Feminists File Amicus Brief Demanding Recognition of the ERA

In January of 2020, Virginia became the 38th and final state required to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the Trump administration has refused to recognize the Amendment—so ERA advocates are now fighting back.

Feminists File Amicus Brief Demanding Recognition of the ERA
The Equal Rights Amendment Coalition and more than 50 women’s rights organizations filed an amicus brief arguing that an arbitrary seven-year time frame imposed by Congress in 1972 should not stand in the way of adoption. (Feminist Majority Foundation / Flickr)

State attorneys general from the three states that recently ratified the Amendment—Virginia, Illinois and Nevada—sued in late January to compel the archivist of the United States to officially publish the now-ratified amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case, Commonwealth of Virginia et al. v. Ferriero, is pending before a federal court in D.C.

On July 1, the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition and more than 50 women’s rights organizations filed an amicus brief supporting the case.

“The ERA Coalition commends the Attorneys General of Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia for their efforts to bring about equal rights for all,” said Jessica Neuwirth and Carol Jenkins, co-presidents of the ERA Coalition. “We are proud to stand with them today with the strength of our members who have worked so hard and for so long to meet the requirements for placing the 28th Amendment in the Constitution. Now is the time to take a stand for equality.”

The amicus brief argues that an arbitrary seven-year time frame imposed by Congress in 1972 should not stand in the way of adoption, noting that Article V of the U.S. Constitution sets out a process for amending our Constitution that imposes no time limits.

“The fundamental nature of constitutional equality makes it all the more important to respect the plain language of Article V of the U.S. Constitution.”


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The brief focuses on violence against women, the wage gap and sexual harassment in the workplace as examples of ongoing inequality that the ERA could address.

“The problems of inequality remain very important today, even though a lot of progress has been made,” says Linda Coberly of the Chicago law firm of Winston and Strawn. Coberly, who write the brief, chairs the ERA Coalition’s Legal Task Force.

“Our brief was filed on behalf of groups who have been part of the women’s movement for decades and also groups that have fought specifically for the rights of Black women, [women of color], and the rights of … immigrant women, and the rights of LGBTQ people,” Coberly told Ms. “This is an intersectional movement.”

“The ERA doesn’t put the word ‘woman’ in the constitution,” says Coberly. “What it does is create constitutional equality. It eliminates the right of the government to treat women, or men, or nonbinary people differently based on their sex. It is for a very broad group of people.”

Some in the business community have also come out in support of the ERA. Ninety-three businesses, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Pepsi, filed an amicus brief, arguing that “a workforce that includes employees with different backgrounds and life experiences is essential for any business operating in a global economy and multicultural society.”

They argue that “unequal access to education, inadequate health care, lack of physical safety, and economic insecurity prevent many women from fully accessing the labor market. The socioeconomic and legal challenges facing women due to gender inequality directly impact  businesses in their efforts to recruit and retain women employees and access new markets, making it harder for American businesses to succeed.”

Six other amicus briefs were also filed in support of the ERA, submitted by multiple advocacy groups, 20 states, law professors, young women and city mayors. Only one amicus brief in opposition to the ERA was filed by conservative groups, including the Eagle Forum.

“The ERA remains as critical today as it was in 1923—when it was first introduced—and in 1972, when a bipartisan supermajority in Congress passed it and sent it to the States,” states the ERA Coalition brief. “And in the years since then, the already powerful public consensus in favor of the ERA has only continued to grow.”


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About

Carrie N. Baker, J.D., Ph.D., is a Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. Her 2007 book The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment won the National Women’s Studies Association Sara A. Whaley Book Prize. Her second book, Fighting the U.S. Youth Sex Trade: Gender, Race, and Politics, tells the story of activism against youth involvement in the sex trade in the United States between 1970 and 2015. Baker is the President of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts.