Equal Rights Amendment Passed - History

Equal Rights Amendment Passed - History

Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution (ERA). The amendment read: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The Crazy History Of The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has the dubious honor of being the most popular amendment that's never passed. According to the National Archives, over 1,100 amendments related to the ERA have been introduced to Congress. That's about 10% of the total number of amendments. And it's not just the people on Capitol Hill who really want an amendment prohibiting sex discrimination to be added to the Constitution. A poll from early 2020 showed that around three quarters of Americans support the ERA.

The ERA came very close to passing nearly 50 years ago. After festering in Congress since 1923, in 1972 it was forced onto the House floor by one determined Congresswoman (who you've probably never heard of) and found bipartisan support. But the efforts of an equally determined anti-feminist not only stopped the ERA in its tracks, they reversed the course of women's rights forever.

The ERA has been making headlines again recently, but a missed deadline, backtracking states, and criticism from an unexpected source have left its future uncertain. This is the crazy past, present and future of the ERA.

Equal Rights Amendment Passed - History

In 1971, when feminism first rushed onto the scene in the United States, a little band of women stormed the corridors of Congress and demanded the discharge from committee of the long-dormant Equal Rights Amendment. The House passed ERA on October 12, 1971, after rejecting the Wiggins Amendment which would have exempted women from "compulsory military service" and which also would have preserved other laws "which reasonably promote the health and safety of the people." Only 23 Congressmen voted no, of whom one was the senior female member, Representative Leonor Sullivan (D-MO), who made a strong speech opposing ERA because it would harm the family.

In the Senate, Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., (D-NC) proposed nine separate amendments to ERA to protect the traditional rights of women. Every one was defeated on a roll-call vote on March 21 and 22, 1972. These nine amendments established the legislative history that ERA was intended to do exactly what the Ervin Amendments would have prevented ERA from doing.

The Ervin amendments would have exempted women from compulsory military service and from combat duty they would have protected the traditional rights of wives, mothers and widows, and preserved the responsibility of fathers to support their children they would have preserved laws that secure privacy to males and females they would have continued the laws that make sexual offenses punishable as crimes. All these modifying clauses were defeated. When ERA was passed in strict, absolute language, only nine Senators voted "no."

Congress sent ERA out to the states on March 22, 1972. Within twelve months, 30 states had ratified ERA. Then the disillusionment set in. In the next six years, only five more states ratified ERA, but five of the 30 states rescinded their previous ratifications of ERA, leaving a net score of zero for six years of lobbying for ERA. The five states that rescinded their previous ratifications were:

Nebraska 3/15/73
Tennessee 4/23/74
Idaho 2/08/77
Kentucky 3/16/78
South Dakota 3/01/79

The following 15 states never ratified ERA:

Alabama Illinois North Carolina
Arizona Louisiana Oklahoma
Arkansas Mississippi South Carolina
Florida Missouri Utah
Georgia Nevada Virginia

Most of the 15 states which never ratified ERA were forced by the ERA advocates to vote on ERA again and again. The Illinois Legislature voted on ERA every year from 1972 through 1982, the Florida Legislature nearly every year, the North Carolina and Oklahoma Legislatures every two years. Most of these votes were highly controversial, intensely debated, with much media coverage and many spectators present.

During the ratification period, ERA was enthusiastically supported by 99 percent of the media, the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter Administrations, most public officials at every level of government, and many wealthy national organizations. ERA enjoyed the political momentum of what appeared to be inevitable victory.

A small group of women in 1972, under the name "Stop ERA," took on what seemed to be an impossible task. In 1975, they founded "Eagle Forum" - the genesis of the pro-family movement, a coming together of believers of all faiths who, for the first time, worked together toward a shared political goal. Eagle Forum volunteers persevered through the years and led the movement to final victory over ERA.

The last state to ratify ERA was Indiana in January 1977. There have been perhaps 25 different votes on ERA since that time (in legislatures, committees, referenda, and Congress), but Indiana was ERA's last success.

The Equal Rights Amendment was presented to the American public as something that would benefit women, "put women in the U.S. Constitution," and lift women out of their so-called "second-class citizenship." However, in thousands of debates, the ERA advocates were unable to show any way that ERA would benefit women or end any discrimination against them. The fact is that women already enjoy every constitutional right that men enjoy and have enjoyed equal employment opportunity since 1964.

