22222222Watch the ERA Senate Update and Town Hall Discussion

Yesterday, Democratic lead sponsor Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) addressed live via Zoom the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality on the status of SJ Res 1, the Senate joint resolution to remove the time limit imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He was joined by Republican lead sponsor Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and bipartisan Senate cosponsors of the resolution, who shared recorded remarks; Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Angus King (I-ME). 

Senator Cardin addressed attendees, advocates, and others and reiterated the bipartisan backing of the ERA across parties and in the American public. (Watch the full event video below.) This event was sponsored in part with support from the Harnisch Foundation.

“We know that there’s strong bipartisan support. From the populist point of view, first of all, most Americans think it’s in the Constitution. When they’re told it’s not in the Constitution they say, “Well, put it in the Constitution, we agree with it, it should be in the Constitution of the United States.”

Cardin also brought up President Biden’s quote on the issue, saying, “And I agree with what President Biden said. ‘Gender equality is not only a moral issue, it’s essential to our economic prosperity, our security, and the health of our democracy.’”

Senator Collins agreed in her comments, explaining her reasoning for removing the time limit on the Amendment. “It has been almost 50 years since Congress has passed the ERA with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. Within just a few years, 35 states ratified the amendment, and I’m proud that my state of Maine was among those states that stepped forward in the name of equality. If not for the deadlines for the ratification, I’m confident that the requirement for 38 states would’ve been achieved long ago.”

In her comments, Senator Murkowski remarked that the removal of the time limit was a worthy cause, though it needed more support to pass. “This is an effort that we’re all in together, we’re working to make it happen. We need more support. Quite honestly we need more support on the Republican side. So I’m encouraged that GOP 4 ERA is helping out.”

Senator Casey admitted the ERA was long overdue, but was encouraged by the hard work of supporters backing the Amendment, some who had been laboring for decades. “When they bring this issue to the attention of people in their community and then ultimately to their elected representatives, that is the most powerful and persuasive way of getting that support.” 

In his recorded remarks, Senator King stated his support for the ERA in no uncertain terms, and the need for the Amendment still today. “Extend the date so we can get this important amendment to the Constitution over the finish line. This goes back to the ‘70s but the need is no less today than it was then. Equal rights for all under our Constitution.”

A panel discussion followed live and recorded remarks from the Senators, featuring Coalition partner organizations. Christian Nunes, NOW President; Joi O. Chaney, Executive Director of the Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy at the National Urban League; and Linda Coberly, Chair of the ERA Coalition Legal Task Force all gave short updates on the work happening around the ERA and in communities most impacted by inequity.

Nunes made the point that progress on women’s equality is tenuous. “The progress we’ve made so far towards women’s equality can be lost at any time because those advances depend on legislation that can be and have been weakened or repealed by Congress. So the importance of the ERA is a fundamental legal remedy to protect and prevent sex discrimination for both women and men, and all genders. It would guarantee the rights affirmed by the us constitution would be held by all people regardless of their sex.”

She also underscored the need for the Amendment from an intersectional lens. “We know now that race is considered upheld in the Constitution, but we know that when we look at the ERA it has major effects on certain groups. And as the ERA keeps evolving we have to look at how it would also help advance the rights of all women. Including marginalized groups of women, women of color, LGBTQIA+ persons, as well as being leaders of global women in the world as well.”

Joi Chaney, National Urban League

Chaney reiterated the need for this intersectionality in advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment and in the movement. “The importance of the National Urban League being in this story and in this conversation is that we want to make it clear that not only is passage of the ERA, ratification of it, passage of SJ Res 1, so important as a gender issue, it is so important as a racial justice issue. And it would be good enough if it were just a gender based issue, but we know, and I know Carol and Christian know for sure, and many of you on this call, we know that so many of the gender issues that are being experienced by women and men, frankly, in this country are ones that are disproportionately felt by women of color.”

And she underlined the need for the ERA as something important for women, and for all people. Including the transgender community and people who may “look at sex in a greater, expansive way than a binary one.”

Coberly spoke about the concepts behind the lawsuits proceeding on behalf of, and against, the ERA, including the lawsuit by the Attorneys General of Illinois, Virginia, and Nevada. She then went on to explain why the current Congress has the ability to act on the removal of the time limit on the ERA, which was imposed by a previous Congress.

Coberly’s take on the cases making their way through the courts was that they kept the issue of the ERA on the front burner for the Archivist and the Justice Department, who have so far refused to publish the Amendment on the advice of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The nomination of Christopher Schroeder to head the Office of Legal Counsel is being taken up as we speak in the Senate Judiciary committee. 

It is the hope of ERA supporters that an Assistant Attorney General Schroeder will be confirmed soon and then take a closer look at the legal opinion from the OLC in the Barr Justice Department. 


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