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House works to revive Equal Rights Amendment this week

The ERA guarantees equal rights to women and prohibits discrimination based on sex, but a deadline in previous ratification efforts has it stalled.

WASHINGTON — A hot button issue from the 1970s is poised for a revival by the House this week, and Speaker Pelosi is urging the Senate to follow their lead as the House is slated to vote on a resolution Thursday. 

Speaker Pelosi joined fellow members of Congress and advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment Wednesday to support HJ Resolution 79. The House is calling for a vote to remove a 1982 ratification deadline. Advocates for the resolution want to reopen the process to amend the Constitution and prohibit sex-based discrimination.

In 1973 Congress passed a resolution for the amendment, which was then sent to the states for ratification. At the time there was a seven-year deadline imposed, which was later extended by three years. 

More than half of the states ratified the amendment within the first year Roll Call reports, but by 1983 only 35 states had ratified. The deadline set by Congress said that the amendment needed the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures before 1979. Last month Virginia ratified the ERA and became the 38th state to do so, and therefore would have the ERA reach it's required three-fourths ratification threshold. But the deadline for state ratification seems to be the hurdle keeping it from finally moving forward. 

Credit: AP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined at left by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and other congressional Democrats, holds an event about their resolution to remove the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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The sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Jackie Speier, said if Congress is successful in removing the deadline, the legal battles would end. At a news conference Speier said, “there is no expiration date on equality.” As Roll Call points out, removing the deadline will not clear out a path for a 28th Amendment.

As ABC News reports, the National Archives and Records Administration followed a January opinion by the Department of Justice's Officer of Legal Counsel saying the amendment could not be ratified due to the missed deadline. Virginia, Illinois and Nevada attorneys filed a lawsuit against the National Archivist ordering it to ratify the amendment. 

The ERA was originally drafted by suffragist Alice Paul, and though it has continually died in committee, it has continuously been proposed in every Congress since 1923.