In the short term, clever advertising and packaging can sell a worthless product but, in the long term, the American people cannot be fooled. ERA's biggest defect was that it had nothing to offer American women.

The opponents of ERA, on the other hand, were able to show many harms that ERA would cause.

    ERA would take away legal rights that women possessed - not confer any new rights on women.

    ERA would take away women's traditional exemption from military conscription and also from military combat duty. The classic "sex discriminatory" laws are those which say that "male citizens of age 18" must register for the draft and those which exempt women from military combat assignment. The ERAers tried to get around this argument by asking the Supreme Court to hold that the 14th Amendment already requires women to be drafted, but they lost in 1981 in Rostker v. Goldberg when the Supreme Court upheld the traditional exemption of women from the draft under our present Constitution.

  1. ERA would give enormous power to the Federal courts to decide the definitions of the words in ERA, "sex" and "equality of rights." It is irresponsible to leave it to the courts to decide such sensitive, emotional and important issues as whether or not the language applies to abortion or homosexual rights.

    ERA would force all schools and colleges, and all the programs and athletics they conduct, to be fully coeducational and sex-integrated. ERA would make unconstitutional all the current exceptions in Title IX which allow for single- sex schools and colleges and for separate treatment of the sexes for certain activities. ERA would mean the end of single-sex colleges. ERA would force the sex integration of fraternities, sororities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, Boys State and Girls State conducted by the American Legion, and mother-daughter and father-son school events.

    ERA would require "unisex insurance," that is, would prohibit insurance companies from charging lower rates for women, even though actuarial data clearly show that women, as a group, are entitled to lower rates both for automobile accident insurance and life insurance. This is because women drivers have fewer accidents and women live longer than men. Most people found it a peculiar argument that "women's rights" should include the "right" to pay higher insurance rates.

Realizing that the seven-year time period allowed for ratification was running out, the ERA advocates in 1977 persuaded Congress to give them $5 million, supposedly to celebrate International Women's Year. An IWY conference was held in each of the 50 states, culminating with a national convention in Houston in November 1977. Every feminist of any fame was a participant in this Conference, including Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Eleanor Smeal, and Bella Abzug, who was the chairman.

The conferences were all run as forums promoting ERA and the feminist agenda. Only pro-ERA speakers were permitted on the platforms of the 50 state conferences and the Houston national conference. The media coverage was immense, and the Houston platform was graced by three First Ladies: Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, and Ladybird Johnson.

At the IWY event in Houston, the ERAers, the abortionists, and the lesbians made the decision to march in unison for their common goals. The conference enthusiastically passed what the media called the "hot button" issues: ERA, abortion and abortion funding, and lesbian and gay rights. The IWY Conference doomed ERA because it showed the television audience that ERA and the feminist movement were outside the mainstream of America. ERA never passed anywhere in the post-IWY period.

The ERA advocates tried to blame the defeat of,ERA on a few men in several state legislatures. But when ERA was submitted to a vote of the people it nearly always lost. The voters in the following seven states rejected ERA in statewide referenda. (Nevada was an advisory referendum on the Federal ERA the others were State ERA referenda.)

Wisconsin 11/73 (60,000 majority against)
New York 11/75 (420,000 majority against)
New Jersey 11/75 (52% against)
Nevada 11/78 (66% against)
Florida 11/78 (60% against)
Iowa 11/80 (55% against)
Maine 11/84 (64% against)
Vermont 11/86 (51% against)
Iowa 11/92 (51% against)

The original ERA resolution which passed Congress on March 22, 1972 included the following preamble preceding the three sections of the text of ERA:

"Resolved by the Senate and House of representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled ( two-thirds of each House concurring therein), that the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress.-

"Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

"Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

"Section 3.- This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification "

When the end of the seven years approached and it became clear that three-fourths of the states (38 states) would not ratify ERA, Congress passed an ERA Time Extension resolution to change "within seven years" to 10 years, 3 months, 8 days, 7 hours and 35 minutes, so that the time limit was extended to June 30, 1982 (instead of expiring on March 22, 1979).

