- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A bill to restart the ratification process of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced yesterday by Democratic congressional leaders, who also pledged to hold the first hearings in decades on the issue.

“Equality is not a slogan or a fad. It is a fundamental right,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat and a lead sponsor of the bill.

“We’re going to win it now. We’ve got the votes,” she said, as dozens of young feminists stood and cheered her in a Senate conference room.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, both said they would hold hearings on the ERA.

“The ERA is essential,” Mr. Nadler said. “We have to enshrine it in the Constitution.”

Democrats in the Senate, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, are preparing a companion bill.

The House bill, introduced with the support of 194 lawmakers, proposes that the sentence, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” be added to the Constitution. The measure must pass with two-thirds of the votes in the House and Senate, and be ratified in 38 state legislatures.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said yesterday that the conservative coalition would strongly oppose the “outdated” measure.

The ERA “would not allow any distinction between men and women — and is limited to actions by the government, not individuals, businesses or private entities,” she said.

Courts have used state-passed ERA measures to declare same-sex “marriage” legal in Hawaii and to force taxpayers to subsidize abortions in New Mexico, she added. “The ERA would be used to do far more harm than good.”

The ERA was first proposed in the 1920s. Congress passed it in 1972, but after 10 years, only 35 states had ratified it. The U.S. Supreme Court implied that the measure was dead in a 1982 ruling.

A secondary strategy is under way to get three states that did not ratify the ERA in the 1970s to do so now and then go to court to get the amendment adopted. This year, ERA bills have been filed in five of the unratified states — Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Florida and Missouri — and bills are expected in Louisiana. This amendment does not differ in wording from the measure introduced more than 30 years ago.

The other states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.

Earlier this month, North Dakota lawmakers passed a bipartisan resolution saying they are committed to the ERA and urging other states and Congress to adopt it.

“Although North Dakota passed the ERA in 1975, our work won’t be complete until it is ratified and becomes the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” North Dakota state Rep. Pam Gulleson, a Democrat, told www.4ERA.org, an ERA advocacy group.

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