WASHINGTON—In a bid to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, the House on Thursday approved a measure removing a 1982 deadline for state ratification and reopening the process to amend the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex.
The House approved the resolution, 232-183, sending it to the Senate. Five Republicans joined 227 Democrats to support the measure. No Democrat opposed it.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have co-sponsored a similar proposal, but the measure is unlikely to be taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate. Cardin said this week he is confident the resolution would pass if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed a floor vote.
Congress sent the amendment, which guarantees men and women equal rights under the law, to the states in 1972. It gave states seven years to ratify it, later extending the deadline to 1982. But the amendment wasn’t ratified by the required three-quarters of states before the deadline.
Last month, however, Virginia lawmakers voted to ratify the amendment, becoming the 38th and final state needed. The Justice Department has said it’s too late, and a lawsuit is now ongoing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called passage of the resolution long overdue, noting that Congress will soon observe the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote.
The House vote ran into political headwinds this week as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said fellow ERA supporters should start over in trying to get it passed, rather than counting on breathing life into the failed attempt from the 1970s.
In addition to Virginia, Nevada and Illinois also voted to ratify the amendment in the past three years. Five states have moved to rescind their earlier approvals.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats were trying to “rewrite history” by reviving the ERA after three-quarters of the states failed to ratify it by the 1982 deadline.
“Congress does not have constitutional authority to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment,” he said.
“If you support the language of the 1972 ERA,” he added, “you only have one constitutional option, and that’s to start the whole process over again and make your case to current voters nationwide.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Senate would reject any effort to revive the ERA.
“I completely concur with Justice Ginsburg’s public statements about the need to reissue the amendment” and start over, Graham said Thursday in a statement that placed him in rare agreement with one of the court’s most liberal members.
“It is clear the statutory period to have passed the ERA expired decades ago, and it would be necessary for it to be reintroduced to have constitutional viability,” Graham said.
By Matthew Daly