In an additional piece of chicanery, Congress passed the ERA Time Extension by only a simple majority vote instead of by the two-thirds majority vote required by Article V of the U.S. Constitution for all constitutional amendments.

The ERA advocates' strategy of a Time Extension was to lock in all those states which had ratified in 1972 and 1973, while money and media were concentrated on ratification efforts in the non-ratified states where they thought ERA had the best chance (in this order): Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Virginia. This ratification effort was assisted by a boycott of all states that had not ratified ERA, designed particularly to cause economic harm to the convention cities in the unratified states.

The American people were so turned off by the unfairness of the Time Extension - and the refusal of the ERA proponents to recognize the legality of the rescissions - that not a single state ratified ERA after the Time Extension was passed by Congress in 1978.

After a two-and-a-half-year lawsuit, the U.S. District Court ruled on December 23, 1981 in Idaho v. Freeman that the ERA Time Extension voted by Congress was unconstitutional and that the rescissions of ERA were constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court did not decide the appeal of this case until after the expiration of ERA on June 30, 1982, at which time the Supreme Court ruled that the case was moot and no longer needed to be decided.

Despite the Time Extension, the ERA opponents held a big dinner in Washington, D.C., called "The End of an ERA," on March 22, 1979, to celebrate the constitutional termination of ERA. This was the end of the seven-year time limit set by Congress when ERA was sent to the states in 1972.

As a practical matter, March 22, 1979 was not the end of ERA - since the unfair Time Extension forced three more years of emotional battles in many state legislatures. But March 22, 1979 was truly "the end of an era" - the end of the era of conservative defeats.

Up until that time, conservatives had lost so many battles that they had a defeatist attitude. The proclaimed victory over ERA showed the conservatives and pro-family activists that they could win an important political battle - despite overwhelming odds and the opposition of nearly all the media and most elected officials at every level of government. Since 1979, the conservatives and pro-family movement have had a tremendous series of victories, highlighted by the election and landslide reelection of Ronald Reagan.

On June 30, 1982, the ERA opponents held a second "burial" of the ERA at a large dinner in Washington called "The Rainbow Dinner." On that day, no one could deny the fact that the proposed federal ERA was truly dead.

ERA Tries in Congress Again

In January 1983, the ERA advocates re-introduced ERA into the U.S. Congress with the full support of Speaker Tip O'Neill. After a year of intensive lobbying, ERA came to a vote in the House on November 15, 1983, and 147 Congressmen voted no. That put ERAers six votes short of the two-thirds majority required to send ERA out to the states again.

What killed ERA in 1983 was the House Judiciary "markup" on November 9, an all-day session with 5-1/2 hours of calm and rational debate. No television lights were on, so no one was posturing for the media. Nine amendments to ERA were offered in that Committee. Although all nine were defeated, each of the nine amendments received 12 or 13 "yes" votes. It is well known in Washington that the Judiciary Committee is so liberal that any motion which gets a dozen "yes" votes there is sure to win on the House floor.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) amendment would have made ERA abortion-neutral. On October 20, 1983, the Congressional Research Service had issued "a legal analysis of the potential impact of ERA on abortion" and concluded on page 61 that "ERA would reach abortion and abortion-funding situations." That would mean that ERA would invalidate the Hyde Amendment and mandate taxpayer-funding of abortions. The ERA advocates could not deny this effect, but they were unwilling to separate the ERA and abortion questions by voting for the Sensenbrenner amendment.

Rep. Sam Hall's (D-TX) amendment would have prevented ERA from drafting women. The opponents of the Hall amendment admitted that ERA would draft women just like men, but argued that women want this kind of equality.

Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from requiring women to serve in military combat just like men. Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-CO) argued that women deserve their career opportunities to serve in combat just like men.

Rep. George Gekas (R-PA) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from wiping out veterans' preference. At the House Judiciary Committee hearing on September 14, 1983, League of Women Voters president Dorothy S. Ridings had testified that ERA would outlaw veterans' preference by overturning the 1979 Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v. Feeney . Both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion objected to this effect.

