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Tag: ERA history

A Brief History of the Equal Rights Amendment

December 27, 2019

In 1923, Alice Paul, who was a crusader for women’s equality and heroically influential in the passage of the 19th Amendment (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”), wrote a proposed amendment to the Constitution that read, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” This was called the “Lucretia Mott Amendment,” named after one of the influential leaders of the Seneca Falls Convention, and was introduced and reintroduced in Congress every year until in 1943 Paul rewrote the text to be similar to the 19th Amendment. The new text read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

This proposed amendment took another 29 years to pass in the Senate and the House of Representatives in 1972. It was then sent to the states for the three-fourths ratification required by the Constitution. There was a seven-year deadline for ratification that was extended by Congress to June 30, 1982. As of that date, only 35 of the needed 38 states had ratified the amendment. Those states that did not are:  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Five states, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota, have since attempted to withdraw their approval. This action, however, is not supported by legal precedence, and is therefore seen as invalid.

Bills proposing extending the June 1982 deadline, or overriding it altogether are currently before the 116th Congress (S.J. Res. 6 and H.J. Res. 38). Based on the hope of this happening, and advocacy for it since 1995, Nevada ratified the amendment on March 22, 2017, and Illinois in May 2018.

Currently, if the last two ratifications are counted, if the proposed extension or override of the deadline occurs, and the five withdrawals are not recognized, only one more state need ratify the proposed amendment for it to become law.

There are convincing arguments on both sides, and we encourage you to thoughtfully consider what the effects of adding this amendment to the Constitution will be. For your consideration, here are two articles published in Utah newspapers written by Carolina Allen and Valerie Hudson.