The Equal Rights Amendment is Dead, Stop Pretending it Isn’t

Media activists continue pushing the myth that passage of the Equal Rights Amendment is right around the corner. The deadline expired in 1982.

Last year, Illinois symbolically voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), what would have been the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution if it hadn’t expired without the required support of 38 states. Sunday, on his show Last Week Tonight, comedian [?] John Oliver begged his audience in thirteen states where ratification failed to reverse their states’ decisions.

“Any of these 13 states has a huge chance to change how history views them forever,” he said.

In 1972, Congress passed the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification with an initial deadline of March 22, 1979. Constitutional amendments require ratification by three-fourths of the states. When the deadline approached without the required number of states, Congress extended it to 1982.

Supporters of the ERA argue that only one more state is needed to ratify the amendment and enshrine it into the U.S. Constitution, but this is wishful thinking and not supported by facts. Five states that initially voted to ratify the ERA later rescinded their ratification prior to the deadline, which expired on June 30, 1982–nearly 37 years ago.

How can Congress extend an expired deadline? There are even questions as to whether Congress could grant an extension in the first place. A federal district court ruled in Idaho v. Freeman that Congress had no power to extend the ERA’s ratification deadline, but the Supreme Court neglected to review the case because no state had used the extension to ratify the amendment anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with supporting an Equal Rights Amendment, but the 1972 ERA is dead, no matter how many states hold symbolic votes to “ratify” it in the future.

“John Oliver did a segment last week on the Equal Rights Amendment that was incredibly biased and inaccurate. It’s not the first time, but Oliver is either lying or remarkably misinformed — or some combination of both.”

Ryan Everson, Washington Examiner

A website advocating for the ERA offers a Byzantine path to ratification, resting on numerous “what if” scenarios and speculative legal theories. For example, they argue “It is most likely that the actions of the five states that voted to rescind their ratification of the ERA between 1972 and 1982 are a legal nullity.” But that issue was already resolved in the courts a long time ago.

Again, in Idaho v. Freeman, a federal judge ruled that a state can rescind its ratification of a Constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court stayed that decision because the issue was moot. The deadline had already expired. In effect, the Supreme Court was acknowledging the ERA failed to pass in the required time.

“Consequently, the Amendment has failed of adoption no matter what the resolution of the legal issues presented here,” the Court decided.

It’s a dead issue, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to resurrect it.

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Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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