- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

House Democrats held Congress’s first hearing in decades Tuesday on the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, looking to revive the controversial proposal that’s gaining steam as an issue in some states.

“It is time for us to take this issue seriously,” Rep. Jackie Speier said at a hearing by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. “This is pure and simple — 54 words we want to add to the Constitution of the United States.”

The amendment states that all American citizens are equal regardless of sex.

It became a cause in the 1970s, when it cleared both chambers of Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. It fell short when not enough states ratified it by the deadline Congress had set.

Ms. Speier has introduced measure that would eliminate the original deadline for the amendment, allowing other states to sign on and push the ERA over the three-quarters needed for final ratification.

It would then become the 28th Amendment.

Opponents of the measure, led chiefly in the 1970s by the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, warned the amendment would have led to women being forced to serve in the military and the loss of alimony, among other protections.

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said the law already requires equal treatment and he feared the ERA would elevate abortion rights.

“The people’s right to protect the unborn would be eliminated if the ERA were to pass,” he said.

But Rep. Stephen Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, said current protections are too fragile and he worried without the ERA, the Supreme Court will chip away at women’s gains.

“There are dark currents in our politics and culture seeking to undermine women’s status in our society whether it is by threatening their healthcare or objectifying women in the workplace,” he said.

Thirty-five states had ratified the ERA in the 1970s before the deadline, leaving it three shy of the 38 needed for final approval.

Since then, two other states have ratified post-deadline.

But five of the original states have voted to rescind their ratifications, sparking a debate about whether revocation is legal.

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