By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has joined with attorneys general from Nevada and Illinois to file a federal lawsuit arguing the Equal Rights Amendment must be added to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit comes just days after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, satisfying the requirement that three-fourths of U.S. states approve it.
Linda Coberly, a legal task force chair with the ERA Coalition, said the move is an unprecedented challenge to a congressional deadline for ratification.
“We have never had a case where 38 states, or three-quarters of the states, have ratified with some of those ratifications coming after a purported time limit,” Coberly said. “So we’ve never had a test of a time limit like this.”
The deadline to pass the ERA passed in 1982. Opponents of the amendment have said the ratification is invalid because, over the years, five states have rescinded their ratification.
But Coberly noted the Constitution doesn’t give governments the power to rescind such votes. She said folks shouldn’t lose sight of the benefits of the ERA, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex. Despite decades of laws that have improved the legal status of women, Coberly said, women still struggle to achieve equity with men in terms of human rights and pay.
“Women represent the majority of people in poverty – and with women of color very much overly represented in that category,” she said. “So there’s a lot of progress that still needs to be made.”
According to a recent Economist/YouGov report, 65% of Americans say they support the ERA, and 53% say they agree there should be a federal law ensuring men and women have equal rights.