Ratifying the ERA is a national imperative. Equality is always worth the fight.
Last month, Virginia officially became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, creating the three-fourths majority of states necessary to enshrine an amendment in the Constitution.
The time is certainly long overdue for true equality for current and future generations of women and girls in America. (For context, in Oregon, we ratified the ERA in 1973!)
But, as enthusiasm for the Equal Rights Amendment reemerges into the national spotlight, so do—once again—the naysayers and the fearful. Some are clinging to fears that leading a legal fight to ratify the ERA will only rile up Trump’s conservative base, and that hard-fought efforts to enshrine the ERA in our Constitution will be thwarted by an overly partisan Supreme Court.
It’s important to understand the landscape, but we cannot lose sight of the goal: equality for women, once and for all, enshrined into our Constitution.
Why is Ratifying the ERA So Essential?
Here’s why ratifying the ERA is a national imperative. Without equal rights for women under the Constitution, it is much easier for our courts to be dismissive of women’s issues and the struggles we face.
While it is certainly true, in the absence of an ERA, that laws have been passed to secure equal rights for women—including the Equal Pay Act, Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act—these laws are not protected by the Constitution and can be swiftly repealed or amended at any time.
In fact, we’re currently witnessing this in actions taken by the federal administration to roll back rules protecting sexual assault survivors.
We also must have an ERA in order to strengthen protections for women in sex discrimination cases and establish stronger grounds to reject state restrictions on reproductive healthcare—including abortion—and support the passage of additional anti-discrimination laws.
Yes, the push for enshrinement of the ERA in the Constitution—at long last—may be a complicated legal fight, especially against this administration and its Republican allies.
In fact, just last week, a group of five of my Republican Attorneys General counterparts have sued to thwart ratification by arguing that the deadline to ratify has passed.
Their attempts won’t stop here, but we will not be deterred. And we are fighting back.
The ERA is Supported by a Wide Majority of Americans
We know an overwhelming majority of Americans believe women deserve equality—even voters in red states like Utah. Over 90 percent of Americans support a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for men and women.
Time and again, in the past three years, Democratic Attorneys General have been victorious in our courts—including the Supreme Court itself—when we have pushed back against cruel executive orders, baseless agency determinations and wrongheaded legal arguments. In many instances, we have served successfully as the last line of defense against a federal administration that has little respect for the rule of law and that continues to attack women’s rights and freedoms.
In our roles as chief law officers of our states, we have a responsibility to protect our core freedoms with every political and legal resource available to us. And this moment will be no different.
In fact, on the heels of passage in Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring, Illinois’ Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford filed a lawsuit aimed at directing the archivist of the United States to follow his duties and declare that the ERA is now the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Together, they represent the three most recent states to ratify the ERA.
Additionally, in February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier, to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. This action was supported by 20 of my Democratic Attorney General colleagues. In a joint letter, we urged Congress to remove any doubt about whether the ERA remains eligible for ratification.
We owe it to every woman and girl in America to fight for this. I urge all of you who agree with me to pay attention, elect leaders who are not afraid to fight for what is right—and buckle up, as we are all in this together.
We stand with women, and for equality for all. And, once and for all, seeing that the ERA finds its rightful place in the United States Constitution!