it becomes law and should be added to the Constitution immediately. They also declare that “the U.S. Archivist does not have any discretionary authority over which amendments are added to the Constitution and which are not, and must therefore certify the amendment as part of the Constitution.”
That assertion addresses a key fight ahead for ERA ratification. Attorneys General from Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota filed a federal lawsuit in December alleging that the arbitrary timeline in the preamble to the ERA—which was not voted on by any state, has been altered previously by Congress and is the subject of bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate proposing its removal—should render recent ratification votes in three states moot.
Herring disagrees, and he plans to fight on for ERA ratification without delay. “We now have this historic opportunity to ensure that equal rights regardless of sex are properly recognized as part of the Constitution,” he said in a statement released Thursday. “Virginians have made it clear that it is their will that the ERA be ratified and I now have the great honor of continuing that fight to make sure that gender equality is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing equality for generations of women to come.”
Ford made a similar pledge in his remarks. “Women have always been endowed with equal rights, even though our country has wrongly failed to recognize them,” he said. “These rights are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution, and I am committed to ensuring they are permanently written into our nation’s history and its future.”
Raoul made the political personal again in his remarks, opening up about why the ERA matters to him—not just as an attorney general, but also as the father to a young daughter. “It is past time that we ensure women across the country have the constitutional equality to which they are entitled,” he explained, “and I look forward to my daughter—who aspires to study law—being able to one day, when sworn into the bar, take an oath to promise to support a constitution that recognizes her right to equality under the law.”