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article imageRemove the 'sunset clause' and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

By Karen Graham     Jan 23, 2021 in Politics
Washington - On Friday, Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a joint resolution with Democratic Maryland Senator Ben Cardin to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The joint resolution has 195 co-sponsors and specifically seeks to facilitate the expeditious ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). By removing the arbitrary deadline for ratification, according to a press release.
This deadline, or "sunset clause" is a statute or provision of a statute establishing a date on which an agency, law, or benefit will expire without specific legislative action, usually in the form of formal reauthorization by Congress.
Women Marching in Suffragette Parade  Washington  DC; 3/3/1913.
Women Marching in Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC; 3/3/1913.
National Archives Identifier: 24520426
Text of the Equal Rights Amendment
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:
“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
“Section. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
“Section. 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”
The first attempt at an Equal Rights Amendment was written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman and introduced to Congress in December 1923.
In 1923  Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment  whose passage became an unachieved goal of the...
In 1923, Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, whose passage became an unachieved goal of the feminist movement in the 1970s
United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a21383
While largely supported by middle-class women, those speaking for the working class were often opposed, pointing out that employed women needed special protections regarding working conditions and employment hours.
It wasn't until the 1960s and the rise of the women's movement that women's rights began to be taken seriously. The ERA amendment was reintroduced by Representative Martha Griffiths in 1971.
The amendment was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 12, 1971, and by the U.S. Senate on March 22, 1972, when it was then submitting to the state legislatures for ratification, as provided for in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. And here is where the sunset clause comes into the picture.
Congress set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979, for the state legislatures to consider the ERA, and through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. And if was only a matter of time that the ERA amendment would be ratified, that is until Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservative women in opposition.
American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equa...
American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963.
Abbie Rowe - JFK Presidential Library and Museum
Schlafly could be described as being a conservative activist. She held traditional conservative views - including being opposed to feminism, gay rights, and abortion. And she managed to successfully campaign against the ratification of the ERA.
The conservative campaign against the ERA caused five state legislatures (Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota) to vote to revoke their ERA ratifications. This, in turn, brought up legal questions as to whether a state can revoke its ratification of a federal constitutional amendment.
Well, by 1978, this dilemma resulted in Congress extending the ratification deadline for the ERA until June 30, 1982. To be blunt, nothing much happened as far as the ERA amendment went - other than Congress occasionally attempting to extend or remove the deadline, that is, until in the 2010s.
Interest was revived over the ERA, primarily due to another wave of feminism and the Me Too movement. In 2017, Nevada became the first state to ratify the ERA after the expiration of both deadlines, and Illinois followed in 2018. Virginia's General Assembly waited until 2020 to pass a ratification resolution for the ERA.
While women appear to be gradually closing the gender gap in areas like politics  health and educati...
While women appear to be gradually closing the gender gap in areas like politics, health and education, workplace inequality is not expected to be erased until 2276
Virginia's ratification of the ERA Amendment brought the number of states ratifying the legislation to that magic number -38. All looked well, and everyone was happy that the ERA could finally become an amendment to the Constitution. But then the next hurdle came from conservative men in power.
Former President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice refused to consider adding the amendment, citing the 1982 ratification deadline. The House actually passed an extension of the ratification deadline — identical to the one introduced Thursday — but former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to the Senate floor.
There's a new sheriff in town
After the election of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, the sun is now shining anew on efforts to finally get the ERA amendment ratified and into the Constitution. And it looks like it will have bipartisan support.
US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stand onstage in Wilmington  Del...
US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stand onstage in Wilmington, Delaware on November 7, 2020 after being declared the winners of the election
According to Newsweek, the oh-so-thin Democratic Senate Majority now offers a possibility that both houses of Congress may remove the deadline if senators can bypass a Republican filibuster.
"As we begin a new Congress, I can think of no better legislation to lead with than one that removes impediments to find ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment — an amendment that firmly embeds in law equality between men and women," Murkowski said in a statement.
"There should be no time limit on equality," Senator Cardin said. "Even as we celebrate America's first female Vice President, our nation is held back as the only modern constitution that fails to enshrine full equality for both men and women. This is unacceptable."
More about Equal rights amendment, ratification, Trump administration, sunset clause
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