Rep. Harold Sawyer (R-MI) offered an amendment to prevent ERA from wiping out the ability of insurance companies to charge lower insurance rates to women for automobile accident and life insurance policies. The ERA advocates admit that one of their goals is to force all insurance to be "unisex" regardless of accident and actuarial tables.

Rep. Tom Kindness (R-OH) offered an amendment to put the seven-year time limit on ERA in the text of the Amendment instead of in the preamble (in order to prevent another constitutional dispute about a time extension). Then he offered another amendment to give the states concurrent enforcement power, as well as the Federal Government. The ERA advocates opposed both purposes.

The biggest surprise of the day was the amendment offered by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) to exempt religious schools from the effect of ERA. This amendment was made necessary by the 1983 Supreme Court decision in Bob Jones University v. United States , which ruled that the Internal Revenue Service can withdraw tax exemption from any school operated by a church which has any regulation contrary to public policy.

If ERA means anything at all, it means a "public policy" against sex discrimination. So, if the ruling of the Bob Jones case were applied under ERA, the result almost certainly would be that all religious schools run by churches and synagogues that do not ordain women, or which treat men and women differently, would lose their tax exemption. Thus, ERA would put at risk the tax exemption of thousands of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish schools all over the country. Most Congressmen are not willing to tell their constituents that religious schools will lose their tax exemption.

At the end of the day, the diehard ERAers went crying to Speaker O'Neill, imploring him to devise a way to prevent these nine amendments from being offered on the House floor.

So, Speaker O'Neill brought ERA to a vote of the House on November 15,1983 under a procedure called "suspension of the rules." This meant that no amendments of any kind could be offered. In a dramatic roll call, ERA lost by a six-vote margin.

This vote made it clear that Congress will never pass ERA. Politically, it is as dead as the Prohibition Amendment.

The Effort for State ERAs

At the same time that the ERA advocates were trying again in Congress in 1983, they sought to rebuild their momentum through a series of state ERAS.

In Wisconsin, the state legislators tried to assist this project by adding to the text of the proposed state ERA some additional language that would prevent it from being used to mandate abortion funding or gay rights. To the amazement of those legislators, the leading ERA advocates (including the National Organization for Women, the League of Women Voters, and the American Civil Liberties Union) publicly opposed ERA in this form, and so the Wisconsin ERA died. This experience makes it clear that the ERA advocates want ERA primarily, and perhaps solely, to achieve abortion funding and gay rights.

A similar scenario took place in Minnesota. After a state ERA was proposed in the spring of 1983, a committee added a section to make it abortion-neutral. The next day the ERA sponsor withdrew ERA. The ERA advocates obviously do not want ERA unless it includes their hidden agenda.

ERA advocates then chose Maine as the most advantageous state to "start the ball rolling" for ERA again. They had the full support of the media, all public officials of both parties, and a cooperative legislature which passed ERA without the encumbrance of any additional language. The referendum to add a state ERA to Maine's constitution took place on November 6, 1984. When the votes were counted, 64 percent of the people had voted no. ERA advocates tried again with a referendum for a state ERA in Vermont in 1986 and a second referendum in Iowa in 1992, but they lost both times.

Will the Equal Rights Amendment ever be ratified?

First proposed nearly a century back and approved by Congress 50 years ago, does the beleaguered constitutional amendment have another chance?

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” For nearly a century, those 24 words have been the subject of a longstanding battle to win women equal protection under the law. The proposed amendment is simple, but the fight to add the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution has been anything but.

The amendment has its roots in the aftermath of the suffrage movement. Some activists were ready to retire after the 19th Amendment was finally passed in 1920, but Alice Paul was determined to keep fighting for the entirety of the women’s rights program laid out by founding suffragists in 1848. “We always had perfect loyalty to the whole program and, if we could continue, we knew that the thing must extend to get the whole program a reality,” she said in a 1972 oral history.

In 1923, Paul announced plans to develop and champion a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal protection to both sexes. She named it after women’s rights pioneer Lucretia Mott. It was introduced in the 68th Congress in December of that year by Representative Daniel Read Anthony, Jr. and later revised and renamed after Paul.

