- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2019

Democrats in the House announced initial steps Friday to try to revive the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, breathing new life into a fight that most thought had been dead for decades.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he’s written legislation that would repeal the time limit written into the original ERA, giving states a new chance to ratify it.

The move comes just days after a change in power in Virginia’s assembly in Tuesday’s elections made that state almost certain to add its name to the list of ratifiers next year.

“After decades of work by tireless advocates, it is time for Congress to act and clear the way for Virginia, or any other state, to finally ratify the ERA and for discrimination on the basis of sex to be forever barred by the Constitution,” Mr. Nadler said.

The controversial amendment cleared Congress in the early 1970s, sending it to the states for ratification — a process that takes an affirmative vote of three-quarters of the states.

But Congress also included a deadline for ratification, and said if enough states had failed to approve the ERA by 1979, it would expire. Congress did extend the deadline to 1982, but even then the count was still short, at 35. It takes 38 to ratify.

Over the last two years interest has grown in the ERA, and Nevada and Illinois have ratified the amendment, despite the expiration date.

Activists attempted to win ratification in Virginia this year, but they were stymied by Republicans who controlled the assembly. Tuesday’s elections erased that control, delivering both the House and Senate to Democrats, who have vowed to make the ERA’s ratification a priority.

“After the amazing victories in Virginia to elect a pro-ERA majority in the state Legislature, we have never been closer to enshrining women’s equality in our Constitution,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.

It’s an untested question whether Congress can alter the ratification deadline now.

Complicating matters are four states whose legislatures have actually repealed their ratifications, which, if allowed, would reduce the current number of approvals to 33 — meaning Virginia wouldn’t be enough. Scholars are divided on whether repeals are allowed.

The Equal Rights Amendment says “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged … on account of sex.”

Backers hope it would improve women’s chances in lawsuits over matters such as equal pay. Opponents say it would clear the way for women to be drafted in the military, and could abridge rights for matters such as child custody.

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