January 9, 2020

Department of Justice Says ERA has Expired and Must be Reintroduced to be Ratified

Equal Rights Amendment Demonstration
Credit: Cornell University / Flickr
Some Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives have been working to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, an expired proposal that was introduced in 1972. These lawmakers want to continue the process of state ratification from where it was left; retaining the votes of states that elected to ratify the amendment nearly half-a-century ago. The Department of Justice's Legal Counsel has now issued an opinion reiterating that to ratify the ERA or anything similar to it, a new amendment must be introduced to Congress and start the process from the beginning.

“We conclude that the ERA Resolution has expired and is no longer pending before the States,” the opinion reads. “Even if one or more state legislatures were to ratify the 1972 proposal, that action would not complete the ratification of the amendment, and the ERA’s adoption could not be certified under 1 U.S.C. § 106b. In addition, we conclude that when Congress uses a proposing clause to impose a deadline on the States’ ratification of a proposed constitutional amendment, that deadline is binding and Congress may not revive the proposal after the deadline’s expiration.”

The constitutional amendment 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.” It is argued that this amendment could be interpreted as giving women the legal right to abortion, but it could have even greater effects such as forcing women to enlist in the draft.

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