The concept hit roadblocks from the start. Many came from other women’s rights activists, who feared the amendment might endanger hard-fought laws that protected women workers. Those concerns, and split opinions on women’s rights, haunted the amendment for nearly 50 years.

The ERA was introduced in Congress over and over again, but despite tantalizing victories, like public hearings and its passage in the Senate in 1946, it was never adopted. Meanwhile, the women’s rights movement changed dramatically as old-guard suffragists passed the torch to new activists. Paul continued her tireless advocacy for decades. She finally found the support she needed in the late 1960s, when second-wave feminists helped push it toward passage. Finally, in 1972, the ERA passed both chambers of Congress. (Here's how women around the world are taking charge of their futures.)

The hard work wasn’t over yet. To be added to the Constitution, three-quarters of the states had to ratify it within the seven-year deadline attached by Congress. But though it enjoyed broad popular support and was even part of both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention’s national platforms from the 1940s on, the ERA fell victim to political shifts.

Backlash to the women’s movement and the increasing conservatism of the Republican Party gave fuel to Phyllis Schlafly, an activist who opposed feminism and the amendment. Though legislators extended the deadline to 1982, the savvy opposition of Schlafly and her allies slowed and even stopped progress in several states. The Republican Party removed the ERA from its platform, and five states voted to rescind their ratifications in the 1970s. The amendment missed its 1982 deadline only three states shy of ratification.

But is the amendment really dead? Maybe not. Nevada and Illinois ratified it in 2017 and 2018, leaving it just one state shy of the majority—until Virginia’s General Assembly passed the ERA in January 2020.

Given that the seven-year ratification deadline has passed, though, it could face significant legal hurdles even with another ratification. Supreme Court precedent states that amendments must be ratified in a “contemporaneous” timeframe. On the other hand, the 27th Amendment, which prohibits Congress from handing itself a bump in pay before an election, was suggested and written by James Madison more than two centuries before its ratification in 1992. And it’s not clear how the states that rescinded their ratifications would be handled even if Congress agrees to accept the latecomers. (Essay: Why it's time for women to demand equality.)

Though a constitutional amendment could never address all disparities, the amendment’s supporters say it could provide clearer definitions of gender discrimination and prevent a rollback of women’s rights to things like abortion. Despite recent successes, however, the ERA’s future is still uncertain—and the most contentious phase of its century-long history could still lie ahead.

Why did the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 fail?

In passing the Equal Rights Amendment, Congress had set a seven-year deadline for ratification. At first, ratification seemed to be a given, with states quickly approving the amendment, but those ratifications slowed to a trickle. Crucially, the amendment&rsquos passage had had a major consequence: mobilizing anti-feminists, including its arch-opponent Phyllis Schlafly, to defeat it.

In many ways, Schlafly was deeply contradictory. Although she praised stay-at-home mothers, Schlafly &mdash a mother of six &mdash dedicated much of her life to political organizing and traveled the country giving lectures. She believed that the ERA would do away with much of the special status granted to women, including the right to be supported by their husbands, and would damage the traditional American family. Schlafly founded the organization “STOP ERA” (an acronym for “stop taking away our privileges”) to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment.

&ldquoWhat I am defending is the real rights of women,&rdquo Schlafly once said. &ldquoA woman should have the right to be in the home as a wife and mother.&rdquo

Telling her audiences that the ERA would eventually lead to a future of gender-neutral bathrooms and women being drafted into the military, she successfully made many people think twice about what Constitutionally mandated equality of the sexes would mean. Deirdre Condit, an associate professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, notes that in fact Schlafly was right that the future would include such things &mdash but they came to pass even without the amendment.

&ldquoWell, if you fast forward to 2019, without the Equal Rights Amendment having passed, we&rsquore trying to figure out how to deal with bathrooms in a multi-gendered universe. And we&rsquore trying to figure out, should in fact women be drafted if men are drafted?&rdquo says Condit. &rdquoAnd while we were are unsettled as a culture about these new questions, they did not fail to emerge because we didn&rsquot have an Equal Rights Amendment.&rdquo

The deadline for ratification was extended by three years from 1979 to 1982. Still, when that deadline arrived, only 35 states had passed the amendment &mdash three states short of the three-quarters majority required by the Constitution.

