This short documentary on the Equal Rights Amendment features attorney Dianne Post and State Representative Jennifer Jermaine, and it examines the fight for passage at the federal and state level. This film attempts to answer the following questions: What is the ERA? What is its history? Why do we need it? How do we get it into the Constitution of the United States of America?
The text of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The amendment was authored by Alice Paul and was first introduced into Congress in 1923. The ERA did not make much progress until 1970, when Representative Martha Griffiths from Michigan filed a discharge petition demanding that the ERA move out of the judiciary committee to be heard by the full United States House of Representatives. The House passed it and it went on to the Senate, where it was approved and sent to the states for ratification. By 1977, 35 states had voted to ratify the ERA, but it did not reach the 38 states-threshold required for ratification before the 1982 deadline set by Congress. More recently, Nevada ratified the ERA in March 2017, and Illinois followed suit in May 2018. On January 27th, 2020, Virginia finalized its ratification, making it the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Supporters of the ERA argue that we have reached the required goal of approval by 38 states. However, opponents may have at least two legal arguments to challenge this claim by ERA advocates. First, the deadline to ratify was 1982. Second, five states have voted to rescind their ratification since their initial approval. These political and legal challenges must be addressed and resolved before the ERA can be considered part of the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, ERA advocates continue to pursue certification. There are complicated questions to untangle here, to be sure, but by listening to a variety of perspectives and critically examining the historical and legal context, it may be possible to find some answers. Indeed, Arizona, which has yet to ratify the ERA, could play a vital role in the on-going fight for the ERA.