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- The Equal Rights Amendment would make discrimination based on sex unconstitutional.
- On Wednesday, Virginia became the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment.
- A constitutional amendment needs 38 states in order to be ratified. However, the amendment had a previously set deadline of 1982.
- Here is a map of all the states for, and against, the amendment.
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On Wednesday, Virginia voted to amend the US Constitution, securing its spot as the 38th state needed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
In order to change the most important document in US law, an amendment must be approved by three-fourths of state legislatures, or 38 states.
So did Virginia just change the constitution? Not exactly.
What is the Equal Rights Amendment?
The Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, was first proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1943, it was rewritten to include its current language:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
What’s this talk about a deadline?
In 1972, Congress approved the ERA, which includes what the Congressional Research Service calls a “customary, but not constitutionally mandatory” seven-year deadline for ratification by 38 states, as USA TODAY reports. By 1977, 35 states had signed on. Congress then extended the ERA’s deadline to 1982.
By the time that year rolled around, however, no additional states had voted in favor of the ERA.
In 2017, Nevada joined; and in 2018, Illinois followed suit. On Wednesday, Virginia became the 38th state in favor of the ERA.
There is debate now about whether the 1982 deadline still holds up, and if votes from states after that deadline are valid. There are arguments for not observing the deadline, which include that the deadline was written into the proposal for the amendment, not the actual amendment itself. And there are arguments for observing it; the Justice Department has indicated it is too late to ratify it.
Which states have rescinded their “yes” vote?
Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota have voted to rescind their previous votes in favor of the amendment.
Which states are suing to block the ERA?
The attorneys general for Alabama, South Dakota, and Louisiana are seeking to block the amendment. In December, they filed a federal lawsuit against the archivist, the federal official in charge of making decisions regarding amendments. The goal of the suit is to prevent the archivist, a man by the name of David Ferriero, from ratifying the ERA, and to establish that five states rescinded their votes for the amendment, thus making the number of states supporting it less than the required 38.
The main argument against the ERA is that it would solidify rights for a woman to have an abortion.
In short, multiple legal battles in the courts. And in Congress, Democrats will try to pass legislation that would remove the deadline for the ERA. This will likely face legal challenges from ERA opponents.