Condit notes that many of the states that failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment had few women in their state legislatures, and historically had poor records of protecting the rights of both women and people of color.

formal, written changes or additions to the constitution. the formal system of amending reflects a. federal system of government. Step one: Proposal of Amendments. Proposed in Congress- must have 2/3 vote in both houses OR proposed at a national convention called when requested by 2/3 of state legislatures.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in matters of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.

'No expiration date on equality': House passes bill to remove women's rights ERA deadline

The House passed a resolution Wednesday to remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment — just weeks after a federal judge ruled that time had already run out.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said the passage of her joint resolution by a vote of 222-204 made it clear that "there can be no expiration date on equality."

A companion joint resolution in the Senate, which was introduced by Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., faces a steeper climb at least 10 Republicans will have to join all 50 Democrats for it to pass. Only four Republicans voted for the measure in the House, including Tom Reed of New York, Speier's co-sponsor.

The amendment says: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Virginia became the 38th state to sign off on the amendment in January 2020 — the number needed to officially make it the 28th Amendment. Opponents of the measure, which was introduced in 1972, said the window to ratify the amendment closed almost 40 years ago, citing a seven-year limit on ratification in its preamble. The deadline was later extended by three years — meaning it expired in 1982.

While the Constitution doesn't put a time limit on states' ratifying an amendment — the 27th Amendment took more than 200 years to become a reality — U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington, D.C., ruled this month that the deadline set in the introduction of the ERA "is just as effective as one in the text of a proposed amendment.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has said he is weighing his legal options, including an appeal of Contreras' order.

President Joe Biden applauded the House's effort. “[I]t is long past time that we enshrine the principle of gender equality in our Constitution,” Biden said, adding that “no one’s rights should be denied on account of their sex.”

The ERA vote was one of two scheduled Wednesday in the House in honor of Women's History Month.

The House also voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2019. The vote came a day after a mass shooting in Atlanta that authorities said targeted women working at spas who appeared to be Asian.

The original measure — which was aimed at helping to stop domestic abuse, violence and sexual harassment against women and girls and at providing resources to victims and survivors — was championed by Biden when he was in the Senate.

The House voted to reauthorize the act in 2019, but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate amid complaints from the National Rifle Association that it was an attempt to close the so-called boyfriend loophole by prohibiting gun purchases by those convicted of stalking or abusing people with whom they have been in relationships. Previous prohibitions covered only married couples.

The current version of the bill still includes the attempt to close the loophole. The bill passed by a vote of 244-172, with 29 Republicans voting in favor.

Biden hailed the vote afterwards.

"This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue — it’s about standing up against the abuse of power and preventing violence," Biden said in a statement. "Now, I urge the Senate to follow past precedent and bring a strong bipartisan coalition together to ensure the passage of VAWA so that I can sign this legislation as soon as possible."

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., complained on the House floor before the vote that "Democrats are using domestic violence, which is a serious issue, as a front for just their latest gun control bill."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the need for the legislation is urgent.

"One in 3 women today face domestic abuse," Pelosi said. "And partner violence is on the rise during the pandemic as many women are forced to quarantine in homes that are not safe."

Research the Equal Rights Amendment

While many resources are available online for research, there are many more records to discover in National Archives’ research rooms across the country. The following records have been described at the Series and File Unit level, but have not yet been digitized. This list is not exhaustive please consult our Catalog to browse more records, and contact the Reference Unit listed in each description for more information.

From the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

From the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Carter Administration as a Pillar for ERA

The Social Movement Era of the 1960s presented America with multiple opportunities for equality through legislation. One of these grassroots movements was that of the Women's Movement, which called for political (and social) reform on a number of women-related issues. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), originally passed by Congress in 1972 with a deadline for ratification by March 1979, gained much support from women and men who felt social change could be garnered through legislation. 35 state legislatures approved the amendment for ratification, however 38 was the magic number needed. In 1978, Congress and President Carter extended the deadline to June 30, 1982.

