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US House Votes to Revive ERA, Remove Deadline

FILE PHOTO: During the 2020 General Assembly session, women came to the Capitol to show their support for the Equal Rights Amendment. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

This story has been updated with a statement from Attorney General Mark Herring.

The U.S. House of Representatives has, again, approved a resolution to eliminate its self-imposed deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The proposal  faces a tougher road in the Senate. 

Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger was one of 200 co-sponsors to the resolution. 

“This arbitrary deadline has gotten in the way of us celebrating real, full, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment,” Spanberger told VPM. “So removing this deadline is important to the continued progress towards the pursuit of ensuring constitutional equality for everyone.” 

The House approved the same resolution last year, but the Senate refused to consider it. Supporters say with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as a tiebreaker this year, the measure has a chance. A small majority of Senators support the ERA, but it needs 60 votes to clear the Senate, where many Republicans remain skeptical.

Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA last year, making it the last state needed to amend the U.S. Constitution. But because Congress created a 1982 deadline, opponents argue the amendment is technically dead. Opponents also argue that, if it is passed, it would enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution and it would eliminate federal programs designed specifically for women, among other concerns. 

Katie Hornung is director of Vote Equality, a nonpartisan grassroots organization promoting the ERA. 

“This is a simple statement of nondiscrimination going into our Constitution, which will then give a judicial framework of fairness,” Hornung said. “We need a Constitution that’s modern to move forward with us.”

Hornung and others who support the amendment, which was first drafted in 1923, say Congress has always had the power to eliminate that deadline. 

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that aimed to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S Constitution because the original deadline for its ratification has passed. However, the case could still head to the Supreme Court. The lawsuit was brought by three attorneys general, including Virginia’s Mark Herring who says he might appeal the judge’s decision.

Herring also released a statement following the vote:
“We cannot continue to force the women of this country to wait any longer to be given equal protections under the U.S. Constitution and today’s vote will help clear up any ambiguity surrounding recent ratifications of the Equal Rights Amendment. While I have never believed that the ratification deadline on the ERA was binding in the first place, I welcome this move from the House to ensure that it is recognized as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. Women deserve guaranteed equal rights in this country and I remain as committed as ever to seeing this fight through to the end and making sure that women’s equality is enshrined in the Constitution.”


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.