Released on July 1, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW and over 50 women’s rights and civil rights organizations filed a joint amicus curiae brief (with the assistance of Winston & Strawn LLP) urging the enshrinement of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the Constitution. The brief was submitted in support of a lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada – all three states having recently passed ratification measures. Their lawsuit argues that the Archivist of the United States must now certify the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the U.S. Constitution.
The Trump Administration is doing all that it can to stop the adoption of the ERA. In early January, the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, issued a finding that because an extended deadline in 1982 has long since passed, it is too late for more states to ratify and that Congress must start over. In May, the Department of Justice then asked the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the three A.G.s in support of the Amendment.
Our ERA brief filed today offers this response, “As a matter of constitutional law, the plain language of Article V dictates when the ERA becomes ’valid to all intent and purposes’ — namely, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states.” Congress cannot change the Article V process on its own without asking the states to ratify the change. A time limit imposed unilaterally by Congress cannot stand in the way of the will of the people in thirty-eight states that ratified the ERA as provided in the Constitution.
The ERA satisfied all constitutional requirements for ratification in January 2020 when Virginia became the thirty-eighth state to ratify. The brief refutes the many baseless arguments of those who do not want to see the inclusion of the ERA. It argues that the Constitution reflects the norms of its time, intentionally excluding women, among other marginalized groups, from basic rights under the law.
The brief also recounts the long, determined — and sometimes painful — effort — to achieve full equality for women, beginning more than 200 years ago. A history of entrenched discrimination and denial of first-class citizenship and its attendant rights for women is told, but the story of women striving and succeeding in many areas despite these barriers is noted.
Our movement towards equality has been ongoing, but in the wake of the #MeToo movement, there is a greater understanding of the gender-based violence and inequality women face. We know that women today face these issues in nearly every sphere, through domestic and sexual violence, in economic and employment-related scenarios, and much more.
As the largest grassroots feminist organization in the country, NOW has worked tirelessly for decades, deploying tens of thousands of our activists to educate, lobby, and urge ratification of the ERA. We are proud to stand with our coalition partners and advocates because we believe that there is no time limit on equality and that the protection of women’s rights must finally be enshrined in the Constitution.
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