President Carter often urged the public to support and acknowledge the contributions of women to the nation’s heritage. He held monthly meeting with presidents of major women’s organizations, and reinforced his stance with signature on a message urging Americans to observe National Women’s History Week. Carter also demonstrated his support through his appointments of qualified women to advise him in a number of positions. Notable women that he felt would make major contributions towards the equality of women.

Some of these women included Sarah Weddington who represented "Jane Roe" in the landmark Roe v. Wade case, and served in the Office of the Assistant to the President for Women’s Affairs’/Office of the Assistant to the President for Public Liaison Martha “Bunny” Mitchell who served as a link between President Carter and minority communities Midge Costanza who was an advocate for gay and women's rights, and served in the Office of the Assistant to the President for Public Liaison Judy Langford Carter who worked for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and served as Honorary Chair of the President’s Advisory Committee for Women.

Unfortunately, the Equal Rights Amendment did not meet the requirement to be made into law. However, work during the Carter Administration laid one of the many paved roads for the ratification of the ERA in the future.

-from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum

Judy Langford Carter’s President’s Advisory Commission on Women Files, “Women’s Issues”. As the leader of the Interdepartmental Task Force on Women, Sarah Weddington, Special Assistant to President Jimmy Carter, produced a bimonthly newsletter called White House News on Women. It was mailed out to 14,000 recipients.

Sarah Weddington attached a memo to President Carter’s statement called, “The ERA: Full Partnership for Women,” letting Judy Langford Carter know, “ … this is essentially your version.”

This fact sheet shows the number of women in public office in 1979. The U.S. House of Representatives had 16 women members, while the U.S. Senate had just one, Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kansas).

First Ladies Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford served as co-chairs for “A National E.R.A. Evening,” to raise money for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The event, which took place on June 18, 1980, included a White House reception and dinner with President and Mrs. Carter.

President Carter issued a proclamation declaring August 26, 1978, Women’s Equality Day. The date marked the 58 th anniversary of the adoption of the 19 th Amendment. In it he stated, “I personally believe that ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment can be the single most important step in guaranteeing all Americans –both women and men—their rights under the United States Constitution. … In a society that is free, democratic, and humane, there can be no time limit on equality.”

On 2/28/80 President Carter met with a group of prominent women and signed a proclamation creating the first National Women’s History Week, which evolved into the present-day Women’s History Month. He also reiterated his support for ERA.

Did you know President Carter appointed more women to his administration than any of his predecessors? As of March 9, 1979, 268, or 18% of 1484 appointees, were women. This poster shows many of them.

Equal Rights Amendment

On March 22, 1972, the federal government sent the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the individual states for ratification. The ERA sought to make gender discrimination a violation of the United States Constitution. The ERA stated:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In every year since 1923, ERA supporters had submitted a similar amendment to the United States Senate and House of Representatives for approval. It took until 1972 for both houses of Congress to approve the ERA and to send it to the states for ratification.

For a constitutional amendment to go into effect, three-fourths of the states must ratify it. In the case of the ERA, thirty-eight out of fifty states needed to approve the amendment. The U.S. Congress gave the states seven years to ratify the amendment. Between 1972 and 1974, thirty-four states, including Ohio, approved the ERA. Unfortunately, by the deadline in 1979, only thirty-five states had ratified the amendment. The federal government extended the ratification deadline three more years, until 1982, but no additional state approved the amendment. The ERA, thus, fell short by three states. The states that did not ratify the ERA included Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Many men and women supported the ERA, and many men and women opposed it. Supporters believed that all people in the United States deserved constitutional guarantees of their rights, including women. Opponents sometimes claimed that women were physically and intellectually subordinate to men. Other times, opponents cited a fear that women would now be eligible for the draft. They sometimes contended that the ERA’s passage would lead to the demise of the American family, as women might be prohibited, through some unknown means, from remaining at home and caring for the family.

In Ohio, many people objected to the constitutional amendment. Chief among these people were union members, including members of the AFL-CIO, who feared that equal rights for women would hurt wages and benefits for male workers. Eventually women union members placed enough pressure on the men to support the ERA. Unionized workers even organized a protest at the Ohio Statehouse in support of the ERA. Other Ohio women objected to the ERA because they did not believe women would be happy with equal rights with men. One of these women was Marabel Morgan, who, in 1973, authored a book titled Total Woman. In this book, Morgan argued that women would be happiest as housewives, caring for their husbands and families. Only if women dedicated their lives to these tasks would they be totally happy. Many men serving in state legislatures used Morgan’s book as evidence that many women supposedly did not support the ERA, hurting the amendment’s chances of ratification.

