The Equal Rights Amendment

By Rachna Choudhry, Updated 1/4/2015

The debate over an Equal Rights Amendment began three years after women received the right to vote. We’re spotlighting the issue today, because it’s been recently re-introduced in this Congress. We hope you’ll share your views on POPVOX — and we’ll deliver your message to Congress.

The Equal Rights Amendment was First Proposed 90 Years Ago

The Equal Rights Amendment — proposing an amendment to the US Constitution that guarantees equal rights under the law for Americans regardless of their sex — was first introduced in Congress in 1923. Almost 50 years later, Congresswoman Martha Griffiths (D-MI) filed a discharge petition on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1970 to send it directly to the House floor for a vote. (A discharge petition requires the signatures of a majority of House members to succeed. Learn more. And full disclosure: It’s one of the POPVOX team’s favorite legislative maneuvers and was even the star of Legally Blonde 2!)Martha Griffiths

Congresswoman Griffiths was able to get the necessary 218 signatures on her discharge petition (see the signatures) in 1970, and the ERA was passed by the House that same day. In the Senate, however, opponents added an amendment to the ERA exempting women from the military draft, which Griffiths battled against. She introduced the ERA again in the next Congress, and it was passed by the House in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972. Congress also proposed state ratification by three-fourths of the states (38) within seven years, which was extended to 10 years. By 1982, the Amendment had the approval of 35 states — three short to change the Constitution. Nearly half of all states today have a version of the ERA written into their state constitution.

The ERA Discussion Continues Today

In May 2015, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced joint resolutions that “would rejuvenate efforts to ratify an equal rights amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution.” Senator Cardin’s resolution, SJRes 15, would remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment that has already been ratified by 35 states. Senator Menendez’s resolution, SJRes 16, “would begin the process anew, giving all states a fresh opportunity to voice their support for women’s equality,” according to the sponsors. Companion resolutions, HJRes 51 and HJRes 52 were introduced in the House by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Jackie Speier (D-CA).

If either of these resolutions pass, then the ERA would become law if three additional states ratified it. (The states that haven’t ratified it are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.)

ERA Resolutions Pending Before Congress

Weigh in on the Equal Rights Amendment — and whether the deadline for ratification should be removed. POPVOX will deliver your message to your lawmakers.

Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn’t imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we’re simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of a complex legislative system.