Women’s March on Washington, 2017. Photo taken by Emma Misiaszek

The final three states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Nevada, Illinois and Virginia (which ratified January 15, 2020) filed suit against U.S. Archivist David Ferriero on January 30th demanding he certify the ratification of the amendment.

Under Article V of the Constitution, it takes three quarters of the country – 38 states – to ratify a proposed amendment. Once this requirement is met the amendment is “valid to all intents and purposes, as part of th[e] Constitution.”

In 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate and sent to the states for ratification, given a deadline of 1982 to certify its adoption in 38 states. Ironically enough, now 38 years past the deadline, the process of ratification has become a hot topic of debate in D.C. This is why Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring along with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford announced legal action in order to pass the amendment.

“For too long, women have not been afforded the same protections as men under the Constitution. Our history is full of strong, amazing women, who faced countless barriers in order to accomplish their dreams and goals. Without their perseverance and tireless hard work we would not be in the position we are today,” Attorney General Herring said.

Filed in DC District Court on January 30, the complaint lists 81 arguments for the ratification of the ERA and demands that Ferriero “Declare that the Equal Rights Amendment is “valid” and “part of th[e] Constitution” within the meaning of Article V.” Ferriero, under the advice of the Department of Justice, has refused to publish and certify the amendment.

Those opposed to the ERA argue that Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota have rescinded their ratifications of the amendment, decreasing the total amount of states to only 33. The Trump administration also argues that since the deadline Congress initially set has long passed, the proponents of the ERA need to start the process of state ratification all over again, setting the effort back decades.

The plaintiffs request that the Court enter judgment against the Archivist, arguing his refusal violates federal constitutional and statutory law.

“Women have always been endowed with equal rights, even though our country has wrongly failed to recognize them,” Attorney General Ford said. “These rights are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution, and I am committed to ensuring they are permanently written into our nation’s history and its future.”

The DC Court Circuit may order the amendment to be ratified or the case will be sent to the Supreme Court for a final decision.

In a statement released the day of the suit, the ERA Coalition wrote, “The legislators and advocates in these three states have brought us to this historic moment in time…We welcome this 28th Amendment to the Constitution. We are determined to see it through and we will never give up on an equal future.”

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