With bipartisan support, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove the arbitrary timeline for ratification in the preamble of the Equal Rights Amendment—marking the latest move in a series of exciting advancements in the fight for constitutional gender equality.
“Today, the House of Representatives sent a clear message to women and men who have fought for generations for true equality with its historic vote to pass my resolution to facilitate the ratification of the ERA,” Rep. Jackie Speier, lead sponsor of HJ Res 79, said in a statement. “For those who question the need for the ERA, they need look no further than the gender wage gap that continues to keep women and families from achieving their full potential, pregnancy discrimination that forces women out of the workforce, persistent and insidious violations of the rights of survivors and much more.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a co-sponsor of the House resolution, echoed the sentiment in her own statement. “I first introduced the Equal Rights Amendment over 20 years ago—and it’s as relevant and needed today as it was then and when it was first proposed by Alice Paul in 1923,” she said. “We know that equality for women will always elude us when it isn’t etched into the Constitution. We’ve seen it when the Supreme Court gutted the Violence Against Women Act, we’ve seen it when judges don’t enforce equal pay for equal work, or when a federal judge ruled that Congress didn’t have the authority to outlaw female genital mutilation.”
Maloney also noted that the ERA would safeguard women’s progress from the last century—which is urgent during a time of heightened backlash against feminist progress across the branches of the U.S. government. “If our rights are in the Constitution, they can’t be erased or rolled back by the changing political whims of legislators, judges or occupants of the White House,” she declared. “Women’s equality will be spelled out in the Constitution. And we will spell it E-R-A.”
HJ Res 79 will now head to the Senate after a 232-183 vote—where bipartisan companion legislation has already been introduced by Senators Ben Cardin and Lisa Murkowski.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he’s “personally not a supporter” of the ERA. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has called this recent advancement in the House an, “effort to ignore the law when it comes to the expiration of the Equal Rights Amendment” and said it, “will be rejected by the Senate.”
“Some polls reveal that public support for the ERA is over 90 percent,” Feminist Majority Foundation President Ellie Smeal, who was an architect of the ERA movement in the 1970’s and 80’s, observed in a statement today. “It was never a matter of if, only when the ERA would be ratified. Women have fought long and hard for equal rights under the law. The ERA is a giant step forward for equality and justice for all.”