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Women Get One Step Closer to ERA Passage and Constitutional Protection

On March 17, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed Joint Resolution 222-204 that would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution. Although Congress officially passed the ERA as a constitutional amendment in 1972, ratification was required by three-fourths of the states (38 states) within seven years of passage (or by 1979, which was then extended until 1982). While 35 states ratified the ERA in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the proposed amendment expired without ratification by three more states, as needed. Recently, a federal court ruled that ratification by three states (Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018, and Virginia in 2019) occurred too late. The Senate will now consider the Joint Resolution.

This historic move comes during Women’s History Month and is one step further in the long journey of almost 100 years to pass the ERA and provide equal rights for men and women in the eyes of the law. Although women have made great strides since the passage of state and federal civil rights laws, women are still not guaranteed full legal gender equality under the US Constitution. To date, the United States is the only developed nation in the world with a Constitution that does not explicitly guarantee legal protections for women and essentially makes them second-class citizens.

Specifically, the ERA prohibits denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any state on account of sex and guarantees the equal rights of men and women by:

• Making “sex” a suspect category subject to strict judicial scrutiny, thus clarifying the legal status of sex discrimination for the courts;

• Guaranteeing equal footing for women in the legal systems of all 50 states; and

• Ensuring that government programs and federal resources benefit men and women equally.

If ratified, the ERA would have a critical impact on employment law legislation and the courts with respect to sexual harassment and sex discrimination, equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, reproductive rights, and sexual violence.

To read the Joint Resolution in full, please click here.

This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.