The Progressive Arkansas Women PAC sends word that state Sen. Joyce Elliott will file a resolution today for Arkansas to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to establish an explicit guarantee in the U.S. Constitution for equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.
Women’s rights activists have fought for decades to include the ERA. Originally written in 1923 by Alice Paul, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, it was introduced and re-introduced in Congress every session for nearly 50 years, until it was finally approved by the necessary two-thirds majority in the House in 1971 and the Senate in 1972. By 1977, 35 of the necessary 38 states had ratified the amendment via their legislatures, but in part because of a conservative backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, the momentum stopped there, and a 1982 deadline set by Congress passed without the necessary approval from three-fourths of the states.
The ERA could be making a comeback, however. In 2017, Nevada became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment. Illinois followed in 2018, meaning the ERA is just one state short of ratification.
At least, that’s the case according to the prevailing legal theory among the ERA’s backers, which holds that the original 35 ratifications are still valid despite occurring prior to the deadline for ratification set by Congress. The 27th Amendment, involving pay raises for Congress, was ratified in 1992 after being originally proposed in 1789. Unlike the ERA, that amendment had no congressionally imposed deadline, but its belated ratification caught the attention of ERA proponents; some legal scholars argue that states are not bound by the time limit Congress set for ratification of the ERA. That still leaves the murky issue of whether states can rescind ratification, as five have already attempted to do. These are all thorny legal questions, but after the unusual ratification of the 27th Amendment, backers of the ERA have pursued the “three-state strategy,” attempting anew to get three states to ratify the amendment in addition the original 35.
Will Arkansas put these efforts over the top as #38? Given the makeup of the legislature, don’t hold your breath. But Elliott will try, as she has before.
For our Capitol critters’ slippery-slope questions about the military and so on, here’s a helpful FAQ from backers of the ERA.
The Progressive Arkansas Women PAC is organizing a gathering at the Capitol on Thursday to back the effort:
On Thursday, March 7 at 9 am, we’re gathering at the State Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Room as a show of support. Please wear white and let’s make Arkansas history!
Here is the text of the amendment:
Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.