Equal Rights Amendment

While the history of slavery is well known in the United States, the fact that married women were legally subservient until the nineteenth century is less well known. The doctrine of coverture, practiced throughout the United States, meant that married women were covered by their husbands and had no separate legal existence. In practice, this resulted in the inheritance of women being assigned to their husbands, the guardianship of minor children being decided by the father, earnings of wives and minor children being claimed by the father, and lack of protection from abusive husbands. Many states allowed husbands to beat their wives to correct them as long as the means of punishment was no thicker than his thumb. This is where the rule of thumb derived. The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 had paved the way for the rights of women, but it was not until 1920 that women had won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. Once the vote was assured, women's groups launched a campaign to provide for equal rights amendments at both the state and national levels.

The push for equal rights was led by the National Women's Party (NWP) who succeeded in 1925 in convincing Congress to hold the first congressional hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The amendment stated that "men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction." The National Association for Women's Suffrage of America (NAWSA), headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, also worked for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Alice Paul, a veteran of the English campaign for women's rights, joined Catt in her struggle and accepted the presidency of the NWP. She introduced the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment to Congress, arguing that the purpose of the amendment was to allow women to be all that they could be. Opponents to the ERA could be found both in and out of the women's movement. From within, Florence Kelly led the fight against it, believing that it would take away existing protections for which women had fought.

In 1940, the Republican party endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Democrats followed in 1944. In 1946, an attempt to steer the amendment through the Senate failed. By 1950 the intent of the amendment had been weakened by a rider that exempted all laws designed to protect women. Then in 1953, the amendment was sent to congressional committees where it remained for the next two decades.

When the "second wave" of the women's movement was launched in 1963 with the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, new attention was focused on the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1923, support for the ERA had been considered radical, but in the 1970s support came from mainstream America as well as from more liberal elements. Advocates included The League of Women Voters, the Business and Professional Women, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Common Cause, and United Auto Workers (UAW).

Representative Martha Griffith reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970, with a slight rephrasing: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." In 1972, the new version of the Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of Congress with large majorities. The stiffest battle was still ahead, however, as supporters of the amendment set out to garner the necessary approval of three-fourths of the 50 states. It was not to be. Thirty-five states ratified, but the sophisticated organization of the opposition prevented passage in the three additional states needed for ratification.

Opponents to the Equal Rights Amendment pointed out that the 14th and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution contained guarantees of equality and that existing laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act provided practical protections of rights. They painted horrifying portraits of women in combat, co-ed restrooms, and working mothers who neglected their families. To no avail, supporters countered with arguments that laws were more transitory than amendments and that women had an equal responsibility to protect their countries. They pointed out that women already worked outside the home, and that traditional families were still the norm.

Most amendments are given seven years from the date of congressional approval to win ratification by the necessary 38 states. The Equal Rights Amendment was given an unprecedented three-year extension. But in 1983, the extension expired, and the Equal Rights Amendment was never made a part of the United States Constitution. Supporters of the amendment continue to offer it up for approval at both the national and state levels, but the urgency for its passage has dissipated. As a whole, women no longer feel as threatened by the lack of an ERA because they have enjoyed the successes of a society more open to women's rights and have reaped the benefits of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination based on sex. In a landmark case in 1972, the Supreme Court held in Reed v. Reed that legal classifications could not arbitrarily be based on sex. Subsequent cases have upheld women's right to serve on juries, to practice law and medicine, to work in bars, to be protected from pregnancy discrimination, and to take control of their reproductive lives. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, successfully argued as a practicing lawyer that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment should protect individuals from sexual discrimination. Even though the Equal Rights Amendment was never added to the United States Constitution, protection for those rights has now become part of the fabric of American law and society. While women continue to be discriminated against in practice, they are legally protected from intentional discrimination. It could be argued that the defeat of the ERA paved the way for the success of the goals of the amendment.

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