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Hot Topics Review: 21st Century ERA

Barbara Liston | Published on 10/12/2022

All of the constitutional requirements have been fulfilled to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So why hasn’t it happened?

“It’s a lot of poppycock holding this up,” Florida state Senator Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville said Wednesday at the Hot Topics lunch event of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.

The ERA, which was passed by Congress in 1972 and sent to the states for ratification, states:

“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 state of Virginia in 2020 became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, pushing the ERA across the constitutionally required threshold of approval by three-quarters of the states.

Kara Consalo, associate law professor at the Florida A & M College of Law, told the audience that the obstacles to enactment include a missed deadline set by Congress to get the amendment ratified by the 38 states, and a 1984 law requiring the archivist of the United States to issue a formal certification after enough states have approved.

Consalo said the archivist refuses to act on grounds that the office has no constitutional role in the amendment process. A case on this point is winding its way through the courts. And the legality of a ratification deadline is in question.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando said passage of the ERA until recent years was a bipartisan issue. In today’s polarized political environment, the ERA increasingly is being labeled by conservative politicians as a “Democratic” issue, making a resolution more difficult.

The ERA, said Eskamani, “would be a game changer for every issue that touches on women and children.” Issues such as abortion rights and transgender rights would be viewed in a different light, she said.

Barbara Liston