U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said Tuesday that he believes more Republicans will eventually decide to back legislation that would remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The ERA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Congress approved the ERA in 1972 and it has since been ratified by 38 states, which is the minimum needed for adoption. However, the legislation required ratification no later than March 22, 1979. On that date only 35 states had ratified the ERA.
It not was until 2020 when the Virginia legislature ratified the ERA that the magic number was said to have been reached. Though some legal scholars have cast doubt on the legitimacy of Virginia’s ratification because it took place decades after the statutory deadline and have also noted that five states revoked their ERA ratification, which is considered legally questionable.
Since the 1970s there have been several attempts by Congress to both extend and remove the ratification deadline. Cardin is the lead sponsor of the latest measure to remove the deadline, which has bipartisan support due to moderate GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine having signed on board. The ERA has traditionally been opposed by more conservative-leaning Republicans.
“Because it is the right thing to do,” Cardin said in response to a question from MarylandReporter.com at a virtual news conference. “Maybe I am being naive about this. But it is the right thing to do.”
Cardin said the legislation is about basic fairness.
“Do you want gender equality to be subject to constitutional protections and higher standards? I think there are a lot of Republicans who would answer that question: ‘yes!’ And they get distracted by those who are really either from the 18th century, as far as their views are concerned about women, or they are seeing things in this constitutional amendment that do not exist.”
Cardin relayed the he has spoken with about a “dozen” GOP senators about the legislation and said he believes that he has “gotten their attention.”
Both Murkowski and Collins voiced their support for the legislation in pre-recorded statements.
“We are still at it. We are going to be at it until we have removed the time limit to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment,” Murkowski said. “We need more support on the Republican side… We all know that there should not be a time limit on equality.”
“It has been nearly 50 years since Congress passed the ERA with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle,” Collins said. “If not for the deadlines for ratification, I am confident that the requirement for 38 states would have been achieved long ago.”
National Organization for Women (NOW) President Christian Nunes said ratification of the ERA is the “top priority” for her organization.
“The Equal Rights Amendment will help ensure equality in pay, job opportunities, education for women and girls, and will help address sexual assault and harassment at the national level.”
Nunes added: “The progress that we have made so far towards women’s equality can be lost at any time…The ERA is a fundamental legal remedy to protect and prevent sex discrimination for both women and men and all genders.”
Maryland ratified the ERA in May 1972.