Last week, Virginia’s legislature approved, and its governor is expected to sign, a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which proposes that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” That would make the commonwealth the 38th state to assent, meeting the three–fourths threshold for an amendment to become part of the U.S. Constitution.
In this case, however, it’s not that simple. When Congress sent the ERA to the states in 1972, it included a seven-year deadline, subsequently modified to 10 years. The amendment was ratified by 35 states during that time, falling short. Whether Congress can modify the deadline again retroactively, or rescind it, or whether the limit was legitimate in the first place given its placement in the introduction of the amendment instead of the text, are questions amendment supporters intend to press. The issue is further complicated by five states’ ostensibly having rescinded their ratifications.
So, Americans can celebrate a milestone in gender equality while lamenting the legal morass that will follow.
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