On February 28, 2023, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted a hearing entitled, “The Equal Rights Amendment: How Congress Can Recognize Ratification and Enshrine Equality in Our Constitution.” Presiding Chair, Senator Dick Durban (D-IL), led the hearing and was followed by two rounds of panelists and a period of Q&A time with committee members. The hearing was packed with a room full of passionate ERA supporters.
The hearing highlighted the bipartisan measures taking place to ensure equal rights in the Constitution through the passage of the ERA as the 28th Amendment. With Virginia’s historic ratification of it in 2020, it became the 38th and final state required for its passage. Congress still has the hurdle of removing legal ambiguities with the arbitrary ratification deadline that was set in the original passage of the ERA in 1972. Those in proposal pointed out that Congress does have the power to push the ERA past the finish line: “Congress clearly has the constitutional authority to eliminate the deadlines it previously set for ratification of the ERA by 1979 and later 1982, and thus deadline-removal proposals are entirely proper and constitutional,” (Kathleen Sullivan). Those against the ratification of the Amendment argued that once Congress has proposed a constitutional amendment via Article V, its power under that Article ends; the fate thereafter rests with the States, which failed to do so by the ratification deadline of 1979.
Thursday Williams, a senior at Trinity College and Board Member of the ERA Coalition, said:
“During high school, I had the opportunity to perform in an award-winning Broadway play, What the Constitution Means to Me […] In my closing argument during one performance, I stopped mid-show, and just stood there crying my eyes out. Here I am defending a Constitution that at one point considered me three-fifths of a person, a Constitution that doesn’t explicitly recognize women in it, a Constitution that in 2023 still doesn’t explicitly state that I’m equal to a man. For the first time, it was clear to me that this document was not written for me. Nevertheless, I will continue to defend this Constitution and fight for my rightful place in it.”
Ultimately, the ERA is a vital tool for fighting against discrimination and pushing for equality. It is important that all perspectives of Americans are seen and represented in the Constitution. There is a future generation that cannot keep being disappointed, and there are children and youth across the country that are awaiting the day where there is true equality for all, regardless of their sex.
By Erin Weiss and Maya Benysh, Policy Interns