The Equal Rights Amendment fight that dates back to 1971 is back on, as the House passes Jackie Speier’s revival of it. But the opposition to it includes, of all people, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Those of us who are so old we remember drinking phosphates and spinning phonographs at the phrenologist’s, we remember this thing from back in 1970s and 80s called the Equal Rights Amendment. That was a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have guaranteed equal rights to both genders, and got damned close to passing during the Jimmy Carter administration before it faltered. But the arc of the moral universe can occasionally rebound, as the Chronicle reported Wednesday that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) would reintroduce the Equal Rights Amendment to the House floor today, and the New York Times informs us today that the House passed the ERA by a vote of 232-183.
There’s plenty to unpack here, as Speier’s bill literally does revive the exact same ERA bill that died in state legislatures during the early Reagan era. The ERA was originally submitted in 1971 by Michigan Rep. Martha Griffiths, a reboot of a 1920s version authored by suffragists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, and did pass both the House and Senate by 1972. But it stalled in its quest for the necessary ratification from 38 states (it was ratified by only 35 states). Yet quietly over the decades, a few more states have ratified it — albeit too late for its original 1979 ratification deadline, and then again for its extended deadline in 1982.
Speier’s bill HJR79 is not the Equal Rights Amendment, but it removes any and all deadlines for ratification of the ERA. In the last three years, Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia have ratified the ERA, so the votes are essentially there.
"It’s more than time," Speier told Politico. "It’s almost laughable that we are one of only a handful of countries in the entire world to not have this in our Constitution. What are we afraid of?"
Opposition to the original 1970s ERA came from an army of frigid housewives led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who argued it could threaten long-standing precedents of alimony and child custody generally going to women in divorce proceedings. This time, the opposition will surely seize on the words of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who supports the ERA, but not its current 50-year-old-verbiage form.
“I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said at a 100th anniversary of suffrage event this week. “I’d like it to start over.”
While Speier insists that this version would not require President Trump’s signature, it does still need passage from the GOP-controlled Senate. The Senate version is sponsored by Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins; so if you take the 45 Democratic seats, add the two Independents who caucus with Dems, plus Collins and Murkowski, that’s 49 votes. Pretty good odds of passing, then, yes?
The rub lies with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s unlikely to even allow a floor vote. “This resolution is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told Politico.
Images: Left: House.gov, Right: Warren K Leffler via Wikimedia Commons