Schakowsky Votes to Remove Barrier for Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

March 17, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, voted to pass H.J.Res. 17, a joint resolution to remove an arbitrary time limit previously set by Congress for the states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed amendment to the Constitution that guarantees equal rights for women.  This joint resolution has bipartisan support from 213 cosponsors and passed Congress by a bipartisan vote of 222 to 204.

“As a young woman, I was in Springfield, IL along with thousands of women at the state capitol calling for ratification of the ERA. Though it failed then, in May of 2018, the Illinois legislature finally passed it, making us the 37th state to ratify. Soon after that, the commonwealth of Virginia provided the requisite number of states, 38, required to ratify the ERA,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Every constitution in the world written since the year 1950—even Afghanistan—has the equivalent of an Equal Rights Amendment. It is long overdue for the United States to guarantee equality for women. We need to the ERA to enshrine women’s stature as equal under the law. The ERA would bolster our efforts to promote paycheck fairness and paid family leave, to end discrimination against pregnant workers, and to ensure comprehensive reproductive health care.”

The ERA was first proposed in 1923 by suffragist Alice Paul, just a few years after women gained the right to vote.  The constitutional amendment was then introduced in every session of Congress until it passed in 1972 by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate.  Congress then placed an arbitrary seven-year deadline on the ratification process before extending the deadline to 1982, but only 35 ratified the ERA before the unnecessary deadline (it’s worth noting that the Constitution itself does not say anything about ratification time limits).  However, with the recent ratifications of the ERA by Nevada in 2017, Illinois in 2018 and Virginia in 2020, the 38 states needed for certification of the ERA to be become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been reached.

The Equal Rights Amendment simply states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”  It would affirm women’s equality in our Constitution, and enshrine this important statement about equality. The Constitution reflects our most cherished values as a nation and explicitly putting gender equality in it will have broad impacts on the lives of women.

H.J.Res. 17 removes the arbitrary deadline for ratification set in 1982 and takes a critical step toward ensuring the ERA officially becomes part of our Constitution.   As the 28th Amendment, the ERA would:

  • Give women a key tool in the legal arsenal to combat everyday discrimination women face, including pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and sexual and domestic violence;
  • Provide a single, national baseline protection against sex discrimination across the country; and
  • Apply the most rigorous judicial review to laws and government policies that discriminate against women and it would ensure that laws or policies that are inconsistent with equality for women be struck down.

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