ERA: One More Push and It’s in the Constitution!

On May 13th Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition led an impressive panel on “The Status of the ERA and What Comes Next?”   Despite Virginia having voted for ratification in January 2020, it is not yet approved as part of the Constitution. Trump’s Department of Justice has issued an opinion saying Virginia’s action is too late, referring to a deadline Congress put in the 1974 ratification legislation.

The House has already acted to remove the deadline, and Representative Jackie Spiers, sponsor of the House Bill, talked of how exciting it was to have the bill pass just a few months ago!   She spoke passionately how women are now in the front line fighting the Covid-19 epidemic, exposed to the virus with inadequate protective equipment and getting lower pay.

Senator Ben Cardin, one of the two original sponsors of the parallel Senate bill, spoke of the effective argument that women now have significant power of the vote as underscored in recent elections. All Democratic senators have signed on as co-sponsors, but only Senator Lisa Murkowski, the second original sponsor, and Senator Susan Collins have signed on from the Republican side of the Senate. Senator Murkowski talked of the need to give girls and women equality under the law. She is continuing to work to get more bi-partisan support, but side-stepped the question on when she expected more Republican senators to sign on.

Steve Anderson was an Illinois state Republican legislator who voted in favor of the ERA in 2018. He noted that ERA supporters have to get Republican senators and the remaining red states to support the ERA. This has to be seen as a bi-partisan issue; the idea that it is a back door to unlimited access to abortion is “a lie.” Another speaker cited how a number of state constitutions have ERA clauses and these clauses have not be used to justify unlimited access to abortion.

Then the way forward was clarified by Linda Coberly, an appellate lawyer and Chair of the ERA Coalition Legal Task Force. She mentioned the two cases now in court in Washington DC and Massachusetts, but felt the best chance for the ERA to become part of the Constitution will be the passage of the Senate bill, if not in 2020, then 2021. That is “very close”. She encouraged supporters to write to their Senators, thanking the senators who have already signed on to the bill, or asking the senators who have not supported the bill wyd, and do they want to be “…on the wrong side of history for American women?”

ACTION: DA members should write to their Senators to either thank them for their support of Senate Resolution 6 to eliminate the deadline to ratify the ERA, or to insist that they confirm to Senator Murkowski and Senator Cardin that they now support the resolution and that it needs to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote!

Carol Moore, GWC ERA Project, Florida and GWC Steering Committee