The House voted to end the nearly forty-year-old deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would explicitly grant women equal rights under the Constitution. Virginia became the 38th state last month to ratify amendments passed by Congress in 1972 in Virginia. But the states were given only seven years to ratify the amendment. It was scheduled to expire in 1979, but was then extended until 1982.
The repeal was approved with 232 to 183 votes, with five Republicans joining all Democrats to vote for the law.
Many Democratic congressmen wore white clothing during the vote, in which women were given the right to vote in 1920, due to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Others wore purple, a color traditionally associated with the women’s rights movement. Many visitors watching the proceedings in the gallery were wrapped in white with green buttons promoting the ERA. When the motion received enough votes to pass, some caused uproar on the floor of the House and in the visitors’ gallery.
“Almost 100 years ago, Alice Paul, a Republican, introduced the Equal Rights Amendment,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a speech on the House floor ahead of the vote. “But today, in this year which is the centenary year of the 19th Amendment, it is a shameful fact that the Equal Rights Amendment is not enshrined in the Constitution.”
Pelosi said, “The ERA will strengthen America. It’s not just about women, it’s about America.” He received a thunderous applause from the Democrats after he spoke.
Nevada became the first state to ratify the amendment after the 1982 deadline in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018.
Prohibiting the ERA was a priority for the Virginia legislature after Democrats gained control of both state homes, and the amendment was.
However, despite the House repealing the ratification deadline, it is uncertain whether an amendment to the Constitution will be added. It is unclear whether the repeal would be approved in the Senate or signed by President Trump, and even if it was, five states have rescinded their earlier ratification. Proponents argue that these ratifications are invalid due to prior and statutory language.
In addition, most Republicans argue that Congress does not have the authority to end long-term deadlines, and says the process should be initiated again by two-thirds of Congress and then by 38 states . The argument was backed by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Beder Ginsberg, a longtime advocate of the amendment, who said he would “like to see a fresh start” at an event at Georgetown University’s law school on Monday.
“There’s a lot of controversy about the late times,” Ginsburg said. “Also, many states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latemoker on the plus side, how can you say that ‘we’ve changed our minds?”
Ginsberg’s comments are indicative that if this repeal was challenged in the Supreme Court, it would almost certainly be affected. The Department of Justice has also issued a guideline stating that the last date of ratification cannot be added to the Constitution.
However, Democrats maintain that the original deadline was not part of the amendment, but was a resolution passed by Congress, and therefore could be undone by Congress. Speaking on the floor of the House ahead of the vote, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Spear called out Republicans for hypocrisy, saying those who say the process should resume are not honest.
“You are the same people who believe that you will not vote for it!” Spear said. “There can be no end date on parity.”
Republicans also argue that the amendment is unnecessary, because the 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law, and will be used to undo state abortion restrictions. GOP congressman Jackie Valorsky called the vote a “political stunt”.
“Let’s be honest: It’s not about equality or women’s rights, it’s about ensuring unrestricted abortion in the constitution,” Walorsky said.
However, Pelosi said in his speech that abortion was an “excuse, not a reason” to oppose the ERA.
“It has nothing to do with the abortion issue,” Pelosi said. “It has everything to honor women.”